Friday, December 14, 2007

Candy Cane Cookies

I always like candy cane cookies as a kid but made them my own as an adult by making sure they not only look cute but also TASTE good.

I start out with the Rich Rolled butter cookie dough from my mom's Joy of COoking (they changed the recipe in mine so I have the old recipe written in). I usually make a double batch of the dough and put half aside for cut outs and the remaining half gets tweaked for the candy canes.
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
Beat well.
Add: 1 large egg, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla (I make it 2 because I like the added flavor).
Stir in 2.5 cups of flour until well-mixed and smooth.
Add 1.5 tsp peppermint extract and mix well. Separate half the dough out and wrap and put in the fridge. Add red (and / or green) food coloring to the remaining dough, beat well, and wrap and refridgerate both for 20-30 min.
Divide each color into about 6 pieces and roll each into a long snake, all the same length. Place them next to each other, touching, alternating colors. When all the dough is laid out, roll over them wiht a rolling pin until about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thich and even. Optional: Top dough with crushed candy canes (I run them through the food processor)
Cut dough into long thin strips on the diagonal. Place on greased cookie sheet andcurve into shape. Bake at 350 degrees, 8 to 10 min.
Yummy - buttery and minty without being too overpowering.

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Every year at Christmas I try to make at least one new cookie in addition to the regulars. This year I was unsure what I wanted to make and had not found a recipe that grabbed me. Ryan asked "Is it too late to make cookie requests?" and suggested something with coffee in it.

So after searching all the usual suspect websites for coffee and cookies I found this one on I found myself reading through about 15 pages of reviews and realized that yes I wanted to try this cookie. It is a more complicated recipe complete with melting chocolate over a double burner and whipping eggs but the results were fabulous. Many reviewers had trouble with a runny batter but I realized from a) the other reviews and b) the recipe that the key was in whipping those eggs enough. I whipped longer than the recoomended 3 min, just to be sure. Treat the whipping like you are beating eggs whites for a meringue - going in with that perspective I think helped me reach the right thickness. Contrary to the reviews, my batter was QUITE thick, with no additional flour or refridgeration.

The only thing I learned while doing was that my initial cookies were too big and were not cooking properly as a result. In subsequent batches I played with the cookie size and bake time and found that a smaller cookie was just right with the times specified. Plus these are RICH so smaller cookies just make more sense!


3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (I used the Ghiradelli 60% Cacoa chips mmm)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons finely ground dark-roast coffee beans, such as Italian-roast (I used SBux French Roast freshly ground)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 teaspoon baking powder (Glad I have that 'odd' measuring spoon set!)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup walnuts (subbed white chocolate chips instead - dont like walnuts and was out of hazelnuts)

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 2 large heavy baking sheets.
In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup chocolate chips, and butter, stirring until smooth, and remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat.
Note: I used the whisk attachment
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs, sugar, and ground coffee on high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes (took me 10+, given I doubled the recipe. Err on the side of beating more, should be very thick and pale), and beat in chocolate mixture. Into mixture sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.
Drop batter by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets and bake in batches in middle of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top. Cool cookies in baking sheets 1 minute and transfer to racks to cool completely.

Chicken Tenders Parmesan

Another fabulous success of a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food mag. YUM!

I am not generally a big fan of parmesan chicken/etc but this recipe was nice and cheesy and with a good sauce... yum. I will definitely make this again, and soon. Love how quick and easy it was too!

salt and pepper (to taste)

2 eggs

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs

1.5 pounds chicken (in tenders-cut)

1 3/4 cups tomato sauce (I got the small - 8 oz I think - Jar of Rao's marinara and it was just the right amt, and so yummy since I am picky with sauce)

4 oz shredded mozzarella (approx 1 cup)

Heat broiler, rack 4 inches from heat.

Whisk eggs in a bowl, and in another bowl combine grated parmesan (I just used the pre bought shredded kind) and plain dried breadcrumbs.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dip the tenders in the eggs and then in the parmesan mixture to coat well. Place on rimmed baking sheet and broil until golden, 2 to 4 min per side.

Preheat the oven to 450 (it will need to cool down not heat up!). Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce inhte bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Top with the chicken tenders and then the remaining sauce and finally the mozzarella.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

SO SO SO good!!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pina Colada Cupcakes

We went to a get together with some friends (including other Steelers fans... in CT!!!) to watch the Steelers Patriots game last weekend. Since I am a steelers fan by marriage, I decided to make cupcakes to bring that were festive for the occasion. :)

1 box white cake mix
1 small (4oz) vanilla pudding mix

1/4 c canola oil

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup light rum

4 eggs

1 8oz can crushed pineapple (with juices)

1 cup shredded coconut

Makes 24 cupcakes

Bake at:

Rummy Frosting (from the Joy of Cooking):

"Quick White Icing I" pg 1006 - adapted

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons vanilla
pinch salt

add more liquid or dry ingredients as needed for desired consistency

Thanksgiving on a Bun

My friends and I had a small christmas party and it was pot luck. Since when the plans were made, I was in a thanksgiving mood, I decided to make mini turkey burgers with a thanksgiving twist - topped with gravy (from a jar) and cranberry sauce (homemade).

To make the burgers, i mixed 3 pounds (yeah we always like to have too much food I know!) of ground turkey meat with 1 onion, diced and about 2/3 a bag of Pepperidge farm herbed stuffing, dry. I formed it into smallish patties and put them on baking sheets. To save time since we have a long drive to get there, I just broiled the burgers on the sheets - maybe 3-4 minutes per side or until starting to look a little brown and crispy on top.

Served on store bought rolls sliced in half, with cranberry sauce underneath and gravy drizzled on top. YUM! Excellent leftover. I was really glad to see that the stuffing flavor (and smell mmmm) really did come through.

Neiman Marcus Cookies

This recipe is from the big urban legend of baking. It isnt a true story, but the cookie recipe is still fabulous!

Read the story on Snopes, here.

Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe

(Recipe may be halved):

2 cups butter

4 cups flour

2 tsp. soda

2 cups sugar

5 cups blended oatmeal**

24 oz. chocolate chips

2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice) (omitted)

** Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.


One of Ryan's favorite christmas cookies... I made a triple batch of this recipe from the Better Home & Garden Cookie Special Magazine. Yum!!
Note: I tripled the recipe
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 T sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Beat butter in a mixture 30 seconds, until soft and fluffy. Add sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and beat. Beat in egg and vanilla to combine. Add flour in slowly. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll to cover completely in cinn-sugar. place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10-11 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on wire racks.

Banana Coconut Lime Rum Bread

I saw this recipe and immediately thought of my friend Suzanne who has been dreaming of a banana bread earlier that would have coconut and lime in it. So for our christmas party I made two loaves to give away. I havent had any myself since I made the risky move of giving away something as a gift I had not tried myself. But I am told it was yummy and it sure LOOKED and smelled fab!

Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze (Adapted from CL)
For the bread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (you can use all-purpose if desired)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flaked sweetened coconut, divided
For the topping
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
To make the bread
Preheat oven to 350
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, rum and vanilla - mix until blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Fold in 1/2 cup coconut.
Scoop the mixture into a 9" x 5" loaf pan coated with nonstick spray. Scatter the batter with the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake until a toothpick placed in the center comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached, about 55 to 65 minutes. Remove and let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack, top side up.
To make the topping
In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and juice - drizzle over warm bread. Let sit on the wire rack to cool completely.

Mom's Pumpkin Bread

This recipe is a tradition in our family - it MUST be served at Thanksgiving because its just so darn good. I made this recipe to give laves of bread to some friends, and I actually added a 1/3 to it since the recipe normally makes 3 loaves and I needed 4. It freezes well too! I dont have any cut-into photos since the loaves were all gifts, though.
Beat: 3 c sugar, 1 c canola oil, 4 eggs(1 at a time) and 2 1/2 c canned pumpkin.
Mix in: 3 1/2 c flour (I always use whole wheat), 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp allspice.
Add dry above alternately w/ 2/3 c water
OPTIONAL: Add 2 c raisins and 1 c nuts. Or a total of 3 cups of other add-ins like blueberries, cranberries, or chocolate chips. I will often make a plain loaf and a loaf with cranberries and a loaf with nuts, just put one cup of add-ins per loaf.
Bake 1 hour at 350 in 3 greased AND floured loaf pans - toothpick test works for doneness

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

Yet another Everyday Food recipe. I was hoping to try this for thanksgiving but we went with a different veggie-friendly recipe instead, so I made this at home a week later. Not the healthiest way to get your veggies and sorta complicated for a random tuesday, but it was so good - try it for company sometime!

Serves 4
4 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. With tongs, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate (reserve skillet with pan drippings).

Add onion to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion starts to brown,3 to 5 minutes. Add green beans and 1/4 cup water; cook, tossing occasionally, until beans are bright green and tender, about 10 minutes.
Crumble bacon into skillet; add vinegar and sugar. Cook until a syrupy sauce forms, 2 minutes, tossing to coat. Serve immediately.

Lighter Sesame Chicken

This recipe is from Everyday Food (my fav cooking mag hands down) and is basically a lighter and healthier take on the chinese dish Chicken and Brocolli. And I think it is yummier than the stuff from chinese places personally! VERY good!

Serves 4
3/4 cup brown rice
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (I used canola)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced (I skipped the stems and used more of the heads)

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

Candy Cane Brownie Kisses

Last year with the advent (or at least advent to me) of the Candy Cane kisses I was inspired to bake something with them similar to the PB kisses. I threw these together and love them, and they are really easy, espcially for christmas cookies! And so festive looking. :)

I just used a box of brownie mix for time's sale but you can use whatever your fav brownie recipe is. A box that makes a large pan (11x13? something like that) will make about 2 to 3 dozen bites. A box or recipe that only makes an 8x8 or 9x9 will make 2 dozen.

Take your favorite mix or recipe and mix according to recipe. I recommend the Ghiradelli mixes for a really fab tasting mix. spray mini muffin pans with nonstick spray and add spoonfuls of batter to each muffin. Fill 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake at 325 for about 10-15 min until the tops dont look wet in the center anymore.

While baking, 'peel' enough candy cane kisses for the brownies. As soon as you pull them from the oven, pop a kiss in hte center of each, pushing down slightly.

Let cool in the pan until set enough to twist the muffins out (too hot and they will rip and too cool and they will stick. Ill bet mini muffin lifers would be helpful)

Let cool completely before packing (so the kisses are hardened) They also taste awesome still warm :)
PS Check out my gorgeous Christmas Tree China by Spode :)