Holiday

Dec 14, 2016

A Christmas Gift Everyone Loves

If you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas I can tell you from experience that everyone I know loves to receive homemade goodies. Cookies, breads, cupcakes, biscotti… you can hardly go wrong. And then there’s homemade caramel corn. OMG! This is a gift that everyone absolutely loves! It’s super crispy, light, and so delicious! That’s what I give every Christmas and people start asking me in October if I’m making caramel corn again this year. That’s because there is no store-bought product that even comes close. And my recipe is simple. You don’t need a candy thermometer or any fancy equipment.

I just pop the corn in the microwave (my paper bag method) and stir in an easy syrup (made in five minutes) with butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and corn syrup (this is not high fructose corn syrup – they are not the same). Then you stir it up and bake it. I don’t make it for myself very often because I can’t stop eating it. So it’s a Christmas treat for me too. If you want to feel like Santa Claus next week and see big smiles on happy faces, give homemade caramel corn. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Dec 8, 2016

How To Freeze Pecan Balls

Guess what? There is no difference between frozen and freshly made pecan balls. I tested them myself and asked two other people to do a blind taste test and no one could tell the difference. This is good news because anything you can make ahead for the holidays is helpful. I’m sure there is more than one way to freeze these delicate Christmas snowball cookies but here is how I did mine:

  1. Once they were completely cool and after the second roll in powdered sugar I gently placed them in a freezer bag so they were not touching.
  2. I removed as much air as possible from the bag and placed them gently in the freezer.
  3. To thaw I let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then brought them to room temperature.
  4. Then I gently rolled them in powdered sugar again to freshen them up.

So there it is. This is how you can freeze your homemade pecan balls and have extra time for…. making more! Click here for the recipe.  – Jenny Jones

Nov 15, 2016

Simple Make Ahead Stuffing

Simple Bread StuffingIf you’ve ever cooked an entire Thanksgiving turkey dinner then you know it’s all about surviving. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does it all from scratch deserves a one-week cruise in the Bahamas! I do it all from scratch: the turkey & mashed potatoes, the gravy, the stuffing, cranberries, green beans, and pumpkin pie. How do I survive? By doing everything I possibly can… in advance.

That includes the pumpkin pie, the fresh cranberries, the stuffing, and even the gravy. I make my gravy in advance and just stir in some of the turkey drippings before serving. To make the best gravy and stuffing, I need a good stock so here’s how I schedule my prep:

One week ahead: I bake my easy white bread with 1 Tbsp. sugar and dry it to make cubes for the stuffing. The dried cubes keep well for days but they must be completely dry.

Two days ahead: I make turkey stock using two turkey wings. I rub them with oil, salt & pepper, and roast them on a sheet at 375° F for an hour. Then I put the wings and drippings in a soup pot with about 8 cups of water and all the same veggies & spices as my chicken soup. I cook it for 3 hours, strain, cool & refrigerate. Then I skim the fat off the top before using. Oh, I take the meat off the wings for snacking – it’s delicious! I also cook the fresh cranberries.

One day ahead: I bake my pumpkin pie and make my gravy and stuffing.

Obviously, not everyone wants to work this hard so a store bought loaf of white bread is fine and you can use chicken stock (Swanson’s unsalted in the carton is good). Some people like to crisp the stuffing in the oven but I prefer it soft. It feels more like it was cooked inside the bird that way. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

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Jul 1, 2016

Fresh Strawberry Cake for the 4th

Strawberry Cake almost1200_5131 copy

Our fourth of July is almost here. It’s a time for fireworks, fun, and food… especially food. And what could you make that would be as exciting as the fireworks? This is it, baby! My fresh strawberry cake. It’s one of my most popular recipes and now that strawberries are in season, you won’t need a loan to bake this delicious dessert.

It’s Independence Day. So declare your independence from store bought sweets and make this beautiful, show stopping, fresh strawberry cake. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Mar 19, 2016

Bunny Buns for Easter

Easter Bunny Buns2_1200_8114_EditYou can turn my easy one-rise dinner rolls into bunny buns for Easter. Kids will love them and grown ups will enjoy the tasty bread rolls. This recipe is super easy but it will take a little time to put the faces together. This is almost the exact same recipe as my easy dinner rolls but you’ll need a couple of extra tools.

I use two cookie/biscuit cutters that are 2 1/2 inches and 4 inches across. The small circle is for the faces and the bigger one for the ears. To cut out the little noses I use the top of a lipstick tube. You’ll also need raisins and it helps to put together matching pairs or raisins in advance that are the same size and color. You might not notice but a box of raisins has many different sizes and shades.

Now for my photo tutorial. First, you roll the half of the dough into a 6 x 12-inch oval and this is how you cut the circles. The smaller ones are the faces and the bigger ones will be for the ears:

IMG_8161Put the small circles on your baking sheet (I make 4 faces per sheet) and then this is how you cut the ears from the two large circles:

IMG_8164You cut the nose using the top of a lipstick – it’s about 1/2-inch wide:

IMG_8175You tuck the ears slightly under the top of the head, place the nose, and push in the raisins for eyes. This is how they look before baking (four per sheet):

IMG_8179Once you make four bunny faces you cover the baking sheet with a towel and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled. That takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. While they rise you put together the other four bunny buns. They bake at 375° F for about 10 minutes. For the leftover dough, I roll it into a few 2-inch balls, rise and bake the same way.  I hope someone sends a photo!  Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Dec 25, 2015

Merry Christmas (to me)

Poppy Seed Bread1200_9576Here is the Christmas present I made for myself… or what’s left of it anyway. You don’t have to be Polish to love a slice (or 2 or 3) of makowiec (mah-KOH-viets). It’s usually a bread to be shared but this one is all for me! I made it without the powdered sugar glaze and opted for an egg wash and poppy seeds on the top.

The filling is made with ground poppy seeds, fresh orange and lemon peel, ground almonds and vanilla. It’s a Polish holiday bread for Christmas as well as Easter but I say make it for any holiday, or birthday, or laundry day, or tax day…. Click here for the recipe.

And Merry Christmas to all my fellow cooks and bakers. Thank you for all your comments and photos – I appreciate it so much when anyone takes the time to make a comment or send a photo. I have posted most of the recipes I make but I will try to add more as they make it into my kitchen. xoxoxo

Dec 14, 2015

I can’t stop eating my sugar cookies!

Sugar Cookies1200 IMG_9455 copyThere’s something addictive about these Christmas sugar cookies because I can’t stop eating them. So this will be my first batch because I’m not sharing. I’ll make more if anybody else wants some – but these are mine. I used a cookie press because it’s faster and I like that the cookies are tiny, no more than 2 inches across. So these are one-bite cookies but I am never able to eat just one.

For anyone using a cookie press, try to get very fine sprinkles because these mini cookies hold fine sprinkles better than some of the bigger cookie decorations, which seem to roll right off. I like mixing my colors and using blue and purple too. My recipe uses only half the butter of most others. These easy Christmas cookies keep really well. They can be refrigerated and stay nice and fresh for at least a week and I have frozen some for months and they are still good.

For me, Christmas sugar cookies are just part of holiday decorating but it’s decorations you can eat.  Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Dec 8, 2015

Sweet Christmas Bread Made Without Butter

Christmas Wreath Blog1200_9213_edit copyChristmas is the best time to make sweet breads like my Christmas wreath bread. It’s a lightly sweet egg bread filled with golden raisins, braided and formed into a wreath shape. Once it bakes, you can add a simple glaze and sprinkles with a few of those little red cinnamon dots added.

This bread is made entirely without butter and it’s a fast, one-rise dough so the whole thing takes only two hours. I made a plain loaf today so I could toast it. Let me tell you that this bread, toasted, and topped with a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon…. well it doesn’t have to be Christmas to make yourself a treat. But don’t try to toast it once it has the glaze. Here it is plain…

IMG_9111Next time if I can’t decide, maybe I can bake it, cut it in half, and keep half for toasting. Then I can glaze and decorate the other half for dessert. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll have a slice of toasted cinnamon-raisin bread, and then have a slice of sweet, glazed raisin bread for dessert! If you like baking without butter, you won’t miss it with this fabulous bread. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Nov 25, 2015

Getting Ready for Turkey Day

Pumpkin Pie 1200 full_9082My pumpkin pie is ready! There are three things I always do the day before Thanksgiving. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is: Do everything you possibly can in advance. So I already made my pumpkin pie, fresh cranberries, and I’ve made a pot of turkey stock. Here’s how… I roasted some turkey wings for an hour at 375 and then scraped up all the drippings. I put the wings, drippings, water, and the same vegetables and spices I use in my chicken stock into a pot, and cooked it for 2 1/2 hours. I let it cool down and it’s now in the fridge. Tomorrow I’ll skim off the fat use it for my make-ahead gravy and in my stuffing.

This year I’m trying a new way to roast turkey – at 500 degrees! It will be an adventure. I hope it turns out but no matter, it’s good to take occasional risks. But there’s no risk with my amazing pumpkin pie. The crust is made without butter or shortening so if you want to try it, click here for the recipe.

…and Happy Thanksgiving! – Jenny Jones

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Nov 20, 2015

My Thanksgiving Recipes

Holiday_MontageIf someone invites you over for a homemade Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, cranberries & pumpkin pie) no matter how good or bad the food was, you should lift them up, in their chair, and carry them around the neighborhood like the Rose Parade with everyone following and cheering for the cook. You might even build a float for them made out of plywood and turkey feathers, because cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a huge accomplishment for even the most experienced cook. After the parade, send them to Hawaii for a week. They’ll need it.

After every Thanksgiving turkey dinner I make, I always say, “Next year, we’re going out. I’m not doing this again. It’s too stressful!” But then we go out and the food is awful and I miss my home cooking so I do it again. All this is to explain why I have no turkey dinner recipes to share. But I do have sides and desserts!

I wish I could share a fabulous roast turkey or stuffing recipe but I’ve never made my stuffing the same way twice. I make a bread stuffing and sometimes I add mushrooms, sometimes shredded apple, sometimes walnuts, and sometimes all of the above. And my turkey? Well, I’ve roasted it upside down, right side up, brined it, bagged it, rubbed it, and I still don’t have a recipe I can share.

But I do have these four contributions to Thanksgiving cooks that I hope you enjoy.
For my Fresh Cranberries recipe that cooks in 5 minutes, click here.
For my Easy One-Rise Dinner Rolls recipe, click here.
For my Healthier Easier Pumpkin Pie recipe that uses no butter, click here.
For my Easy Pecan Pie recipe that you can also make without butter, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving! – Jenny Jones

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