Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and abundant blessings for the New Year to come!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let it Snow!

O.K. The snow was beautiful and I really enjoyed watching it all day Saturday and Sunday. We had plenty of food, didn't need to go anywhere, and the electricity stayed on. But now it's Tuesday and this is the only kind of snow I want to see right now. Seriously. I like snow, but I also like for my car to be able to get in and out of my driveway.

With this weather imposed hibernation of sorts, I got to thinking about "back in the day" when I made cookies a lot more than I do now. I dug out my old Creative Ideas for Living magazine from Jan/Feb 1989 where I found the wonderful recipe for the Iced Spice Cookies that I made so often when my kids were little. (Can you believe I kept a magazine so long? It's older than Richard and I saved it just for this recipe!) These have been my favorite cookies for decorating ever since the first time I made them. Firm and chewy at the same time, they taste wonderful on their own and are really good with frosting. I made a huge mess in the kitchen and loved every minute of it. These snowflakes are guaranteed not to stick to your driveway.

Iced Spice Cookies
(printable page)

recipe adapted from Patti Paige, Creative Ideas for Living Jan/Feb '89
2/3 cup shortening (I use butter)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt (I only use 1)
1 large egg (from a happy hen if you can find one-mine aren't laying right now)
3/4 cup molasses
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Cream together the first six ingredients. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Add the molasses and mix again. Set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add to molasses mixture and mix until dough forms.
  • Divide the dough into two balls (flattened), wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least three hours. (I chilled it overnight) This dough is hard to work with unless it's chilled.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Roll out one ball of dough to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. The original recipe calls for rolling the dough out between two sheets of lightly floured wax paper or a floured pastry cloth. I didn't have those so I just checked my dough frequently to make sure it wasn't sticking to my surface.
  • Cut out desired shapes. Gather scraps into a ball and put in the freezer while you repeat with the rest of your dough.
  • Transfer cookies to parchment covered (or greased) baking sheet.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, making sure edges don't burn. Cool completely on a rack before frosting. (recipe below) For me this recipe made about 4 dozen small cookies.
Royal Icing
In a large bowl, mix together 1 pound of confectioners sugar, 3 tablespoons meringue powder and about 1/2 cup water. (Reserve a couple of spoonfuls of the water-wait and see if you need it. Royal frosting is kind of tricky in that it depends on the humidity as to exactly how much water you'll need.) Mix until soft peaks form. (I did mine about 8 minutes.) Use this "stiffer" frosting to outline your shapes in whatever colors you want. (I colored my frosting with gel food color and used a Wilton #3 tip to pipe the frosting around the edges.)

After the edges are set, thin the remaining frosting (a few drops of water at a time) to a pouring consistency. Use this thinner frosting to fill in your outline. You can put this thinned frosting in a freezer baggie with the corner cut off to drizzle onto the outlined cookie. Your set edges will keep the frosting where it should be. For the snowflakes, I filled in the base color first. While the frosting was still wet I piped on the snowflake design with a contrasting color. When you do this, the thinned frosting sort of "melts" together. Let your frosted cookies dry overnight.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reindeer Bark

This stuff is "sweet"- literally as well as figuratively! I saw this treat here (on Your Home Based Mom) and felt the overwhelming need to make it myself. It's festive and full of sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy goodness. It's truly yummy, and it makes me hope that Santa has a good dental plan for his reindeer! It's basically Oreos, pretzels and Reindeer corn (who knew?) coated with melted white chocolate or candy bark. I added some chopped almonds and a few M&Ms to mine just because I had them and thought they'd go well with the other ingredients.

Reindeer Corn Cookie Bark
Very slightly adapted from Your Home Based Mom-she has very detailed instructions on her website here.

1 lb. White chocolate, candy melts, or almond bark
14 Oreos, broken into pieces-I used the holiday ones with red filling
1 and 1/2 cups pretzels, broken
1 cup reindeer corn (red and green candy corn)
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup holiday M&Ms
red and green sprinkles

Cover a cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil. Spread the broken cookies, broken pretzels, almonds, and about 3/4 of the candy corn onto the prepared cookie sheet. Melt white chocolate until smooth- follow the directions for melting on the package.
Drizzle the melted chocolate over the pretzel/cookie mixture, spreading with a spatula if needed. Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle on the rest of the candy corn, the M&Ms and red and green sprinkles. Place tray in the refrigerator until set, and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Whenever I bring goodies to work, I always feel bad because some of my co-workers are on a gluten free diet, and very few of my recipes fit that category. So...since I knew I was bringing a little something to work tomorrow that was not gluten free (more on that later) I thought I would do a little research and find a suitable recipe for a gluten free alternative to bring as well. After searching a while and being discouraged because most of the recipes contained specialty items I didn't have in my pantry, I came across this recipe on gfe-gluten free easily.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

I adapted the recipe just a bit, without compromising the gluten free ingredients. I couldn't believe that there was no flour or flour substitute... these cookies are amazing! Just don't bake them too long. You'll want to take them out before they're too brown if you like your cookies chewy. If you like them crunchy, leave them in a little longer.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from gfe
1 (18 oz.) jar Jif Peanut Butter, Extra Crunchy (about 2 cups)
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 eggs from happy hens
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla (gluten free-I used Sonoma Syrup Vanilla Crush)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix together all ingredients. (How easy is that?)
  • With lightly greased fingers (I used olive oil) roll dough into walnut sized balls and place on parchment covered baking sheet. Do not flatten the dough balls!!
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly brown. They should look "set" but not done. After removing the cookies from the oven, let them stay about 5 minutes on the baking sheet to finish cooking before removing to a rack to cool.
  • Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies
I thought these would be really good rolled in some lightly salted chopped peanuts before baking, but since my peanut can didn't say "gluten free" I didn't try this. A very light sprinkling of a good sea salt would be yummy as well!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oreos- All Grown Up

Oreos have always been a favorite at my house. There are those who twist the two halves apart to get to the filling first. Others prefer dunking the whole cookie in a nice cold glass of milk, and some just like to eat them as they come out of the package. This recipe gives us yet another way to enjoy them. I've never made truffles before, but when I saw these on Bakerella I knew I'd have to give them a try. Three ingredients, and they look like you've been in the kitchen for hours!
Oreo Truffles

(recipe adapted from Bakerella)
1 package (16-18 oz.) Oreos (not Double Stuffed)
1 (8 oz.) block of cream cheese, softened
1 bag candy melts or pkg. of white chocolate "bark"
  • Reserve 6-8 cookies for garnish (or a snack). With a food processor or blender, process the remaining Oreos into fine crumbs.
  • Put the Oreo crumbs in a bowl with the softened cream cheese and mix together. (Elbow grease and a sturdy spoon help here.)
  • Form dough into small (1 inch) balls. Put these in the freezer while you are heating your chocolate or candy melts. (This helps them stay together when you dip them.)
  • Melt the candy melts or chocolate bark.
  • Dip each ball in melted candy and place on waxed paper to dry. Make sure you tap off the excess melted chocolate before putting them on the waxed paper to avoid a big puddle around your truffle.
  • Crush remaining Oreos to sprinkle on top for garnish if you wish. (After mine were set I drizzled some more melted chocolate over the top. That was to cover up the crumbs that got in my melted white chocolate because I didn't put my truffles in the freezer before I dipped them.)
  • Refrigerate and enjoy! (Then wonder how they'd be with a maraschino cherry or chunk of peppermint patty in the middle...)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders...Chicken fingers...whatever you call them, they're definitely Richard's favorite food group. This recipe is his specialty, that he got off of the Bisquick box. If Richard's cooking dinner, you can bet it will be these. He prefers his with ketchup, but I think they're great with a honey mustard dipping sauce.

Quick and Easy Chicken Tenders
1 pound chicken tenderloins (I cut these in half)
2/3 cup Bisquick (or your own baking mix)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt or garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter (melted) or olive oil if you'd rather
  • Mix together the baking mix, cheese, salt and paprika in a shallow dish or plastic bag. If your cheese is in large pieces, you may want to give it a whir in your blender or food processor to make it more of the consistency of the stuff in the green can. It sticks to the chicken pieces better!
  • Lightly beat the egg and put it in a shallow dish.
  • Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or a light coating of olive oil.
  • Dip chicken pieces first into egg and then in the dry mixture.
  • Place coated chicken pieces onto baking sheet.
  • Drizzle melted butter or olive oil over the chicken pieces.
  • Bake @ 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes, turning pieces over after about 6 minutes.

Sweet, Tart, and Seriously Good

Cranberries. Sweet, tart and seriously good. I always think of Johnny when I make anything with cranberries...he's the only one of my boys that likes them. (At the tender age of two he even convinced his babysitter to make him a peanut butter and cranberry sauce sandwich.)

I love cranberries too, but I'd much rather have them in cookies! These cookies have the perfect balance of sweet from the white chocolate and tart from the cranberries. Throw in some oatmeal (for those of us who like to delude ourselves into thinking that the sheer presence of oatmeal makes anything healthy) and you have a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. These are great with a cup of tea or a cold glass of milk!

Cranberry Oatmeal White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs from happy hens
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 (6 oz.) package sweetened dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chunks (or take a walk on the wild side and use semi-sweet)
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs and vanilla: mix well.
  • Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition.
  • Stir in cranberries and chips.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment covered (or greased) cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen.
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