Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011

Friday again...where does each week go? Around our house we are busy singing Christmas carols, looking each morning for Harry, our Elf on the Shelf, and opening Advent Calendars. We are armpit deep in the Christmas season, and loving every minute of it! We aren't traveling for the holidays this year, but are making the season special by doing lots of great things as a family - screening the Muppets movie, seeing the Holiday Light Show in town, going to the winter train exhibit at the botanic garden.

Today our family activity Advent Calendar told us to make a batch of cookies for dessert. I must say, there was a little underlying reason for this particular activity...I am attending a Christmas Cookie exchange later this month and am looking for a great cookie to bring. Well, I may have found the recipe I'll be making for the exchange! My usual helpers (the biggest and littlest monkey) helped me make Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies. Talk about yum!!! I still may try out a few other new cookie recipes (luckily I have Book Club next week and can use those ladies as taste testers), and I'll let you know what I finally settle on for the exchnage.

This week also continued the pantry clean out. I had some whole grain mustard, as well as a small amount of cornflakes. I found two great dinner recipes to share this week using those ingredients. Baked Crab Cakes uses corn flakes as an outside coating. These crab cakes had a fantastic flavor, and really no filler. It was nice to bake the crab cakes and not fry or saute them in oil. Ryan was quite surprised to have crab cakes for dinner on a Tuesday night!

The second "keeper" dinner recipe used the whole grain mustard that has been in the pantry for a while with no clear use in sight. I used it in the pork and mustard sauce recipe which we all enjoyed immensely! The original recipe only called for 2 cups of noodles, but next time I make it I will likely make more - my kids love egg noodles! So, depending on who is at your dinner table and how much they like (or love) egg noodles, make anywhere between 2 and 3 cups. I was a little skeptical, to be honest, as I am not a huge mustard fan. I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this dinner, but I was surprised and loved the flavor! And it was a cinch to put together. It only calls for a few ingredients, and is so quick to cook. In the time it takes to make the egg noodles you'll have the rest of the dish pulled together. This is a great and easy weeknight meal, but absolutely can be served to dinner quests as well.

Not sure what is on the meal plan for this coming week...perhaps another batch of cookies, and a few other dishes made with pantry ingredients on hand, we'll have to see! Have a great week!

New Recipes
Baked Crab Cakes
Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies
Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

* 2 1/2 cups uncooked medium egg noodles
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 slices (about 1 lb or so)
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 cup dry white wine
* 3 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
* 2 tbsp water
* 2 tsp cornstarch

1. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
2. While the noodles cook, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the pork with pepper and salt. Place pork in pan; cook 5 minutes, turning once.
3. Combine the wine and mustard; pour into pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes; flip pork after 5 minutes. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.
4. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into pan; bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute or until thick. Serve pork with sauce and noodles.

Delicious! Have you ever gotten a food gift basket? I will bet you that it included some sort of whole-grain mustard. Now you have a recipe that calls for it! We loved this dish, even all three kids! If your family loves noodles, you might want to cook 3 cups of noodles instead of 2 1/2.

Baked Crab Cakes

* 1 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
* 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
* 1 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise
* 1 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 large egg yolk
* 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional)
* fresh lemon slices

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place crabmeat in a bowl, checking for shells without breaking up the meat too much.
3. Distribute the cornflake crumbs on a platter or in a low bowl.
4. In a small bowl or large measuring cup combine mayo, old bay, mustard, yolk and cayenne pepper; mix well.
5. Add crab to dressing toss gently until well blended.
6. Form 6 to 8 crab cakes no more than 3 inches thick, pressing the ingredients together. Place the cakes in the crumbs and coat lightly on all sides.
7. Put the crab cakes on a parchment lined baking sheet. If desired, dot each with a bit of soft butter. Bake the cakes until just hot, about 10 minutes.
8. Serve with lemon slices.

Baked crab cakes - what a nice change of pace! These have a fair amount of heat (spice) but they were not too hot. These have no filler, just lots of crab meat. I used canned crab meat, a mix of jumbo lump and regular crab meat. It was nice to have really large pieces of crab in the cakes, but didn't need to have 100% jumbo lump meat for a weeknight crab cake. They tasted great!

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies

* 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 cup(2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup granulated or sanding sugar
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup each butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes.
4. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat to combine.
5. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 5 minutes.
6. Remove sheets from oven; with the bottom of a small round measuring spoon, make an indentation in center of each cookie.
7. Bake until cookies are just set but still look moist, 3 minutes (do not over-bake). Let cool on the cookie sheets on wire racks.
8. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter in 20 second increments until melted, on 70% power. Once fully melted stir in the peppermint extract.
9. Let cool until thick enough to pipe, 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large zip-top bag or piping bag; snip 1/4-inch hole in one corner. Pipe chocolate into cookie indentations.
10. Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week.

I used sanding sugar when we rolled the cookies, which gave them a really nice sparkle!