Thursday, December 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup - Two Ways

With Christmas behind us, I've been keeping a keen eye on some "healthier" food choices.  I don't know about you, but I damn near slipped into a food coma after everything I ate during the whole of Christmas week.  And if you must know, yes; I ate A LOT of my own cookies!  But don't worry, everyone that was supposed to receive them first did.  The biggest offenders were those damn Cookie Balls.  I just couldn't stop eating them!  Bad, bad Cookie Balls (tsk, tsk)!

That said, I've made an effort to eliminate (however temporarily) processed foods.  That means I've had to cook a bit again.  I am trying to keep it simple, though - at least for now.

So that brings me to the recipe at hand, Butternut Squash Soup.  I'm going to post two different recipes I use.  The first is vegan, using no dairy.  The second uses dairy. (And by the way, the photo below is not mine... I forgot to snap some shots of it before posting).

VEGAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

3 1/2 - 4 cups of butternut squash (using either fresh & cubed or frozen)
1 cup vegetable broth (or more if you like a thinner soup)
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 tbl olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper


DIRECTIONS:

Slice the onion and saute in a small pan with the olive oil for about 10 minutes.

Add the onions, olive oil and all remaining ingredients into a slow cooker for about 5-6 hours.

Place the contents into a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth.

If thinner soup is desired, add an additional cup of vegetable broth and/or coconut milk.

Recipe yields 6 cups, 90 calories per serving.


(NON-VEGAN) BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

For those of you who prefer to add dairy to their butternut squash soup, there are only a few minor changes...

INGREDIENTS:

3 1/2 - 4 cups of butternut squash (using either fresh & cubed or frozen)
1 cup vegetable broth (or more if you like a thinner soup)
1 cup milk
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 tbl butter
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper


PERSONAL NOTES:

I prefer to use pumpkin pie spice instead of individual spices like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, etc... Please feel free to alter the recipe to suit your preferences.  Start here and try a mouthful.  Maybe you like more of one spice and less of another and so on. It's really pretty adaptable.  It's my favorite soup to make.  It's easy, healthy (the vegan version at least), and filling.  Perfect too for the winter months.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Italian Lemon (Jeanettes) Cookies

Finally!  Here's the recipe and directions for everyone's favorite holiday cookie.

This recipe was given to me by a little old Italian woman who has since passed away.  When she taught me, she literally took me by the hand and walked me through the whole process.  What a sweet woman.  After all these years I felt it was time to share the recipe.  I don't see any reason why not.  It's a family recipe; shouldn't it be shared?

ITALIAN LEMON (JEANETTES) COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:

5-6 CUPS flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 CUP sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon extract

½ pound butter (2 sticks)

1 tsp salt

6 eggs

Icing: 1 cup Confectioner’s sugar, 2 tbls milk, ½ tsp lemon extract

Makes 6 dozen


DIRECTIONS:


1… Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


2… Mix together the dry ingredients.  Make a “well” in the center and add butter and eggs to the center.  KNEAD the dough until smooth.  Continue adding small bits of flour until batter comes away clean from your hands.


3… Take tablespoon-sized portions of dough and roll them out (to about 4 1/2" - 5" pieces) and twist them. 




4...Place them on a cookie sheet.

5… Bake approximately 8 minutes. Cookies are done when the bottoms are golden brown and the tops just start to turn.




Once they've cooled completely, mix the confectioner sugar/milk/lemon extract in a small bowl.  Turn the cookies upside down and dip them in the icing.  Place them on wax paper to harden.

Then enjoy them!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thimble Cookies

These cookies are some of the first cookies I started baking with Mom at the holidays.  I was probably in junior high when I started making these.  Needless to say, the Thimble Cookies are a holiday staple.  Even though I don't really eat them, I have to make them.  Just a tradition, I guess.

I wish I could find my mom's original Thimble Cookie recipe, but I have no idea what happened to it.  Either way, I found the same one online.  So the Thimble Cookie recipe is adapted from here.

THIMBLE COOKIES


INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter
1 stick margarine
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 – ½ cups sifted flour
Raspberry jam




DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350°.
Cream butter and margarine. Gradually add the sugar beating until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add sifted flour and vanilla.
Shape dough into 1 inch diameter balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. With your finger, make an indentation on the top of each cookie. Fill each cookie indentation with jam.
Bake until lightly brown, about 15 minutes.



PERSONAL NOTES:

I will use either butter or margarine, not one of each.  Generally I only use butter.  I have no idea why this recipe calls for both.  It's a real head-scratcher.

And while the recipe calls for raspberry jam - and I have used it quite successfully in the past - I like to switch it up and either use blueberry or black currant jam.  YUM. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

I consider myself lucky to have stumbled upon this recipe.  I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before to mix oreos and cheesecake.  After all, there are Oreo cheesecakes in the world.  So why not Oreo Cheesecake Cookies?  These taste fantastic - and just like cheesecake.

I found the recipe here on the browneyedbaker blog and she adapted the recipe from Tasty Kitchen Blog.

OREO CHEESECAKE COOKIES



INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and well-combined.

Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until the ingredients are well-combined. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the mini chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

Place the Oreo cookie crumbs in a small bowl. Scoop the cookies into about 1½ to 2″ balls and then roll in the cookie crumbs. Place the cookie balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the tops are slightly puffed.

Cool on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.


PERSONAL NOTES:

I actually didn't use Oreos (oops).  Instead, I used the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers.  They're pricey but oh, so worth it.  They have a superior chocolatey flavor when it comes to cookies.  I used these in almost every recipe that calls for chocolate crumbs or cookies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookie Balls!!!

This is what I call the following concoction, although I have seen more subtle (and classier) titles like "Cookie Truffles", blah, blah, blah.

These are out of this world and require NO baking!!! Incidentally, they don't require any real skill either.  Anyone can make them (and should be able to!). 

I found the recipe here, although if you Google "cookie balls" you'll come across several options.

Check these out...

COOKIE BALLS



INGREDIENTS:

1 (16 ounce) package Oreo cookies , crushed
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese , softened
1 (24 ounce) package white chocolate bark
1 (24 ounce) package chocolate bark


DIRECTIONS:

Using a blender or hand held mixer, mix Oreos and cream cheese together.

Roll into walnut size balls.

Chill for an hour.

Melt approximately 3/4 package of white almond bark.

Stick a toothpick in an Oreo ball and dip it in the melted white almond bark.

Allow to harden on wax paper.

Takes about 15 minute.

While waiting, melt about 1/4 package of chocolate almond bark.

When Oreo balls are no longer sticky to the touch, decorate with drizzles of chocolate and white almond bark (just use a sandwich bag with a tiny hole cut in one corner to drizzle the almond bark).


PERSONAL NOTES:

I used Callebaut white & milk chocolate.  It was a little dicey dipping the balls into the chocolate, but overall they look fine.  I used two forks to dip and place the cookie ball on the wax paper.

They are SO GOOD!!!

I'm also going to try these out with the mint Oreos.  I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is just another version of a classic: chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  I've made these before (probably Mrs. Fields' version - which is YUMMY by the way), but I like playing around with different recipes.  So I made these... my husband is IN LOVE with these cookies!

By the way, the original recipe is compliments of allrecipes.com and can be found here.

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES



INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


PERSONAL NOTES:

I used a combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate.  The milk chocolate I used was Callebaut's.  YUMMY!  It really does make a difference when you use quality products.  It's worth spending the extra bucks to get the best results.

Also, I omitted the nuts.  When given the chance, I generally don't include nuts in recipes.  I like them separate thank you very much.

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I was perusing my cookie recipes in search of my oatmeal raisin recipe, I came across this one.  So I decided to make it before doing the oatmeal raisins.  What a great flavor combo!  While I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter or peanut butter/chocolate, I DO appreciate a good mocha-flavored goodie.  And that's what this is.  Actually, I don't know why I hadn't made this before.  It's really pretty simple.

The recipe is compliments of foodnetwork.com

Here it is...

ESPRESSO DARK CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES


INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Makes 2 dozen cookies

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 30 seconds. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

Using a 1-ounce scoop or a 2-tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2-inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.


PERSONAL NOTES:

I used almost double the amount of espresso because I like a pretty strong coffee flavor.  Also, I used a fine quality dark chocolate (75% cacao, Tarakan Chocolate). I think this makes the overall flavor much more dramatic.  I love it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter M&M Surprise Cookies

Sometimes I just get these ideas in my head to try recipes with a little twist to them.  This is the case with these cookies.  Although I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter cookies, I wanted to try them in a different way.  So I looked at chocolate peanut butter recipes.  Then as luck would have it, I was wandering through the store yesterday and happened upon the holiday M&M shelf.  They make every flavor in the holiday red/green colors.  When I saw the peanut butter M&M's I decided to pick those up and use those in this recipe.  Then I thought I'd put another twist on the cookies, by hiding the peanut butter M&M's on the inside of the cookie.  So that's exactly what I did.  When you bite into the cookie you'll get the chocolate peanut butter flavor, but also an additional treat with the peanut butter M&M in the middle.  I really like the idea.

You can find the original Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie recipe here from allrecipes.com

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER M&M SURPRISE COOKIES



INGREDIENTS:

1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips (I completely omitted these)

PLUS: 1 package of Peanut Butter M&M's

Makes 4 dozen cookies

DIRECTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl, combine peanut butter and oil. Add brown sugar and sugar; mix well. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to peanut butter mixture; mix until blended (dough will be sticky).                

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a glass. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until set and tops are cracked. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks. 

PERSONAL NOTES:

As I mentioned above, I left out the chocolate chips and added the peanut butter M&M's instead. 

I found the dough to be very sticky to handle so I added a little more flour and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour.

Once the dough was firm enough to handle, I used my little ice cream scooper (1 tablespoon) and pressed an M&M into the middle before pressing it on the cookie pan (which was lined with parchment). I didn't bother using glass to flatten it out.  I didn't think it needed it.  I like the rounded shape it has.  Plus, it's a bit more fluffier :)


Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

I'm not exactly sure where I picked up this recipe.  When I Google it, dozens of links pop up. I think it's one of those recipes that's almost common knowledge.  Either way, it's not my recipe.  But it IS a good one.

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of peanut butter anything... but it seems to be a crowd-pleaser so I make it each year.  And each year people fall all over themselves for one.  Go figure.

PEANUT BUTTER KISS COOKIES



INGREDIENTS:

1 ¾ CUP flour
½ CUP sugar
½ CUP brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ CUP butter
½ CUP peanut butter
1 egg
2 TBL milk
1 tsp vanilla

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


DIRECTIONS:

1… Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


2… CREAM together butter and sugars (in a mixer).  ADD egg, peanut butter, milk and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients. Mix.


3… Chill in the fridge if batter is too soft/sticky to handle.  Otherwise, roll out tablespoon-sized portions and roll in sugar.


4… Bake for 10 minutes.  PLACE chocolate kiss on AFTER baking, before cookies cool.


PERSONAL NOTES:

The recipe is pretty straightforward.  As step #3 suggests, I put the batter in the fridge for about an hour.  It definitely helps the handling.  It is way too sticky in the beginning.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone likes these cookies.  And with the pumpkin/spice flavor, they're perfect for the holidays.  These cookies were something I experimented with last year, and they worked out wonderfully.

The original recipe is here.

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES



INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Makes 60 cookies!

PERSONAL NOTES:

I use pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices.  I make sure to add enough so I can taste it.  When you put the spices in, give the dough a quick taste to see if you may need more.  I like really spicey pumpkin dishes and these cookies are no exception.

Also, I'm not sure why they specifically say NOT to use semi sweet chocolate over the milk chocolate.  I used an even mix of both.  I think it adds a little more depth.  And I just like it that way :)

Cinnamon Maple Rings; Not Exactly What Mrs. Fields Had In Mind...

Yeah.  Going back to Mrs. Fields' wonderful Best Cookie Book Ever, I decided to try my hand at her Cinnamon Maple Rings.  These are cookies that looked so yummy and I promised myself I'd make them one day.  Well, today was that day.  All I can say is, they taste outrageous, but they look NOTHING like the picture in Mrs. Fields' book!  I feel a little deceived... like, they should have warned me the rings could actually fall apart.  I'm not amused they look less than stellar, even though they taste wonderful.  These are cookies I will come back to to perfect.  You can be sure of that. 

In the meantime, here's the recipe...

Mrs. Fields' CINNAMON MAPLE RINGS



INGREDIENTS:

2 cup  All-purpose flour
1/4 cup  Sugar
1 cup (2 sticks)  Butter; chilled & sliced into 8 pieces
1/4 cup  Maple syrup; chilled
2 tbl Ice water; or as needed
Filling:
1/4 cup  Sugar
4 tsp Ground cinnamon
           
Topping:
1/4 c  Maple syrup


DIRECTIONS:

Combine flour and sugar in a medium bowl using an electric mixer set on medium speed.  Add butter and mix until the dough forms small, pea-sized pellets. Add chilled maple syrup and 2 Tbl water, and mix on low speed until dough can be formed into a ball, do not overmix or the dough will be tough! 

Separate dough into 2 balls andflatten into disks. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap or place in plastice bags. Refrigerate for 2 hrs.

To Prepare the Filling: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
        
Preheat oven to 325d F. Using a floured rolling pin on a floured board, roll one piece of dough into a rough rectangle 10 inches wide, 15 inches long, and 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle dough with half of the cinnamon-sugar filling. Starting with smaller side, roll dough up tightly into a cylinder. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Using a sharp thin knife, cut 1/4 inch slices from each roll. Place slices on ungreased baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Brush tips lightly with 1/4 cup maple syrup. Bake for 16-17 minutes or until light golden brown.  Immediately transfer cookies to a cool, flat surface.


PERSONAL NOTES:

As I mentioned, these looked so good in Mrs. Fields' book.  I'm disappointed mine don't look the same.  However, they taste REALLY good!  Although, I don't get a very strong flavor of maple.  They taste way more cinnamon-sugar, though not too sweet which is nice.

Upon further thought, perhaps I didn't roll out the dough thin enough.  I'm thinking if I had done that, they wouldn't be able to spread out quite the way they did.  But I have to tell you, it was a little tricky rolling out the dough.  Make sure you have enough flour on the surface you're using as well as on the dough.  You'll need to make sure the dough doesn't stick as you roll it up.  I think that's one part of the trick, the other is to ensure you roll up the dough TIGHT.  I'm not sure I did it that tight.  It was difficult.  As I said before, this is a recipe I will revisit in order to perfect it.  I will figure it out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Mochachino Cookies

I've been holding on to this recipe for years.  I finally made them this weekend.  They're crispy and mocha-chocolately.  The original name for this recipe is Cappuccino Flats.  I think my title is more flavor-appropriate.


CHOCOLATE MOCHACHINO COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon warm water
1 egg
2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons shortening


DIRECTIONS:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugars. Dissolve coffee in water; add to creamed mixture with egg and melted chocolate. Mix well. Combine flour, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture (dough will be sticky). Shape into two 6-1/2-in. rolls; wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm. Unwrap and cut into 1/4-in. slices. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.


In a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate chips and shortening. Dip each cookie halfway; shake off excess. Place on waxed paper to harden.


PERSONAL NOTES:

I made a couple of adjustments here.  After reading a few reviews of the cookies, I kept seeing comments about how the chocolate flavor overpowered the espresso.  So I did two things: doubled the amount of espresso and reduced the amount of chocolate.  I also chose to use 75% cacao dark chocolate.  It was pricier to buy, but well worth it. From the photo, you can see how I used the chocolate on top; I only drizzled it on so it would compliment, rather than overpower, the mocha flavor of the cookie.

YUM!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Marble Cookies

Thank you Mrs. Fields!  Her book, The Best Cookie Book Ever! 130 Delicious Cookie and Dessert Recipes is my absolute favorite when it comes to the "Gail-Hamlin-Holiday-Bake-Off".  While I haven't made all of them, the many I have made were amazing.  Way to go Mrs. Fields. Love her. 

Praises aside, in this book is one of my favorite cookies: Marbles.

MARBLES

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, softened
1 large egg
4 oz. sour cream (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt with wire whisk.  Set aside.

Combine sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer set at medium speed.  Add butter and beat until batter is grainy.  Add egg, sour cream and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Scrape bowl.  Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed until just combined.  Do not overmix.

Place chocolate chips in double boiler over hot, but not boiling water.  Stir constantly until melted.  Or, place chips in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave on high, stirring every 20 seconds until melted.

Cool chocolate for a few minutes and pour over cookie batter.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, lightly fold melted chocolate into the dough.  Do not mix chocolate completely into cookie dough.

Drop by rounded teaspoons, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 20 to 22 minutes.  Do not brown.  Quickly transfer cookies to a cool surface.

PERSONAL NOTES:

Sometimes I use semisweet chocolate, sometimes milk chocolate.  This time I used both.  I split the cookie dough and put semisweet in one, milk in the other.  I wanted to offer a bit of variety.

I also find the dough can be a little too soft to manage at first so I'll put it in the fridge (with the chocolate folded into it) for about 30 minutes.  Just long enough to stiffen it up a bit, but not too long that you have to work it out again to soften. 

One thing I recently purchased is an ice cream scooper with the release.  I bought one in a 3 tablespoon size and one in a 1-tablespoon size.  I find it SO much easier to handle the dough this way.  It doesn't get all gooey on my hands and you don't have to do any reshaping once the dough is on the cookie sheet.

Oh - that's another thing.  For almost everything I bake now (that requires a cookie sheet anyway), I use parchment.  I can't believe I've gone this long without ever using it.  I won't go back to plain cookie sheets.  It makes clean up a snap!  You must use parchment.  So, so easy.

One more thing on the baking time for these cookies.  Mrs. Fields is WAY off base when stating these cookies need to bake for 20-22 minutes.  I probably keep them in for about 10 minutes, maximum.  I check on them at 8 minutes to see what's going on.  If they're done at 8 minutes, so be it. So especially if you're making a recipe for the first time, try to keep checking on the cookies as they bake to watch their progress - unless you have a glass oven door and can see what's going on.

Ginger Cookies

In all the years I've been baking, I've never actually made ginger bread cookies.  I decided it was time I did.  So, I found a recipe for them and set out on the task.  The end result: these cookies are absolutely picture-perfect and taste terrific!  I will be making these again.

GINGER COOKIES



INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Roll into 1-1/2-in. balls, then roll in sugar. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

PERSONAL NOTES:

The only modifications I made to these cookies were using 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar instead of 1 cup of granulated.  I just felt like mixing it up.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chocolate Cinnamon M&M Cookies

About a week ago I was shopping at Target and came across a bag of cinnamon-flavored M&M's.  I can't get over the flavors now available.  I thought it was great when pretzels entered the picture with M&M's, but cinnamon?  I had to try these!  I figured there had to be a way to use them in a recipe - and there was.  I found a chocolate sugar cookie recipe here and decided to incorporate the M&M's.  The end result; a subtle-flavored, chewy (and yummy!) cookie.

CHOCOLATE CINNAMON M&M COOKIES


INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).               

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening, sugar, and egg. Stir in syrup and melted chocolate. Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and ground cinnamon; add to creamed mixture. Chill 1 hour.

Roll dough 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured pastry cloth. Cut into shapes.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes.               

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

PERSONAL NOTES:

The only thing I changed was adding the M&M's.  I add as much as I see fit :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Last year at Thanksgiving was the first time Rob and I hosted.  Granted, it was only for us and my mom and brother, but we wanted to put out a nice, traditional, Thanksgiving meal.  That said, I thought it would be a good idea to have fresh dinner rolls to go along with the dinner.  I picked out two recipes: plain biscuits and sweet potato biscuits.  This is one example of how I should NEVER experiment with a new dish as I'm preparing to serve it.  So if you walk away with anything you read here, take this:  ALWAYS experiment in advance to avoid mishaps.

Yes, the biscuits were a disappointment.  They came out OK... except they had no real flavor to them.  And I guess because they were biscuits, they seemed on the heavy side.

Keeping last year's defeat in mind, I decided to make different rolls - and I specifically went for dinner rolls, not biscuits.  I figured dinner rolls would be lighter in general.  As I did last year, I picked out plain rolls and winter squash rolls.  Silly me, I didn't learn my lesson from last year.  On Wednesday night, yes, the night before Thanksgiving, I'm preparing the dough for the new rolls.  At first everything seemed to be fine.  I even sampled the dough and it tasted great.  I was really looking forward to making this with the dinner. 

My plan was to make the dough, allow time for it to rise, knead, then place in the fridge overnight so it could rise again.  Then sometime before dinner the next day I'd roll them into balls and stick them in the oven.  It seemed like a great plan. 

Except...

When I took the dough out of the fridge and started rolling dough balls, the dough seemed kinda heavy.  But, I figured they'd bake/cook and come out fine on the other end.  Wrong!

After keeping the rolls in the oven for the exact amount of time the recipe called for, I took them out.  I picked up the first roll and it was as heavy as a hockey puck.  I was dumbfounded.  I split it open and the inside was completely raw.  Rob came by to examine them and he saw how undercooked they were.  He picked them up and made some comment about how they could be used as a weapon.  Right.  Foiled again by stupid bread!

So both Rob and my mom tried assuring me that it's ok to have an Achilles' heel when it came to cooking/baking.  Rolls were clearly mine.  However, I wasn't satisfied to go along with it.  I had to know exactly where I failed.

The next day I set out to make another batch of rolls.  This time I just went with a half batch of Winter Squash Rolls - for which I used pumpkin.

I followed the recipe exactly as it was written.  It had one difference between what I did on Wednesday night and what I was doing then: on Wednesday night after letting the dough rise the first time, I stuck the dough in the fridge.  This time, I allowed the dough to rise (for the second time) at room temperature.  THIS MADE THE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

This was where I failed the first time.  Apparently sitting in the fridge prevented the dough from rising properly.  What I should have done was allow the dough to sit out and warm up to room temp. then allow it to rise again.  But I didn't.

Anyhow, I'm thrilled to announce that I can make delicious dinner rolls!

I got the recipe here from allrecipes.com

WINTER SQUASH ROLLS

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups cubed winter squash
1 cup scalded milk
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup shortening

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a small saucepan, cover squash cubes with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and mash.               

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a large bowl, combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt. Stir in the yeast mixture, shortening, squash and milk. Mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces and form into rounds. Place the rounds in a lightly greased 13x9 inch baking pan. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.               

PERSONAL NOTES:

These rolls are fantastic!  As I mentioned above, be sure to follow the directions exactly for allowing the dough to rise or you will end up with winter squash lead balls.

I chose to use pumpkin puree for mine and they were delish.  Generally speaking, I prefer to use either the pureed pumpkin or frozen butternut squash.  Cutting, cleaning and cooking the actual squash is a real pain.  Make your life easier and go for the already pureed stuff.  It will still taste great.

Instead of the shortening, I used real butter, melted down.  When it comes to making breads, I prefer to use real butter instead of Crisco or lard.  I mean...ick. 

Finally, I used an egg wash on the roll.  I took one egg, lightly beaten, and I brushed it over each roll.  It gave the rolls a nice shine. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pumpkin Pie (part deux)

Yes, I did just make a pumpkin pie last week to experiment before making one on the actual Thanksgiving Day.  Yes, it did turn out just fine.  Yes, I was going to make it yesterday until I found this recipe and made it instead. 

The Verdict?  YUMMY!!!

What's the difference between last week's pumpkin pie and yesterday's masterpiece?  Vanilla ice cream.  Who knew? 

Growing up, I was always a fan of Mrs. Smith's pumpkin pie.  Yes, it's store bought, but it never disappoints.  This pumpkin pie tastes exactly like Mrs. Smith's.


PUMPKIN PIE (part deux)

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (9 inch) unbaked pie shells


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.) Place ice cream near the warm oven to soften.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Stir in the pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix in soft ice cream until smooth. Pour filling into two 9 inch pie shells.

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, or until filling is set.               


PERSONAL NOTES:

I made this pumpkin pie exactly as the recipe states.  Exactly.  No subsitutions.  I will tell you though, that I did use Hagen Dazs vanilla ice cream.
SO GOOD!!!

Thanksgiving Cheesecakes!

I was so excited when I made these I snapped the pics before I took them out of the oven! 

Recently, I ordered a pack of four mini-springform pans (4 1/2").  It gave me the opportunity to make two different kinds of cheesecakes without overdoing it.  As you can see by the picture, I made vanilla with chocolate marble cheesecakes and pumpkin cheesecakes.


PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
(This recipe is from October 2011's Food Network Magazine, from Emeril Lagasse)

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 45 crushed wafers)
1 cup pecans, ground
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds cream cheese, cubed and softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups canned pure pumpkin

DIRECTIONS:

1...Prepare the cheesecake:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the wafer crumbs, ground pecans and melted butter in a bowl.  Press into the bottom of a 12-inch springform pan.  In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, mix the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the brown sugar and process until blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, processing until fully incorporated, then blend in the heavy cream.  Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and blend until smooth.  Add the pumpkin and blend until smooth. 

2...Pour the filling over the crust in the pan.  Bake 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until the cheesecake is just set.  Remove from the oven.  Use a knife to loosen the cake from the side of the pan; this will prevent it from splitting down the center.  Let cool completely before slicing.


PERSONAL NOTES:

For starters, this recipe has a bourbon-spiked cream topping that I didn't even bother with.  It just doesn't need it.

Instead of using vanilla wafer crumbs, I used a box of Walker's shortbread cookies.  I added 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  I combined these items in my food processor then pressed them into the pan as directed.  From there I BAKED the crust for 10 minutes to set.  I feel this helps the crust from becoming soggy.  It works.

BEWARE: Emeril lies!  Once the cheesecake is baked, LEAVE IT TO COOL IN THE OVEN.  Crack the oven door open just a little and turn off the heat.  Leave it like this to cool for an hour.  This is what will prevent your cheesecake from cracking!  I listened to Emeril the first time and used the knife to cut the cake away from the sides and it cracked all over the place. 


VANILLA CHOCOLATE SWIRL CHEESECAKE
(This recipe originally appears here from allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

15 graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted                    
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch springform pan.               

In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of springform pan.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving.               


PERSONAL NOTES:

Since I made this as a vanilla-chocolate-swirl cheesecake I deviated from the above recipe. 

Instead of graham crackers I used the Nabisco chocolate wafers for the crust.  In a food processor, I blended the chocolate wafers, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons butter.  Once pressed into the springform pan, I baked it for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven to set. 

For the chocolate swirl, I melted down one 1 oz semi-sweet chocolate square and combined it with 3/4 cup cheesecake (I did make the mini cheesecakes.  If I made a full sized cheesecake I would have melted down two 1-oz squares and mixed it with 1 1/2 cups cheesecake).  Using a teaspoon, I dropped 3 dollops of the chocolate on top and used a knife to swirl.  YUMMY!

I almost forgot!  I used a vanilla bean for this recipe.  It made a HUGE difference.  So when you cut into the cheesecake, you can see the vanilla flecks in it.  It was so much better!!!


Thomas Jefferson's Macaroni & Cheese

This was my main course at yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner (I say it was "my" main course since I was the only one at the table not eating turkey). It was the first time I'd made it and it was SO good.  I included some fine cheeses which I feel made this basic dish just that much more extraordinary.

The original recipe can be found here. I made several modifications to it of course.

THOMAS JEFFERSON'S MAC & CHEESE



INGREDIENTS:

1 lb elbow macaroni
3-4 cups of grated sharp Cheddar cheese, or whatever
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs plus 1 tbsp butter

DIRECTIONS:

1...Cook pasta by following the directions on the box.  Cook only to al dente, about 8 minutes.

2...Using a large saucepan, combine milk, mustard, Worcestershire and butter over medium heat.  As it warms up, add cheeses, thyme, cayenne, pepper, salt, nutmeg and flour.  Stir until all cheese is melted. 

3...Combine cheese mixture with the pasta in a 9x13 pan.  Combine the breadcrumbs with the butter and evenly spread over the macaroni.

4...Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Allow it to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

PERSONAL NOTES:

This was absolutely scrumptious!  I used 1 cup Wisconsin cheddar, 1 cup Dutch gouda, 1 cup Gruyere and I went half a step further and added 1/2 cup cubed Velveeta.  Yes, Velveeta.  I went through all the trouble to add the other "nice" cheeses and I go and add processed cheese.  Why?  It made it a little creamier.  And I wanted it in there, no apologies.

I also used regular breadcrumbs instead of the Panko.  It was still magnificent - and very rich.

One important note I should add, I only made HALF the amount since I was pretty much the only person eating this for dinner.  That said, I used a Pyrex glass loaf pan instead of the 9x13 pan.  I only made 1 box of elbow macaroni (quinoa pasta :) BUT... I used the same amount of cheese! It ended up being even richer and creamier.  SOOOOOOO good!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Pie (recipe)

It's almost Thanksgiving.  This year, I decided to take the plunge and try making a pumpkin pie.  No, I've never made one before.  I wanted to take the time in advance to experiement with the pie so I could avoid last-minute suprises. 

So far, the pie looks YUMMY!  I have to wait for it to cool a bit before trying.  (By the way, the recipe is here).

 












PUMPKIN PIE

INGREDIENTS:

1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can NESTLE® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

DIRECTIONS:

1...Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2...Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.               

3...Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)               

Personal Notes:
I replaced the 3/4 sugar with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  A

lso, this recipe as followed makes more filling than a 9" pie plate can handle.  I had to dump some out so it wouldn't overflow. 

For the spices, I used pumpkin pie spice.  People may tell you to use the individual spices as directed, but really, pumpkin pie spice has the same blend.  It works for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kalamata Olive, Tomato, and Cheese Melt

This is another recipe I came across from allrecipes.com. It looked good so I thought I could make it to have for a few meals. 

KALAMATA OLIVE, TOMATO AND CHEESE MELT



INGREDIENTS:

1 (16 ounce) package rotini pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
20 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.               

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, jalapeno, and green bell pepper until onions are soft and translucent. Stir in tomatoes, wine, and kalamata olives. Simmer 15 minutes. Toss pasta with sauce until evenly coated. Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with feta cheese and Cheddar cheese.               

Bake 5 minutes in the preheated oven. Set oven to broiler setting. Broil for 5 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and bubbly.               

PERSONAL NOTES:
I threw in sundried tomatoes to the mix for some additional flavor.  It goes really well with everything else in there.  I also used quinoa pasta. I just like it better.  I also lightened up the feta cheese and went with reduced fat.  For the wine, merlot :)

Overall I like the dish, but it's nothing special.  I'll probably make it again at some point.  Although, I generally stay away from pasta dishes unless there's something irresistible about them (like the Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese).

Makes 8 servings, 420 calories/serving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Yes, we're back to the pumpkin recipes.  Really though, it's only because I have pumpkin puree left over from last week's baking.  When I saw this latest recipe I thought they sounded delish - and they are!

PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS



INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
24 pecan halves

Filling:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar

Makes 24 muffins

DIRECTIONS:
For the filling, in a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.               

Divide half of the batter among 24 greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Drop filling by teaspoonfuls over batter. Top with remaining batter. Place a pecan on each muffin if desired.               

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

PERSONAL NOTES:
As per usual, I lightened the recipe where I could.  I used Egg Beaters for the eggs, unsweetened applesauce for the oil and I omitted the pecans.  Although, I purposely left out the pecans because I'm not a big fan of them.

The muffins came out great - even without the pecans.  I halved the recipe and came out with 10 muffins (I like them a little bigger).  Each muffin is about 160 calories.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

I just picked out this recipe from a Cooking Light magazine (Nov 2011).  Ever since Rob and I travelled to Paris several years ago and were introduced to Nutella crepes, I've been addicted to the stuff.  The addiction is so bad that I don't even allow it into the apartment.  Because it'll be gone in a day.
However, when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it out and so far the Nutella's lasted.  I've been showing considerable restraint.

The cookies in question are Nutella Sandwich Cookies.  They're tasty.  A little on the dense side, but full of hazlenutty-cocoa goodness.  Although, when it came time to slice the cookies to fill them with the Nutella, they crumbled a little.  Not terrible, as you can see by the photo, but it was challenging to put everything together without completely breaking them apart.
NUTELLA SANDWICH COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:

13 oz jar Nutella

2 TBL unsalted butter, room temperature

1 extra-large egg

1 1/4 cups self-rising cake flour

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment. 

Beat together 3/4 cup of the Nutella, the butter and egg.

Slowly add the flour until a wet dough forms.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour if necessary; the dough will be sticky.

Divide the dough into 18 pieces and roll each into a perfect ball, flouring your hands as you go.  Place several inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake 12 minutes, until firm.  Cool 10 minutes on the sheet.

Using a serrated knife, split each cookie in half horizontally.  Spread each bottom half with 1 tsp Nutella.  Replace the tops, pressing lightly.

Makes 18 cookies, roughly 160 calories each.

PERSONAL NOTES:

I used a small (1 tablespoon-sized) ice cream scooper to handle the dough.  It was so much easier!

Watch the oven as your cookies bake.  The first couple I did burned on the bottom and they were still only in there for 10 minutes.  The second try I kept them in only about 7 minutes - and I dropped the heat down to 350.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grandma's Yeast Cookies

I always make these at the holidays without fail.  I would make them all year round but then I would be eating them ALL the time and my waistline just can't be having that.  There is little to no self-control when I'm around these cookies I love them that much.  When others have them they give me that puzzled look and ask, "What is that in there? Fig? Date?"  No and no.  It's full of prunes!  It is because of these cookies that I developed a fondness for prunes - I kid you not.  They really are that good.

Grandma's Yeast Cookies is a recipe my mother got from her mother and it's quite possible it was handed down from her mom, Great-Grandma Carney (who immigrated to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Poland with the Carney clan in the early 1900's).

Anyhow, I'm pleased to be sharing such a special family recipe with you...

GRANDMA'S YEAST COOKIES
 
INGREDIENTS:

5 or 6 cups of flour
1 lb margarine (butter, spry or Crisco will also work fine)
4 eggs
1 can prune filling (or puree a bag of Sunsweet prunes in the food processor)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of warm milk, diluted with one packet of yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Mix flour with 1 lb margarine and salt, mix well.

Add eggs, mix again.

On the stovetop, heat the milk and vanilla (it only needs to be warm, not hot).  Pour in yeast to dilute.

Add milk/yeast/vanilla mixture.  Knead dough until it comes clean away from the bowl. 

Cover with waxed paper and chill for about 6 to 7 hours, allowing the yeast to rise.

When ready to make the cookies, mix 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar together.  Sprinkle on a board and roll out a small amount of dough.  Cut into squares (about 3"x3"), place 1/2 tsp of prune filling in one corner and roll them.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes (although I usually check on them around 6-7 minutes). I consider them done once the bottoms are golden.

Recipe yields approximately 100 yummy cookies (although I make them a little bigger so I'd say about 50-60 :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Vegetarian Four-Cheese Lasagna

Don't be fooled by the recipe's title.  Yes... it's another pumpkin recipe.  I know for a few of you it's been a source of amusement, but I gotta tell you... for me, it's been a source of yumminess!  I LOVE pumpkin recipes and frankly I'm making a lot of them now because it is the season to do so. 

The newest dish I made was this Vegetarian Four-Cheese Lasagna (original link here). As usual, I made some modifications but it's really delicious and filling enough as a main dish.  As a matter of fact, I left out one of the cheeses.

By the way, this isn't my photo of the dish, although it looked similar.  I forgot to snap a pic before cutting into it...

VEGETARIAN FOUR-CHEESE LASAGNA:

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups peeled and diced pumpkin
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
5 tomatoes
1 pint ricotta cheese
9 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup pesto
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
fresh pasta sheets
1 1/3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast in oven until browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grill eggplant on a charcoal grill or fry in a skillet, turning once, until charred and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Halve tomatoes and place on baking sheet in oven for last 15 minutes of pumpkin time; cook until tender and wrinkly.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, feta, pesto, eggs, salt and pepper until well mixed. Fold roasted pumpkin into ricotta mixture.
  4. Spoon half of the tomato sauce into a 9x13 baking dish. Lay two pasta sheets over the sauce. Arrange a single layer of eggplant slices over pasta and top with half the ricotta mixture. Cover with two more pasta sheets. Arrange the roasted tomatoes evenly over the sheets and spoon the remaining half the ricotta mixture over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Top with remaining two sheets of pasta. Pour remaining tomato sauce over all and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

PERSONAL NOTES:
I actually changed it quite a bit.  Frankly, I think I should have been truer to the recipe.  I left out the tomato sauce and feta cheese completely.  I cut back on the pesto sauce (to 1/2 cup).  Overall, the dish would have been better with these items left in.  I can see how it would round out the flavor more.  The way I made it has a more mellow flavor.  I don't want to say bland because I really loved it - and could taste the grilled eggplants and tomatoes (I did include those).

I used Egg Beaters for the eggs and Barilla no-cook lasagna sheets. 

Oh, I also made it in a 9x9 glass dish instead of the 9x13.  It was deeper that way.

While I did enjoy this recipe, I will probably make it next time with all the ingredients as posted above. 

It came to 6 servings and 330 calories per serving.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

So my husband and I finally finished off the pumpkin corn muffins (which were yummy by the way).  Then the big decision came on which muffins to make next.  I like baking muffins fairly consistently in the colder weather.  First off, I don't mind having the oven on and second, they are great to grab and go.  With my teaching schedule what it's been recently, having a muffin on hand is mighty convenient.

That all said, I decided to make Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins.  You can follow the link for the original recipe.  Though as usual I made some revisions and gave it my own flair.  By the way, the pictures really don't do the muffins justice... and the streusel topping kinda sank in.  Although, when you bite into this muffin you bite into apple cinnamon yumminess which makes everything else right in the universe...

PUMPKIN APPLE STREUSEL MUFFINS




INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 TBL pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 vegetable oil
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apple

Crumb topping:
2 TBL all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp butter


DIRECTIONS:
1... Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease muffin pan or use paper liners.

2... In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin and oil.  Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring just to moisten.  Fold in apples.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.

3... In a small bowl, mix together 2 TBL flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinking topping evenly over muffin batter.

4... Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 18 muffins

PERSONAL NOTES:
I made quite a few changes to this!  I'm sure the above recipe is wonderful, but I always try to lighten dishes where possible.

To start, I only made half the batch.  After all, what the heck are my husband and I going to do with 18 muffins?!?  We just don't need that many.  I can always make more.

Getting to the recipe; I used Bisquick instead of flour.  Not a huge difference in calories, but still worth it.  Besides, then I didn't have to use baking powder since the pancake mix has it in there.  I used Egg Beaters for the egg and unsweetened applesauce in place of the oil.  Cutting out the oil makes a huge difference!  And the muffins are still fluffy and taste fantastic.

I used a Gala apple. De-lish!

My version made 8 muffins at 195 calories each.  And my apartment smells like warm pumpkins and apples :)