Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite 2014 Yankee Belle Posts - Year-end Review

I don't mind saying it, I am as big a fan of my fellow Yankee Belle cooks as any other reader. We're all in different parts of the country, at different points in our lives, but we share a love of food, Jesus, romance and fun!

Lots of great posts this past year as sugar was exiled, life changes happened, and kitchen fails were confessed. It's hard to pick favorites of mine but I'm giving it a go.

Jan Drexler - anything with Mt. Rushmore, corgis or bison caught my eye. My favorite recipe was Jan's pumpkin curry soup . So simple and so good. And exotic!

You also may have noticed we've talked about life and events more this year. After all, we are more than just cooks, more than just writers. My favorite non-foodie post from Jan, A Story of Poverty and Redemption about her grandparents, included some of the most stunning family pictures I've seen. But it is the story of  the couple that had me teary-eyed. Just a marvelous message.

Mindy Obenhaus - has a ranch. In Texas. Need I say more? Yes! The woman had some fabulous chocolate themed posts but what struck me the most was her soldiering through six weeks of a liquid diet post surgery and her campaign to get sugar reduced in her diet. In between all this excitement was a wedding. My favorite recipe post was the scones in her bridal shower buffet post.  

We got an education in Texas culture this year, thanks to Mindy, and her Friday Night Lights and Homecoming post  introduced me to something I've never heard tell of, mums. Only they are not like any flowers my mother ever introduced me to!

 Yep, boas, streamers and teddy bears make up these mums!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz  -lives on the West Coast in a small town and a house bursting at the seams with children and creativity.  Her appliances have lives of their own and she has found more retro treasures than you can shake a stick at. My favorite recipe post from Virginia? Stuffed Cheese rolls . Yep, I am gluten free but I can still appreciate this marvelous recipe based on the Hunger Games and full of pictures of her adorable sons. I mean, head on over to the post and  look at those eyes.

Favorite non-recipe topic? So easy. In fact it was the first post I thought of to include in my year end review.   Virginia's Little Free Library is as charming a post as can be. I've seen local LFLs and read about them but never knew anyone who made their own.

Ruth Logan Herne - doesn't ever stop. In fact, I don't think she sleeps. But that is to be expected of folks who live in the Northeast. The woman is the queen of easy recipes so it was really hard to pick one but Amish cauliflower salad really won me over to cauliflower. Not to mention there are baby chicks and cute kids in that post.
The non-recipe post I loved the best was when Ruthy got to play (SHE GOT TO PLAY!) for the Weekend in Manhattan with the boys .

Missy Tippens is the Belle in Yankee Belle. Southern through and through. We also share a history as microbiologists and Methodist buddies. She has taught me when it comes to cooking, the easier the better. I loved this Low Country boil she posted because I always thought that meal was hard to make. Of course, I leave the corn out but I serve it over rice.

Favorite non-recipe post? Well, it does involve food but what warms my heart the most about Missy's Ham and Egg Supper post is it is representative of all her lovely church community stories. And there's cracklins!

Bonus thanks: This year, we've all needed some fill in help. We've been blessed with a ton of guests who brought fabulous recipes, new insights, books and gadgets to Yankee-Belle. Thank you all, especially semi-regulars Tina Radcliffe and Mary Connealy.  How great is that? And readers with great comments always made the cafe hum.

Blessed New Year to you all!

So, what do you remember most about this past year? Did you have a favorite meal or does one event stick out in your mind?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winding Down and Gearing Up

Sunset in Grapevine, the Christmas Capital of Texas.

Well, the holidays are almost over. The hoopla of Christmas has passed and the sun is setting on another year. Soon life will return to its normal chaotic state, minus the Christmas carols and twinkling lights. For those of us with deadlines, though, this might just be the beginning of the madness. ;)

Speaking of madness, things went a little wonky for us just before Christmas when my mother was admitted to the hospital. The people at her assisted living found her unresponsive, lips blue and she was pale as a ghost. Which was really weird since I'd been there only an hour prior and she was quite chatty. However, after twenty-four hours in the hospital and a multitude of tests that yielded good results, she was sent home, weak and a little confused, but far better than the day before.

All that to say that Christmas was a rather quiet affair at the Obi home. Well, as quiet as one can expect with nearly a dozen people, including my mother, gathered. 

And this mama got the best gift of all.

Brotherly love.
Perhaps there's hope for these boys yet.

Happy New Year, y'all!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Turn of the Year Goodness - Tortellini Soup with Meatballs Rerun

Good "Monday after Christmas" everyone!

I always feel like I'm in limbo during the week between Christmas and New Year's. We're winding down the last year and looking forward to the next.

Meanwhile, the winter weather is just gathering steam. We're expecting sub-zero temperatures through the next week after a Sunday evening/Monday snow storm. So it's definitely time for a soup recipe!

I was looking through my posts from last year, and this one from last February is one of my favorites. I love this soup.

So pull up a bowl, grab a baguette or two, and warm up with some Tortellini Soup with Meatballs....

My daughter's television watching consists of a couple hours of Food Network a week (and an hour of Psych, but we won't mention that - they're on their last season and she's crushed). She doesn't have time for any more than that, between working two jobs and playing in two symphonies! But she adds to her Food Network addiction by buying their magazine.

I love this addiction - after all, I get to read the magazine, too! And they always have such fabulous recipes.

Their version of this recipe, Meatball-Tortellini Soup, was in the January issue. I tweaked it to please our family, so what you're getting is the amended version. (If you want to see the original, go here.)

So what's so great about this soup?

First of all, it's quick.
Second, it's easy.
Third, it's delicious!
Fourth...well, you'll have to wait until the end for that one.

So here's how you do it.

Start with one pound of quality ground beef.

You could also use ground turkey, but I like the texture of the beef in these meatballs. Especially when it's the last, the very last, pound of good South Dakota grass-fed ground beef from the "half-of-a-half" we purchased last March. And we only had this one because it was hiding in a corner of the freezer. I thought we had run out in November!

(I ordered some more on Saturday. Things are looking up!)

In a large bowl, beat 2 large eggs. Add in your ground beef (or turkey), 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 Tablespoons dried parsley, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix with your hands - just until it's all combined - and then form the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Wynter would NEVER consider stealing meatballs off the kitchen counter....

....this guy, on the other hand, wouldn't think twice. Do you see how innocent he seems? He's just waiting for someone to leave the room!

Oh, and a side note - notice the unfinished floor behind the dogs. We're still working on it!

Okay. You have your meatballs ready, so take a large pot (I use my 8 quart stock pot) and heat up a couple tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. I use refined coconut oil (I want the medium chain fatty acids in my food), or you can use olive oil. Add your meatballs - gently, because they're quite fragile at this stage - and cook until they're browned on all sides.

Take them out and let them drain on a clean paper towel. They aren't quite done cooking yet, so don't be concerned if the meat doesn't look done.

Notice how the meatballs are NOT all uniform and round.
They taste better that way, right?

While your meatballs are cooking, prepare some celery and carrots. 

You'll need 3 carrots and 3 stalks of celery. Dice them fine so they cook up quickly.

After you remove the meatballs from the pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and then add the celery and carrots. Keep the heat at medium-high.

Do you see all that brown stuff in the bottom of the pan? That's from the meat. That is what is going to give your soup the special savory goodness all chefs want in their soups!

Stir the veggies, and scrape up the brown crusties at the same time. Let them get all cozy, tasty and friendly. Stir some more, cook some more, until the veggies start to soften - about 5 minutes.

Now add 2 quarts chicken broth and 1 quart (4 cups) water.

This is 1 quart of broth - you'll need two of these.

When you add the liquid, be sure to scrape up the remaining crusties from the bottom of the pan. You want that rich goodness in your soup! (And it makes the pot easier to clean.)

Bring the soup to a boil, and once it's boiling, add the meatballs back in. Simmer for about 4 or 5 minutes to cook the meatballs thoroughly.

Next, add some refrigerated tortellini (1 9-ounce package), and cook until the tortellini rise to the surface of the broth.

For the last touch, add about 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach to the soup, and let simmer for another few minutes before serving.

The final step: salt to taste.

Serve with more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Add some fresh bread and a salad, and you have a great winter-time supper :)

Oh, and the fourth great thing about this recipe? It's less than 500 calories per serving. How can you beat that?

Didn't we all love the peek at spring our GAL Julie gave us over the weekend? And don't we all have spring fever now?

But don't be fooled. It isn't spring here, yet! As I overheard a guy say on Saturday (in the middle of a snowstorm), "Get used to it, folks. It's February in South Dakota. It's still winter!"

We just had to laugh. Yup. It's still winter here :)

Here's the recipe all in one place:

Tortellini Soup with Meatballs 
(serves 8)

2 eggs
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 Tablespoons oil

3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, peeled and diced
2 quarts chicken broth
1 quart water

9-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
additional Parmesan cheese

Make meatballs: combine eggs (beaten), meat, cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Divide into 1-inch balls.

Cook in 2 Tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until all sides are browned.

Remove the meatballs, and add the diced carrots and celery, along with the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add meatballs. Cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

Add refrigerated tortellini and cook until tortellini floats.

Add spinach and cook for an additional few minutes.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Marmalade Bread Pudding

Hello, everybody! I think we've done bread pudding here before but this is a fun twist on an old favorite. Warning- this is not diet food! This is something you make when you have twenty people coming and want a back up dessert. This is not the dish you make when you're going to be home alone all weekend. (Not that I've ever been home alone... in 16 years, but just in case! I'm reminding myself!)
So, our ingredients for the bread pudding:
one loaf of brioche (I was too lazy to make my own so I grabbed some sweet bread from the store)
5 eggs
2 cups milk
1 stick butter
1 cup good marmalade
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Slice the bread thickly and lay in the dish.
Slice the butter and lay it on the bread. At this point I was thinking, "This can NOT be good for anybody." But I think that's the point, really.
Set oven at 350F.
Layer the bread, slightly overlapping, butter slices on top.
Mix milk, eggs, seasonings, and vanilla in a bowl.
Pour over the bread slices. Chill in the fridge for four hours, so the bread soaks up most of the liquid. And now at THIS point I was thinking, "This will never be edible." It looks like twenty bucks of fine ingredients wasted, honestly.
Bake the pudding for 40 minutes until everything is turning brown. Your house will smell delicious, btw. Now, spread on the marmalade and put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.
Let it cool for five minutes and meanwhile, whip some cream to put on top.
The final product.... was AMAZING. I shared a slice with one of my older kids and it was truly the best way I've consumed worthless calories in a long time. A really incredible combo of spices, warm pudding, fresh cream, and unmistakable marmalade. Those are just not flavors you can fake.
We had guests over that night and the verdict was unanimous: a winning recipe! I think this will be a new yearly Christmas/ New Year tradition for our entertaining schedule. It was easy, unique, and great "holiday" flavors!

  I hope you all are having a wonderful end of the year! Until next time!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Afterglow

Missy, here. Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas! I'm sharing a Thanksgiving 2013 repeat post today for those who have leftover turkey. And if you don't, then maybe you have some turkey lunch meat and can make this YUMMY rollup sandwich. Enjoy!!

Years ago, I chaperoned a trip with my son's AP U.S. History class. We visited Boston and surrounding areas. At one stop in Concord, we let the kids go do lunch on their own. Several of the teachers and I hit a fantastic restaurant called Main Streets Market and Cafe. I had what I think may have been the best sandwich of my life. The Turkey Cranberry Wrap. I was in heaven. Recently, I decided to recreate this sandwich on my own. (I can't believe I didn't think to do it sooner.)

So, here we go! Pull out those leftovers and get to wrapping!

Get some of those low carb wraps I mentioned a few weeks ago. Spread on cranberry sauce. Your choice of type. My daughter chose jellied, "the kind that's shaped like a can."  :) Layer with baby spinach.

Add dressing. I heated mine.

Then layer on the turkey. Again, I heated mine.

Wrap up and serve with a side of sweet potato fries just for fun. :)

How easy is that?! And it's an amazing sandwich. I ate it leftover on three days last week! And didn't even get sick of it.

What's your favorite thing to make with turkey leftovers?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from All of Us!!!!!

Everyone at the Yankee Belle Cafe, the tall and the small, is joining hands and singing like the Who's in Whoville to wish you and yours a merry and blessed holiday...

And holy day.  

God bless you, may he keep you ever in his sight, his heart and the palm of his hand.

We love that you stop by and grab a cuppa on your busy days, and we're looking forward to a fun and festive 2015!


From the gals at the Yankee Belle Cafe!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Peace

Christmas Eve, the day when, at some point, you can hear the collective sigh. Whew! Christmas is almost here! Unless of course, you are trying to put together a toy at midnight and are missing a part. I'm past all that, just having to wrap some presents!

We go to the grandkidlets' house in the morning for all the Christmas Day excitement. But ever since I was little, I've loved Christmas Eve the best. The quiet, the anticipation, the eggnog, and recently adding the late service at Duke Chapel!

I've figured out there is a special peace on Christmas Eve.  I think it has something to do with all the angels flying about, harking the herald, announcing God has sent His Son to earth because God loved the whole world. And there are plenty in my house spreading the news.
This is my angel tree with ornaments that have been around longer than I have.

These felt ornaments were handmade by my mom's best friend when I was born. 

This blue angel from my tree growing up is also a favorite.

I found these vintage angel appliques at the flea market. A friend made a custom tree skirt for me.

They are all about, whispering,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14) And women for that matter. They shouted the same to the shepherds to get their attention. I have a feeling they've been shouting all Christmas season long.  But in the quiet of Christmas Eve, I hear them loud and clear.

I hope you have a peaceful Christmas Eve, whether it is in church, with family, or as you put those last gifts together. May God's peace fill your heart. So, do you love Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the best?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Round One and Revisiting Oreo Truffles

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Don't you like a my half-dead plants. Can you believe it, two plants that started out whole and beautiful a few weeks ago have wilted and died on one side. I don't get it. I watered them, saw to it they had plenty of light... But the good news is that the rosemary plant is growing new shoots on the part that is alive, meaning I should have fresh rosemary for months to come.

The Obenhaus' home got things rolling this weekend. Since my SIL has to work on Christmas, my oldest daughter and her family traveled over the Red River and through the Arbuckle Mountains to Grammy's house and we all gathered Sunday for Christmas part one.
If you look really hard, you can see my granddaughter whining in the chair to the left. 
My oldest and youngest grandchildren, enjoying Big Daddy's train.
Our dogs and all the grandpups were happy to celebrate, too. 
Needless to say, there is always plenty of chaos.

There's also lots of food and time to catch up with each other.

And lest we forget the goofiness.

Elijah loves dancing Santa.

And opening presents.

But all that fun can wear a little guy out.

And remember these?
Well, at the insistence of my youngest son, I gave those Oreo truffles another go. As many of you suggested, I froze them this time and not only did they retain their shape, they were so much easier to dip.

Much better than last week's presentation.
And since I was dipping, I had to go ahead and do some dipped pretzels, too.
You can see how I did that here.

I love it when all the kids are home. With everyone's busy lives, it's an occasion that is all-too-rare and one that is definitely celebrated when we finally do come together.

So from my family to yours, may your Christmas be filled with love, the blessing of family and the joy of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Merry Christmas, everyone!