12/31/10

New Year... Time for Prosperity and Black-Eyed Peas!

In many parts of the world and primarily in the Southern states of the USA, it's a tradition to eat black-eyed peas on January 1st for good luck and prosperity in the new year. I was all set to post two yummy recipes yesterday but was busy with other things and never got to it! Gah! No worries... just one day late.

Some people can call this Hoppin' John... I just think of it as a delicious ham and bean dish.

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
2 small smoked ham hocks or meaty ham bone
2 medium onions, divided
3 large cloves garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 can (10 to 14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with chile peppers, juices reserved
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, minced
2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 green onions, sliced


In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Cut 1 of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ham bone or hocks, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion pieces, and garlic.

Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is almost tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Mince the remaining onion then add to the rice along with the peas, tomatoes, and their juices, red and green bell pepper, celery, jalapeno pepper, Creole seasoning, thyme, cumin, and salt. Cook until the rice is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the sliced green onions and the reserved diced ham. Serve with hot sauce and freshly baked cornbread.
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12/28/10

Cream Wafer Cookies




The holidays are a time for digging out traditional family recipes and rediscovering recipes that you forgot you loved. This cookie is one that is quite old, but fell from favor I think, because it's a couple more steps of labor involved.

You have to make dough, cut them out, prick them with a fork, bake and then make a frosting filling to sandwich them together. Well worth the effort but many people stopped making cookies from 'scratch' so perhaps this seems as if it's not worth it.

It is.

Cream Wafers

1 c butter
1/3 c whipping cream (liquid form yet)
2 c flour

Mix and chill dough 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375. Roll the dough 1/8" thick. Cut into 1 1/2" rounds. Transfer to wax paper with sugar and coat both sides. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and prick with a fork. Bake 7-8 minutes. Let cool completely.

Sandwich the cookies together with this filling:

1/4 c butter, soft
3/4 c powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla

tint to the colors you wish.


Cooling after baking...

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12/27/10

White Chili

Baby it's cold outside! At least it is where I live and a nice hot bowl of Texas White Chili was perfect. For those that have never had a 'white' chili - think of this more as a white Mexican style soup. Top it with grated cheese served on the side.

White Chili

2-3 skinned chicken breasts
6-7 cups chicken broth (I use water plus 6 bouillon cubes)
1 c chopped onion
1 c diced green pepper
1 minced/chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)

Cook this over medium heat until the chicken is cooked. Cool and dice or cut into pieces and return the chicken to the pot. Add;

4 can Northern or Navy beans (white beans) or use a small package of beans that you've soaked overnight or rapid boiled 3 minutes and then let soak for at least an hour or two

Add;

1 t garlic salt
1 T oregano
1 T ground cumin
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground black pepper

Simmer 1 hour. Add 8 oz. Jack cheese, shredded, simmer 15 minutes. Serve with extra cheese on the side for those that wish.

*smash about a third of the beans with the back of a spoon while in the soup pot if you wish to make the broth thicker and more opaque.
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12/23/10

Greek Feta Pizza


My regular readers know that Saturday night is "Pizza Night" in our household. With Christmas being celebrated this Saturday we won't be having our traditional weekly fare, but I've been craving the Greek Feta Pizza I make so yesterday while I was running errands I made sure to pick up some fresh baby spinach leaves so I could make this tonight. I've featured this one before, but it's one of my favorites and you can change the flavor by using what you have on hand, substituting and adding a few other ingredients if you wish. Keep the basic recipe but make it your own.

We love the white cheese layer so much I usually double that portion of the recipe so we have a nice thick layer of tangy feta and garlic to my homemade thick crust pizza. I'm going to post the original recipe although I make my own homemade crust, I don't use the sun dried tomatoes at all (I don't like their chewy texture) and I use black olives instead of Kalamata olives because I always have black olives on hand.

Greek Pizza

1/2 c mayonnaise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 c crumbled feta cheese
1 12 inch pre baked crust
1/2 c oil packed sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped plus 1 T of the oil
1/4 c pitted Kalamata Olives, chopped
1 t dried oregano
2 c baby spinach leaves
1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450. Mix mayonnaise, garlic and 1/2 c feta in bowl. Place pizza crust on cookie sheet and spread the mayonnaise mixture over. Top with tomatoes, olives and oregano. Bake 10 minutes. Toss spinach and onion with 1 T tomato oil. Top the hot pizza with this mixture and the remaining feta. Return to oven, bake 2-3 minutes longer. Cut and serve.
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12/22/10

Out of my files in time for Christmas Dinner - Chocolate Ganache Torte


This recipe has been sitting in my files for a while and I'm not sure where I found it but I'm glad I saved a picture. It's the picture that catches your eye and say "this is just right for an extended family Christmas dinner". Looking at it I just think 'death by chocolate' but I know it's the exact kind of 'cake' my husband, son and oldest daughter love. Absolutely love.

Do you need a pretty and elegant yet delicious chocolate dessert for this holiday weekend?

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for whipped cream (optional)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
Chocolate shavings, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-round cake pan; line bottom with a round of waxed or parchment paper. Butter paper; dust bottom and sides of pan with cocoa, tapping out excess.

Sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream and beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Tap pan firmly on countertop once to eliminate large air bubbles. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely (bottom-side up). Set rack with cake over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour glaze over cake, letting it run over sides; spread gently with an offset spatula or table knife to coat. Let set, about 30 minutes.

If desired, whip cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Serve cake with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
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12/21/10

The latest and greatest holiday recipe? Christmas Dinner Cake, Turkey Cake or Thanksgiving Dinner Cake

Those of you in America might remember a television commercial for a bathroom cleaner that uses (used? I don't know if they are still using it as I quit watching television back in September of 1998) the phrase; "We work hard so you don't have to!"

That's what came to mind this morning as I was sipping my coffee and reading the news and stumbled upon a yummy but odd recipe; Christmas Dinner Cake (or Thanksgiving Dinner cake as chow.com called it - or even Turkey Cake, as I think of it).

After the Chow website featured it for our American Thanksgiving holiday, a man in Europe made his own version (which is how I stumbled upon it). You have to admit; it's eye catching and quite pretty!


But if you are hoping for sweet cake, frosting and cherries you would be sadly disappointed. However, if you are like me and don't care for sweets as much as you do stuffing and vegetables, this might be the kind of cake you can dig into!


Would I ever make this? I think perhaps I might... for fun. And since my family trusts my cooking I know they would try it -and probably like it! But for now I'm tucking it into my 'collected' recipes online. As far as I'm concerned (for now) HE worked hard... so I don't have to!

For those of you ready to give it a go here is his English version of the recipe. Easy enough to follow even if you are Americanizing it back to it's original American roots. Have fun with it - substitute some of the ingredients if you know you won't care for them (the original called for sweet potatoes and marshmallows... eww... I'm thankful HE substituted. I like his version much better!)



CHRISTMAS DINNER CAKE


FOR THE TURKEY LAYERS

* 500g turkey breast, minced
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
* 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 medium garlic clove, chopped

FOR THE MASH

* 1.5kg potatoes (keep a third aside for the parsnip and mashed potato layer)

FOR THE LAYERS

* 3 large carrots
* Cranberry sauce
* Parsnips
* Sage and onion stuffing, 1 packet
* Pot of ready-made bread sauce, 300g
* Unsalted butter for coating the pans

Method

Heat the oven to 175c. Coat two 8-inch cake pans with butter.

Place all the turkey layer ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Divide the mixture evenly between the pans.

Bake until cooked through and the cakes begin to pull away from the edges of the pans.

Make your mashed potato and boil and mash your parsnips. Mix the two.

Remove turkey from oven but leave the oven on. Let turkey cool for 10 minutes.

Assembly

1. Remove one of the layers from its case and place it bottom-side up on an overturned cake pan or in an oven-proof serving dish.
2. Evenly spread a 1cm layer of your potato and parsnip mash on top of the turkey layer, leaving a 1cm border.
3. Spread a generous layer of ­cranberry sauce.
4. Make up the stuffing and spread a layer 1cm thick.
5. Carefully place a layer of carrot pieces.
6. Add a 1cm layer of bread sauce, again remembering to leave a space at the edge so that it does not spill out when the final meat layer is added.
7. Now take the second turkey layer out of its cake mould and place it ­bottom-side up on top of the bread sauce.
8. Transfer the cake pan with the ­partially assembled cake to a baking sheet and bake for a further 20 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and set aside. With a long knife or spatula, evenly coat the outside and top with mashed potato. Serve with warm, meaty gravy... and tuck in.
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12/19/10

One of our Annual Traditions at Christmas... Rosettes!

You must have a rosette/timbale set to make these.


I took a personal day off from work last week to immerse myself in Christmas music, baking and wrapping... finding Christmas when it seemed to be non-existent in my too-busy world. I have cut my baking list down from what it was 10 years ago when I was a full time housewife, but I still managed to make 13 items this year and the variety trays were made in time for the high school bake sale as well as extra trays for my husbands employees and to use for our extended family holidays.

Christmas is about traditions. Just when you might think it isn't, and skipping something or other doesn't matter, you have a sight, a smell or memory from your own childhood and you are instantly four-years-old again and staring at the twinkling lights on the tree. Or your teenager asks if you have made a certain cookie or candy this year and if you say you thought perhaps you'd skip them this year, the look of shock and sadness on their face reminds you that the traditions a family makes are the glue of memories.

We have many (many!) traditions. This is one that goes back to my own childhood of visiting my Grandmother's house on Christmas Eve. Although my own Mom never made these delicious and not-too-sweet Rosettes, my Grandmother always (always!) did and I grew up loving them. They are a tradition in our home and I hope one day to share the tradition with my own grandchildren as well.



Rosettes

2 eggs
1 t sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 c milk
1 c flour

Break eggs into a bowl, add sugar, salt, vanilla, milk and flour. Beat briefly just until smooth. Do not overbeat! Too much beating makes your rosettes blistered and tough.

Have hot oil, lard or shortening in a pan on the stove heating. Leave the rosette iron in the hot oil for several minutes while you make the batter. Dip the hot iron into the batter being careful not to let the batter come up over the edge of the iron. Dip just about 4/5th of the way up the iron. Immediately place the iron/batter into the hot oil. Hold the iron in place and cook the rosette until it's golden brown and crisp. The temperature of the oil is perfect when it takes about 25-30 seconds for the rosette to cook. Too fast and it burns, too cool and it will be soggy and greasy. Use a fork to shake the rosette off the iron and onto a paper towel lined rack. When they are cool sprinkle with powdered sugar. These can be frozen. This recipe will make about 40.

If they do not come off the iron they were not fried long enough or you let the batter come up over the edge of the iron.
If they are blistered and thick, you have beaten the eggs too much.
If the rosettes drop off in the hot oil the iron is not deep enough in the oil.
If they are not crisp they have been fried too fast or the oil was not hot enough.



Heat the iron in the oil while you mix the batter

You must have a rosette set to make these.


Don't dip the batter up over the edge of the iron so they will slide off after frying.


Drain on paper towels

Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a delicious treat!


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12/16/10

Cappuccino Brownies


In addition to the holiday baking I had to make a dessert for my husband to take to work today for an employee pot luck. He always signs us up for a dessert and I know this crew; they love chocolate.

Last night as I stood in the kitchen, not in the mood to bake, but knowing I had to have something ready by 8:am, I decided to cheat and use a brownie mix. But... plain brownies are boring. Instead? A flip through an old holiday cookbook from about 12 years ago gave me an idea; Cappuccino Brownies. A triple layer dessert I could top with a little chocolate covered espresso bean.

If you have a favorite brownie recipe, by all means use it - but if you want to cheat and use a mix, don't feel guilty. It made this recipe even quicker to whip up last night before bed.



Cappuccino Brownies

Cheaters way:
1 packaged brownie mix prepared to directions in an 8X8" pan

1 t instant coffee crystals
1 T whipping cream
1 c powdered sugar
2 T butter

1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 T butter
2 T milk
1 t vanilla
1 c powdered sugar

While the brownies bake, dissolve the coffee crystals in the whipping cream. Beat together the powdered sugar and 2 T butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Add whipping cream and coffee crystal mix. Beat creamy and add a bit more whipping cream if it's too stiff.

Spread over warm (but not hot) brownies. Chill at least an hour until set. Melt the unsweetened chocolate completely and add the butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Spread over the cappuccino layer. Chill until frosting is set. Cut into bars.


I topped ours with a chocolate covered espresso bean on each square.

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12/15/10

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Got any holiday parties this week or next? A perfect dip that goes quickly is a simple Spinach Artichoke Dip.

I've posted a few versions of this over the years but this is the version I use myself most often. Remember though; play with your food! By that I mean - add what you like, leave out what you don't. Out of a specific ingredient? Using common sense of course, just substitute something else. (Like more sour cream and less mayonnaise, more mozzarella instead of Parmesan, etc.) I don't want you to have to run out to the store for something as simple as mozzarella cheese if you already have plenty of Parmesan on hand. This is that kind of recipe; it's forgiving to some extent.

Spinach Artichoke Dip


8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese (I like the 1/3 fat)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed


Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 1/2 the Parmesan, the garlic, artichokes, cream cheese and spinach in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a greased/sprayed 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.
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12/13/10

Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

My 'regular' pinwheel cookies




Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies. You've seen them on my site previously and I've made them for a number of years since the 90's but I've never 'loved' my recipe. It's just a recipe that worked, looked pretty and was fine. People seem to love them and they are always some of the first to go on a large variety platter. But I'm always on the look out for better recipes or 'improving' a cookie I already make.

And I think this is it. It's double the fun because it uses two swirl cookies sandwiched together with peppermint frosting. I would not individually wrap them as my cookies go on a platter but starting with this idea from Southern Living (2008) I would make them just a bit thinner so they lay flat and aren't too thick with the filling, and then make them similar to Cream Wafer cookies.



Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies - 2nd version

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon red food coloring paste
Parchment paper
Peppermint Frosting


Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beating until blended, scraping bowl as needed.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll 1 portion of dough into a 12- x 8-inch rectangle on a piece of lightly floured plastic wrap.

Knead food coloring paste into remaining portion of dough while wearing rubber gloves. Roll tinted dough into a rectangle as directed in Step 3. Invert untinted dough onto tinted dough; peel off plastic wrap. Cut dough in half lengthwise, forming 2 (12- x 4-inch) rectangles. Roll up each rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side, using bottom piece of plastic wrap as a guide. Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze 4 hours or up to 1 month.

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut ends off each dough log, and discard. Cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick pieces, and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 6 to 7 minutes or until puffed and set; cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Place Peppermint Frosting in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic freezer bag. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole. Pipe about 2 tsp. frosting onto half of cookies; top with remaining cookies, gently pressing to form a sandwich. These cookies are delicious eaten at room temperature, or chill them 30 minutes for a firm, cool filling.
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12/12/10

Homemade Almond Paste

Last week I was buying groceries and although I picked up a couple of baking items, I didn't have it in my budget to purchase many so when I saw almond paste, I left it there and continued on my way.

Of course today Super Walmart was completely sold out of almond paste, the dollar store didn't have any, and our local grocery is closed on Sundays.

No worries.

I have a bag of almonds in the cupboard and can just as well make my own. Now although there are some recipes that call for just powdered sugar and ground almonds, the end is not going to be like the almond paste you want. You need a sugar syrup base. This recipe is odd. Sometimes (depending on the weather?) I need to add just about 1/4 c more ground almonds to the mix. Other times it's a bit dry and I add just a teaspoon or two more corn syrup. I also found that I like to add just a touch of vanilla flavoring to the mix - I use real vanilla for this one but if you only have extract that's cool.


I used a mixture of whole, raw almonds and blanched;
thus the darker color from the skins


Still warm from the syrup and in a RubberMaid container to let it set up firmer
and for the flavors to meld




Homemade Almond Paste


10 oz bag blanched almonds
1 1/4 c powdered sugar
2/3 c granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 t vanilla extract

Make a sugar syrup by placing the water, granulated sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir it to combine. Bring it to a boil for 3-4 minutes and let it cool.

Place the almonds in a food processor and process them fine. Add the powdered sugar. With the food processor running, slowly add the sugar syrup until the mixture forms a paste.

Store the almond paste tightly covered. Let it set 24 hours before using if you can so the flavors mix. If you will be storing it for more than a week, store in the refrigerator.
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12/11/10

Empanadas - Chicken and Green Olive

My oldest daughter has spent the last 5 years watching me take photos of our food and keep track of recipes for my website. I guess it's only natural she took a cue from me and started to take photos of meals on her travels. She went to London when she was 16 and was determined to avoid all the fast food and 'typical' tourist stops in order to try real English foods. She returned home with photos of her meals and descriptions of what it was, what it tasted like and the pub or restaurant she ate it in. This has continued through her other travels and last summer when she returned home from a Mission Trip she was raving about the empanadas she enjoyed.

Made with fillings such as beef and olives, ham, spinach and cheese or chicken, I gathered many different versions at the time to add to my files. This one sounded good to me because it used chicken and green olives... I love green olives! It's not like the ones she had on her trip, but the saltiness of olives always gets my attention.

Empanadas

FOR THE PASTRY:

11oz flour
Pinch baking powder
6oz butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

FOR THE FILLING:

1 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 T tomato puree
1 t smoked paprika
1 t ground cumin
7oz cooked chicken breast, diced
8 stuffed green olives, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the butter and 1 of the eggs, then gradually stir in about 3-4 oz. warm water to make a soft dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until softened, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the red pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.

Stir in the tomato pure, paprika and cumin and mix well. Add the chicken and olives and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, adding a splash of water if the mix gets too dry. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch and cut out circles approximately 5 inches in diameter. Divide the filling between the pastry circles and moisten the edges with water.

Fold the pastry over to enclose the filling and crimp the edges to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet and brush with milk to glaze. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until risen and golden.
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12/9/10

Mmm.. Lemon Bars

These are a classic from almost every recipe book, site and bake sale. They happen to be one of my most favorite bars and amazingly enough, I didn't know they existed until I was about 18 years old!

My Mom did a little bit of baking as I was growing up but she didn't have a large repertoire and she didn't like lemon so she never made these. When it came to bars of my childhood we had two; brownies and once in a great while after I was a teenager, blondies (chocolate chip cookies made into bars basically). I tasted 'new' foods at the 'punch and cookie' receptions at my elementary school after our music concerts and plays and at church pot lucks.

I had these bars when I was 18 years old. I fell in love instantly and made them off and on over the years ever since. Personally I like the crust so I used to pat this in a smaller pan so the crust would be thicker, as well as the bar. The 9X13 is standard and makes a nice standard bar.


Lemon Squares

3/4 c butter

1/3 c powedered sugar

1 1/2 c flour

1 large lemon, juice and zest

3 eggs

1 1/2 c white granulated sugar

3 T flour

Mix butter, powedered sugar, 1 1/2 c flour, and half of the lemon zest together until crumbly. Press into a baking pan (9X13) pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 350.

While the crust is baking; Mix lemon juice and the rest of the reserved lemon zest with 3 beaten eggs, granulated sugar, and 3 T flour. Pour over hot crust. Put back in the oven and bake another 20 minutes at 350. Remove from oven, let cool and sprinkle more powdered sugar on top for dusting.
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12/8/10

Snowballs, Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cakes... many names!

My cookies cooling after the first powdered sugar rolling


Last weekend I started my holiday baking by getting 6 goodies done and into the freezer. One of them was my favorite... Russian Tea Cakes! Also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes or Snowballs, they are a buttery, melt-in-your mouth, not too sweet cookie that is baked to still be white, rolled in powdered sugar while still warm and then rolled a second time to give it its trademark 'snowball' look. A holiday favorite for years - and yet another recipe that I play with. Yes... remember I always tell you to play with your food!

Have fun with this one by changing the nuts you use and the flavoring you add.

Russian Tea Cakes
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Snowballs

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered or confectioner's sugar
1 t vanilla
2 1/4 c flour
3/4 c finely chopped nuts (typically walnuts)
1/4 t salt
more powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 400. Mix butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt. Shape into 1 inch balls. Bake 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes. They should not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly and then roll in powdered sugar and let cool. Roll a second time. Can freeze for later use.
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12/6/10

Kugelhopf

This is a recipe I've had in my files for years but don't make. It's not because of the richness of it - I think it would make a terrific morning bread any day and I'm never one to turn down anything with bacon and onions in it! But... perhaps it's a 'time' issue. I just don't have the time to make things in the morning.... not even on the weekends! Some of you may have a modern version of this one made with crescent rolls... but this is a more traditional version.

Traditionally baked in earthenware molds, you may use nonstick aluminum or glass - it's all good!

Kugelhopf with Bacon and Onion

4 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature - 11 tablespoons cut into small pieces, 1 tablespoon melted
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
about 20 whole almonds


In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the milk, sugar and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg and salt and beat at medium speed until blended. Gradually add the flour and continue beating until the dough is elastic, about 4 minutes. Gradually add the 11 tablespoons of softened butter, beating until the dough comes cleanly off the side of the bowl, about 8 minutes. At low speed, beat in the bacon, onion and walnuts until evenly distributed throughout the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours.

Generously butter a 9-inch kugelhopf mold or fluted tube pan and sprinkle the almonds in the indentations in the bottom. Punch down the dough, shape it into a ball and make a hole in the middle. Set the ring of dough in the mold, cover and let rise until the dough almost reaches the top of the mold, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the kugelhopf for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let stand for 10 minutes, then unmold. Brush with the melted butter while still warm and serve at room temperature.
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12/5/10

Peppermint Pretzels

Christmas baking 2010 has begun! I have 6 goodies made and into the freezer. Although I'm cutting back this year and not doing nearly as many different recipes as I usually do due to my hectic schedule, I still have about 8 more items I'd like to make.

If you are a regular around here you know that one of the 'must have' items on the list is M&M Pretzels where you melt a Hershey's Kiss in the center of a round pretzel and top it with an M&M. Yummy for those that like chocolate (most of the world!) but alas, if you are a regular reader you also remember that I don't care for chocolate. What I do like? Peppermint Pretzels!

I though I had a 'finished product' to show, I looked over the photos on my camera and it seems with all the baking I did today I didn't snap a picture of the finished Peppermint Pretzels. They are already in a ZipLoc baggy in the freezer so you'll have to just imagine!

While I like to top these with a little peppermint swirl "chocolate chip" - I did not have any on hand so today I melted them in the oven, tapped the tray on the counter to 'settle' the melted mint into the rounds of the pretzel and then left them to harden that way.

Delish!


Peppermint Pretzels

Round pretzels
Hershey's Peppermint Kisses
Hershey's red and white swirl 'chocolate chip' size peppermint chips OR
red or green M&M's

Place round pretzels on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Place an unwrapped peppermint kiss in the center of each. Place into a warm oven (325 is fine) for a few minutes until the mint is shiny and soft. Remove and gently press one peppermint chip or even a red or green M&M into the center of each to squish it down into the round form.

Let set until they harden. These can be frozen as well!
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12/4/10

A Thanksgiving Meal Side I Didn't Make... Green Beans with Gorgonzola

Prior to Thanksgiving this year I found a couple 'new to me' recipes I debated trying. I thought this one sounded good at the time (and still do!) so I added it to my files for a 'possible' side dish.

Alas, I was craving our traditional Green Bean Casserole and although I would have gladly made both versions, I was so busy with overtime at the office that I did not have fresh green beans nor Gorgonzola cheese on hand so it was not made.

However, it still looks delicious and I still hope to make it for a weekday meal in our household.



For the collection; Green Beans with Gorgonzola Cheese.

2 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed
2 tablespoons nut oil, such as hazelnut, almond, or walnut
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup roasted blanched hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Steam green beans until crisp-tender, 4 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola and nuts.
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12/2/10

Sugar Cookies and More... One Dough, Many Cookies

It's been a crazy busy week! My job 'outside' the home has kept me so busy I've been getting home late 3 times this week and tonight will be the fourth! I won't be home until 8:pm again... which means little time for updating my website but worse - little time for cooking, cleaning, baking, errands...

I'm signed up with My Recipes to get their cookie of the day through the month of December and when I saw this one yesterday I wanted to take the time to click on it and read though it... but I haven't had time yet!!!

I hate my email box cluttered - so I wanted to add it to my collection to look at later. Hopefully this weekend!??

In the meantime... just because I don't have time to bake them yet, maybe you do! One dough... the addition of a couple simple ingredients and you have FOUR different cookies. A real time saver!!! (Which is exactly what I need right now!)

One Dough - Four Cookies

Chocolate, lemon, spice, or sugar; add just a touch of a special ingredient to the foolproof cookie base and create a variety of Christmas cookies.

Yield: 4-5 dozen


* 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter
* 1 2/3 cups sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 large eggs
* 3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups Royal Icing
* White sanding sugar, optional
* VARIATIONS:
* 3 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon allspice
* 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest



Cream butter and 1 2/3 cups sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla, baking powder and salt and beat at medium speed until mixed. Add eggs; beat until blended. Add flour and mix at low speed until combined, scraping down bowl once or twice.

For Spice Cookies: Beat 2 Tbsp. sugar, ginger, cinnamon and allspice into full batch of Sugar Cookie dough.

For Lemon Cookies: Beat lemon zest into full batch of Sugar Cookie dough.

For Chocolate Cookies: Follow Step 1, but add cocoa powder after beating in eggs and then add only 2 2/3 cups flour.

Divide dough in half. Using hands, shape dough into discs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment.

Remove 1 disc of dough from refrigerator. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut cookies into stars, snowflakes or any other shapes. Transfer cookies, with a metal spatula, to baking sheets and chill for 10 minutes. Bake cookies 12 to 15 minutes, depending upon thickness and size, rotating pans halfway through, until golden and firm to touch. Cool for 5 minutes, transfer with a metal spatula to racks and let cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

To decorate cookies with solid icing, put some Royal Icing in a pastry bag with a small plain, round tip. (Or put icing in a sturdy plastic bag and snip a tiny hole in one corner.) Pipe around edge of each cookie and let dry. Stir 1 Tbsp. water into another portion of Royal Icing to soften; put thinned icing in a clean pastry bag or new plastic bag. Pipe icing onto each cookie, flooding inside of border. Let dry. Re-pipe border. Sprinkle cookie with sanding sugar, shake off excess and let dry.

To decorate cookies with stripes and dots, use thicker icing and pipe designs as shown in photos. (Cookies may be stored, tightly covered, in a tin for up to 2 weeks.)
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12/1/10

Too Busy!

Work at the office is crazy this week... not to mention the home schedule! Give me a couple days to catch up!
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