For the holidays—Ree Drummond's Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries

These brussels sprouts were a menu item on my sister's (Marla Newell Payne) Thanksgiving menu. It's a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, and adds a festive note to holiday meal.
Note: I did cut down the ingredients used in the balsamic sauce as neither Marla or I used it all (original called for 1 cup sugar & 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar).

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries
3 pounds Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 to 1 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Trim/clean the Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half. 
  3. Toss with olive oil and then arrange on  baking sheet(s).

  4. Roast until brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and reduce until thick.
  6. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts, then sprinkle on the dried cranberries.
Recipe without photos . . .
Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries
3 pounds Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 to 1 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Trim/clean the Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half. 
  3. Toss with olive oil and then arrange on  baking sheet(s).
  4. Roast until brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and reduce until thick.
  6. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts, then sprinkle on the dried cranberries. 

Chili-Cheese Crackers -- a spicy variation of cheese straws


My sister, Marla Newell Payne, made these tasty crackers for Thanksgiving (in Texas) to have with pre-dinner drinks. Texans love their cheese straws and this is just another variation . . .


Chili-Cheese Straws/Crackers
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Mix together cheese and butter until well blended.
  2. Gradually add remaining ingredients, stirring until mixture is no longer crumbly and will shape into a ball.

  3. Divide dough into fourths, and roll each portion into a 1/4" thick rectangle shape on wax paper. 

  4. Cut with a cutter, or cut into 2 x 1/2" strips with a knife or pastry wheel. Dough can also be put into a cookie press fitted with a star-shaped disk to shape sought into straws.

  5. Place on ungreased baking sheets. (I lined my sheets with silicon sheets.)
  6. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Recipe without photos . . .
Chili-Cheese Straws/Crackers
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Mix together cheese and butter until well blended.
  2. Gradually add remaining ingredients, stirring until mixture is no longer crumbly and will shape into a ball.
  3. Divide dough into fourths, and roll each portion into a 1/4" thick rectangle shape on wax paper. 
  4. Cut with a cutter, or cut into 2 x 1/2" strips with a knife or pastry wheel. Dough can also be put into a cookie press fitted with a star-shaped disk to shape sought into straws.
  5. Place on ungreased baking sheets. (I lined my sheets with silicon sheets.)
  6. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Kiwi Christmas Tree -- Holiday Fruit Platter


Adapted from an idea on Pinterest, I just used the fruits I had on hand. The one I saw on Pinterest used pomegranate seeds for "ornaments" and was topped with a pineapple star. A platter that obviously lends itself to creativity!

Kiwi Christmas Tree
Kiwi slices
Red grapes, chopped
Mint leaves
Cinnamon stick

Arrange kiwi slices in a tree shape.
Arrange red grapes on top.
Garnish with mint and insert a cinnamon stick for the base of the tree.

David's Microwaved Potato Chips

Healthy microwaved potato chips! Really? Yes and unbelievably good + EASY too. The only drawback—they have to be made in small batches . . . but, that also helps control the number one eats. It's a win, win situation.
Thank you David McClain for sharing this incredible recipe!
Hint: Prepare just one potato at a time so they don't turn brown. We seasoned our chips with just coarse salt and pepper; David added some fresh rosemary to some of his. It's definitely a recipe where you can experiment with the seasonings.

David's Microwaved Potato Chips
Russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed but not peeled
Parchment paper 
Olive oil 
Kosher salt
Coarse pepper 
  1. Slice potatoes as thinly as possible. (Barry used an old-fashioned cabbage slice but a mandolin or other slicers work, too.)
  2. Arrange potato slices on a piece of parchment paper cut to fit a microwave tray.
  3. Brush each potato slice with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or your choice of seasoning.
  5. Microwave anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes or until chips are browned and crisp. (Time may vary depending on wattage output of microwave.)
  6. Enjoy!
Recipe without photos . . .
David's Microwaved Potato Chips
Russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed but not peeled
Parchment paper
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Coarse pepper
  1. Slice potatoes as thinly as possible. (Barry used an old-fashioned cabbage slice but a mandolin or other slicers work, too.)
  2. Arrange potato slices on a piece of parchment paper cut to fit a microwave tray.
  3. Brush each potato slice with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or your choice of seasoning.
  5. Microwave anywhere from 5 to 10 or until chips are browned and crisp. (Time may vary depending on wattage output of microwave.)
  6. Enjoy!

Mom's Microwave Peanut Brittle


My mother, Phyllis Newell, has been making peanut brittle in the microwave for years. Her recipe is quick to prepare and  earns rave reviews from friends and family. She often makes up to eight batches at Christmas.
Although I have made peanut brittle the “old-fashioned way” (over the stove with a candy thermometer), this was my first time making it in a microwave.

Note: My microwave has a high wattage output so was actually done in less time so I skipped step #5 (Cook on High 1 more minute). Consequently adjust cooking time for your own particular microwave.  If testing with a candy thermometer the final temperature should be 300° F.  Or, test for doneness by dropping a small amount of mixture into very cold water; it is done when is is separates into hard and brittle threads.

Mom’s Microwave Peanut Brittle
1 cup raw peanuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Stir together first 5 ingredients in 1 1/2 -quart glass microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Cook on High for 2 minutes and stir. 
    After being cooked for 2 minutes.
  3. Cook on High for 4 minutes and stir. 
    After being cooked for another 4 minutes.
  4. Cook on High for 3 minutes and stir. (My peanut brittle was actually at 300°F at this stage so I skipped step #5 — see note below for details.) 
    After being cooked for another 3 minutes.
  5. Cook on High 1 more minute. Note: If testing with a candy thermometer the final temperature should be 300° F.  Or, test for doneness by dropping a small amount of mixture into very cold water; it is done when is is separates into hard and brittle threads.
  6. Add vanilla; stir quickly.
  7. Add baking soda and stir until bubbly.
    Mixture foams and changes consistency once the baking soda is added.
  8. Pour into warmed and  buttered cookie sheet and spread to desired thickness. Note: Mom warms cookie sheet in a 250° oven. 
  9. Let cool and break apart.
Recipe without photos . . .
Mom’s Microwave Peanut Brittle
1 cup raw peanuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Stir together first 5 ingredients in 1 1/2 -quart glass microwave-safe bowl. 
  2. Cook on High for 2 minutes and stir. 
  3. Cook on High for 4 minutes and stir. 
  4. Cook on High for 3 minutes and stir. (My peanut brittle was actually at 300°F at this stage so I skipped step #5 — see note below for details.) 
  5. Cook on High 1 more minute. Note: If testing with a candy thermometer the final temperature should be 300° F.  Or, test for doneness by dropping a small amount of mixture into very cold water; it is done when is is separates into hard and brittle threads.
  6. Add vanilla; stir quickly.
  7. Add baking soda and stir until bubbly.
  8. Pour into warmed and  buttered cookie sheet and spread to desired thickness. Note: Mom warms cookie sheet in a 250° oven. 
  9. Let cool and break apart.

Anise-flavored Peppernuts -- adding to our Christmas collection

Peppernuts and Christmas go hand and hand as far as I'm concerned and now I've added a new recipe to our usual fare. This recipe comes from Peppernuts, Plain and Fancy by Norma Jost Voth (1978 copyright). The recipe header reads, 'Light, buttery crispness and the delicate flavor of anise make there pepper nuts a Yule favorite.


Hint-of-Anise Peppernuts 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon oil of anise, or ground anise (I use 1 teaspoon of the oil)
  1. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
  3. Add syrup.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
  5. Add half the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix to combine.
  6. Add remaining flour and anise. Mix to combine.
  7. Store dough in tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight or longer. This helps spices to blend and season dough. Note: The butter hardens when dough is refrigerated so allow it to come to room temp before proceeding to next step.
  8. When ready to shape, roll dough into thin ropes and slice with sharp knife dipped in flour or cold water. Pieces should be about the size of a hazelnut or smaller.
  9. Place pieces separately on greased baking sheet.
  10. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 7 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.
  11. Store in closed container and allow flavors to again meld . . . unless you just can't wait!
Try our other Peppernut recipes:

Recipe without photos . . .
Anise-flavored Peppernuts 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon oil of anise, or ground anise (I use 1 teaspoon of the oil)
  1. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
  3. Add syrup.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
  5. Add half the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix to combine.
  6. Add remaining flour and anise. Mix to combine.
  7. Store dough in tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight or longer. This helps spices to blend and season dough. Note: The butter hardens when dough is refrigerated so allow it to come to room temp before proceeding to next step.
  8. When ready to shape, roll dough into thin ropes and slice with sharp knife dipped in flour or cold water. Pieces should be about the size of a hazelnut or smaller.
  9. Place pieces separately on greased baking sheet.
  10. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 7 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.
  11. Store in closed container and allow flavors to again meld . . . unless you just can't wait!

Pfefferneuse / Peppernuts: Spicy & Nutty

The weather outside will soon be frightful!  Another batch of peppernuts in the oven is so delightful. Made peppernuts (using a different recipe) early in December and even though I kept thinking about this one, I vowed to show some restraint! It might of worked . . . but the thought of spicy cookies baking on a cold  day was just too tempting. Mixed up a batch of dough last night and can’t wait until they are out of the oven.
Jennifer Kassebaum shared this recipe and it is more typical of a traditional peppernut recipe. 

Pfefferneuse / Peppernuts: Spicy & Nutty
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup ground toasted* almonds or filberts
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom**
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Cream butter with sugar. 
  2. Add eggs and nuts. 
  3. Mix flour with spices, add to creamed mixture.
  4. Refrigerate overnight, or longer, to blend flavors.  Note: The butter hardens when dough is refrigerated so allow it to come to room temp before proceeding to next step.
  5. Shape into pencil-sized logs. Note: Because of the nuts, the dough tends to crack as it is rolled. To overcome this, I work with small pieces at a time.
  6. Cut into thin rounds and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. (I put peppernuts on an uncreased silicon sheet.)
  7. Bake 8 minutes in a preheated 375° oven.
*To toast almonds, bake in a 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool and chop or use a food processor. 

**Cardamom is the third most expensive spice and has a distinctive taste (great addition to the peppernut rcipe above). 

Other Peppernut recipes at this site include:
Hint-of Anise

Recipe without photos . . .
Pfefferneuse / Peppernuts: Spicy & "Nice" (never naughty) Nutty Peppernuts
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup ground toasted* almonds or filberts
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom**
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Cream butter with sugar. 
  2. Add eggs and nuts. 
  3. Mix flour with spices, add to creamed mixture.
  4. Refrigerate overnight, or longer, to blend flavors.  Note: The butter hardens when dough is refrigerated so allow it to come to room temp before proceeding to next step.
  5. Shape into pencil-sized logs. Note: Because of the nuts, the dough tends to crack as it is rolled. To overcome this, I work with small pieces at a time.
  6. Cut into thin rounds and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. (I put peppernuts on an uncreased silicon sheet.)
  7. Bake 8 minutes in a preheated 375° oven.