Beef and Lentil Soup

As I am typing this I am listening to Christmas music with my windows wide open, sweating. It's Dec 22nd and it's going to be 70 degrees today. I do not live in Florida. I hate this weather. I could never, ever live in Florida. So in honor of 70 degrees on December 22nd you get a soup recipe. If it's cold where you are, make this soup. It will warm your heart and soul. I adore lentils.

Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and pepper
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 tsp oregano
6 (14 ounce) beef broth
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
2 cups (11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parley, chopped (optional)

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 the meat to the pot and cook until brown (about 8 minutes) remove with a slotted spoon and repeat with remaining meat. Add celery, carrots, onions, garlic, rosemary, oregano to pot. cook until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and accumulated juices to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low cover and simmer until meat is tender (about and hour) stirring frequently.Add lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender (about 40 minutes) Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Add parsley (optional) Enjoy.

Three more delicious recipes

I am officially F I N I S H E D. The shopping, the baking, the planning, everything is done. Kids are all fever free, so far, my house is CLEAN! Hubs does the wrapping since I am just horrible at it. So I am so happy. I am calm, I am relaxed, for now. Thank you Lord! I'm not bragging..really, I'm afraid to blink, or.breathe. So in honor of being I am going to share 3 more delicious recipes with you, these are awesome recipes, One of them I just made for the first time yesterday and it is my new favorite cookie. Tracy doesn't really touch anything that doesn't have chocolate in it, but even he went back for seconds on this cookie. Well, well.

The first cookie is the BEST jam thumbprint cookie I've ever had. It's Ina Garten.... who. knew. *wink*

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
raspberry and/or apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until just combined, then add vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured surface (dough will be crumbly) shape into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Dip each ball into egg wash and roll into the coconut. Place the ball on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indention into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 tsp of jam into each indention. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.

This next recipe is like a mini little pecan pie (without the pecans) it's rich and decadent. It's a perfect little bite. They aren't the prettiest things but they are fabulous!

White Chocolate Macadamia Tarts

1 (15 ounce) box pie crusts
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with nonstick spray
I used a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter or anything round and cut out circles of the pie dough and place one dough round into each mini muffin tin. Chill in the frig while you prepare the filling. Whisk all the other ingredients in a bowl use a  spoon to pour the filling into each pie crust. Do not overfill your tins, you need to be able to see the crusts. Maybe about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.

This last cookie is my new favorite, I will be making this cookie often. I saw Martha Stewart make it on her show last week and I wanted to try it. Hubs loved it too, even without the chocolate.

Salty Butterscotch-Toffee Cookies

4 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
2 cups toffee bits
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda. set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment whip the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. With mixer on low gradually add the flour, do not overmix. Add butterscotch chips, toffee chips and pecans, mix until just combined. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Using a 2 inch ice cream scoop(I used 1 3/4 inch scoop) place scoops of dough onto cookie sheets. Space 2 inches apart (these cookies spread out) flatten slightly with your hand and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until golden but still soft in the center, about 12 minutes.Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Enjoy!

Three of my favorite Christmas treats

Hello everyone, what craziness it's been in our household. My youngest rascal is sick again! We have been in and out of the pediatricians since the beginning of September....Tonsillitis, Bronchitis, Sinus infection and now Tonsillitis again. We finally confirmed yesterday that he needs to have his adenoids and tonsils taken out, they are HUGE and blocking his airways. Surgery is scary but his quality of life will improve so much, we are looking forward to having him feel better and sleep well finally. Anyway, that is after the New Year. But yesterday I had time to get some baking in. Since I have been absent for a few days I decided to share not one, but THREE of my favorite recipes with you and the best part? They couldn't be easier!


1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 cups chow mein noodles
1 cup salted dry roasted peanuts

In a double boiler or a glass bowl set on top of a pot of boiling water melt the chocolate, butterscotch, and peanut butter. Once melted and combined remove from heat and dump in the chow mein and peanuts. Stir until coated. Drop by tbsp onto parchment paper and let cool. You can store in the frig in an airtight container.

Holiday Nuggets

This recipe has been in the family a long time, so simple yet so yummy. It was my favorite as a child and now has become my kids favorite as well.

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
red and green sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add almond extract. In a separate bowl whisk the salt in with the flour and slowly add into wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Roll into 1 inch balls and dip one end in red sprinkles and the other in green. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Gooey Coconut Dream Bars
Recipe from Amy Scherber from Amy's Bread

For the crust

3 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used to packs of crackers)
3/4 cup melted, unsalted butter.
1/4 tsp coarse salt

For the topping

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 3/4 plus 2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk. (I used to small cans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X13 baking pan and line with parchment paper, set aside.

To make the crust, in medium bowl mix the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and salt. Pour mixture into prepared pan and press into bottom of pan using fingertips.

To make the topping, in another bowl mix together the coconut and chocolate chips, sprinkle evenly over the crust.

Pour condensed milk evenly over the entire surface. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan halfway through baking. Make sure the milk does not get too brown or bubble over in the pan, 26-32 minutes.
Transfer baking pan to cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into 20 squares. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Orange Ricotta Cookies with Dark Chocolate

I saw this recipe on another blog called Two Peas and Their Pod, they looked so yummy and when I noticed I had ricotta in the frig I was all over this. Chocolate and orange, they make a lovely couple.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 orange, zested

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp orange juice

1 cup dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.

The the bowl of a stand mixer mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time mixing until incorporated. Add ricotta and orange zest and orange juice. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spoon about a tbsp of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly golden around edges. Remove from oven and let cookies rest on sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack, cool completely.

Whisk the powdered sugar and juice in a bowl until smooth. Use the back of a spoon to spread the glaze over cookies. (about 1/2 tsp of glaze per cookie) Let glaze harden for about 5 minutes. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Let set up.

Whirley Pop

Warning: this post is probably going to make you want popcorn. About a month ago some girlfriends of mine were bragging (not really)...kind of. About their Whirley Pops and how it made the best popcorn and how easy and fun it was to use. I had NEVER I repeat NEVER made popcorn on my stovetop or any other way except throwing the bag in the microwave and hitting the popcorn kernel pic on the right hand side of my microwave. I was so curious about this whirley pop, they had me at easy and fun. I left them and immediately went and purchased one. I love it! My kids love it. It's so cool, and easy and the popcorn is so fresh and wow, I have been missing out. Today I took my popcorn to another level, melted butter, rosemary, sea salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. No measurements required. Add it all to taste. Hello fancy, impressive popcorn. Everything is better with cheese....and freshly ground pepper. 

Monday Musing

1. During my run this morning, the sky was a beautiful lavender color. In that moment I thanked God for strong legs, a strong, healthy heart, lungs to help me breathe in the brisk air....and for lavender skies.

2. Our golden, Abby is due for her annual exam. I have been putting it off hoping she'll lose some weight so they don't get mad at me. She is so big. She's about to pass out in the pic above. not kidding.

3.  I think I'm going to wrap presents today. I despise wrapping, and I am bad at it. People (my family) make fun of my wrapping. so mean.

4. I found another new show I love, now that my Zombie show is on hiatus I had to find a replacement. It's called Hell on Wheels, it's on AMC it is GOOD. And not so scary, I am sleeping better, I think.

5. I have an obsession where if I see they make a movie from a book I have to hurry and read the book before seeing the movie. I now have to read The girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I just saw the trailer for it. Two words: Daniel Craig

6. Fact: strawberries have more vitamin C then oranges.

7. I hate green tea. It tastes like dirty water.

My girls

I have mentioned before that I have hens. I spoke about my beloved Martha and how much I miss her. We have since purchased 3 more. I have 5 total. I am done. I do not live on a farm, although I day dream about it often, instead I live in the suburbs, surrounded by houses and swimming pools, and playing children. It works for us. I wanted them for the eggs, mostly. I bake so much and i wanted my own fresh eggs. We purchased each of them when they were only days old. We have grown attached to them, they are part of our family. Nothing makes me happier then sitting outside in the warm sunshine with a cup of coffee watching my girls scratch around in the yard for goodies. It's quite therapeutic. They get out for a little while each day to scavenge the yard and play. Their eggs are delicious and I believe make my baked good, extra fluffy and delicious. If you have room in your yard and in your life I highly recommend getting some. They are a joy.

Chocolate Charms

I was in the mood to bake something, but needed it to be simple, and with few ingredients. I adore shortbread. Hubs would hook his arm up to a chocolate IV if he could. So I came across this recipe in my Martha Stewart Cookies book. It's a chocolate shortbread cookie. We could both be happy. It's not very sweet, I enjoyed it.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature.
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt into a bowl.

Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat about 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.  Dough will look a bit crumbly but will stick together when squeezed with your fingers. Form dough into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a spoon, form dough into 1 inch balls; place on prepared baking sheets. Bake until firm, 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool completely on wire rack. Dust with cocoa powder just before serving. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temp up to a week.

Cake Balls

These little guys are becoming so popular, you may see them on a stick and called cake pops, many cupcake shops, and Starbucks are starting to carry them. They are a cinch to make, and so versatile. Mine are not perfect, I don't do perfect desserts, you see I am an impatient baker...heck I am an impatient person. I don't have time for fancy, I could never be a cake decorator....EVER. I've heard there is a special fork you can get that helps the dipping into chocolate process go smoother. I have used toothpicks, spoons, forks whatever works. If you haven't tried these yet, I suggest you jump on the bandwagon, your welcome.

What you need is a box of cake mix, a container of icing, chocolate or vanilla bark. Pick any flavors that strikes your fancy. Mix and match, like I said, very versatile. I've done red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate bark, yum. For these I used vanilla cake, lemon frosting and vanilla bark.

Bake the cake as directed on the box. I use a 13 X 9 pan. Let cool slightly, crumble the cake with a fork, add the container of frosting to the crumbled cake. Here's a tip. Cake balls are on the mushy side, if you want them less mushy, use less frosting. I would try only half the container, first time around. mix it together until incorporated. Roll into balls. This can be time consuming, and messy, if it's not rolling easily, try freezing the mix for an hour, once the balls are rolled, freeze them for several hours. Melt the bark in the microwave following the directions on the pkg. roll the balls into melted chocolate and place onto parchment paper to cool. if you want to embellish with sprinkles do that while the chocolate is still melted. Or you could melt a different color bark and drizzle that over the cooled balls. Store in airtight container.

Taco Soup

This is a recipe everyone should have. It is a staple in my home all winter long. It's affordable, it is so easy to make, it feeds a crowd, it is filling, it is delicious. Do you need more reasons?

2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 small cans green chilis
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can lima beans
1 can corn
1 pkg dry taco seasoning mix
1 pkg dry ranch dressing mix
2 cups water
salt/pepper to taste

Shredded cheddar (optional)
tortilla chips (optional)

Brown the meat in a saute pan with the onion. Rinse and drain the beans and corn and dump into a crock pot. Add rest of ingredients. Cook on low for a few hours or high for 1 hour.
 Hello perfect pat of butter on my cornbread.
 It's good just like this, very nice, really
But seeing how I dream about cheese in my sleep and I think I love it even more then bread, I need cheese on my taco soup. And chips. Just cause.

Monday Musing

1. Getting my Christmas cookie list together, I can't wait to share some of my favorite cookie recipes with you.

2. Went and saw The Descendents yesterday. It was sad. Not depressing sad but dysfunctional, corky, sad.      George Clooney is lovely...and he is very good in this movie.

3.  I have a thing for beets..I think I could eat them everyday. Hubs thinks it's weird to like something that tastes like dirt.

4. My life just got a tiny bit better because of Loreal Ever pure Sulfate Free shampoo. wow.

5. I am watching Kelly Ripa on TV right now as I am typing...she looks airbrushed.

6.  I made vanilla ice cream this weekend and added chopped up peppermint patties to it, yum.

7.  Fortune cookies were actually invented in America, not China. This makes me crave chinese food. weird.

8. Almost finished shopping. is my dear friend.

9. Have a wonderful week.

The best oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. ever.

Your going to be surprised. really. It's the recipe on the lid of the quaker oats container. It's THE BEST. I have made a few tiny provisions, to create a moist on the inside, crispy on the outside outrageous cookie. I am going to share my secrets with you and I promise if you try these tips you will be enjoying the most delicious oatmeal raisin cookie ever.

1 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups old fashioned quaker oats
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon, slowly add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add oats, raisins, and pecans. mix until all incorporated.

Here's the secret, I use a large ice cream scoop for these cookies, and also my chocolate chip cookies. I love both of those cookies to be L A R G E. Invest in different size scoops so you can create perfectly shaped all the same size cookies. I actually only have two sizes, they are perfect for cookies, muffins, cupcakes. For this cookie the size I use is 2 1/2 inches. I scrape the scoop along the side of the bowl for a nice flat bottom and plop onto my parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for exactly 15 minutes. Cookies will look slightly underdone, don't worry, that's what you want. Cool on sheet for a few minutes them move to a cooling rack. Delicious. Another tip to ensure a perfect cookie is to chill your dough for a bit before baking.

The sizes I use are 2 1/2 inch and 1 3/4 inch.

Holiday Sticky Buns

Since I got out of making the Thanksgiving feast I woke early to surprise the hubs with sticky buns. He loves all things puff pastry. These are quite yummy. It's Ina Garten, no surprise there,

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans chopped into large chunks
1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry defrosted (I use pepperidge farm)

For the filling
2 Tbsp butter melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place a 12 cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine 12 Tbsp butter with 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded Tbsp of mixture into each muffin cup. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups over the brown sugar, butter mixture.
Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface and unfold your puff pastry sheets, with folds going left to right. Brush with the melted butter, leaving a one inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup cranberries. Starting with the end nearest you roll your puff pastry up snugly, like a jelly roll over the filling. Finish the roll with the seam side down. Trim about 1/2 inch off both ends, discard. Slice the roll into 6 pieces about 1 1/2 inches think. (I start in the middle) Place each piece spiral side up on top of the butter, pecan mixture. Bake for 30 minutes until the buns are golden to dark brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert onto parchment paper, ease the filling out onto the pecans with a spoon. Cool slightly. Enjoy.