Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spritz Cookies

Joshua was so excited when he recently found my cookie press. He couldn’t remember seeing me use it before, but the idea of shooting out cookies from a press was definitely intriguing. Last night he decided to make cookies with it. I found this recipe for him, and he made the dough himself. I helped him learn how to assemble the press, but he basically made these cookies himself. I can’t believe it’s been so long since we’ve had spritz cookies. These are so delicious!

Spritz Cookies

1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (6 oz) granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp pure almond extract
2 ¼ cups (11 oz) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional—we skipped this step)
Granulated or colored sugar, sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc. (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Have ready 2 ungreased baking sheets.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, cream the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Beat in the egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract on low speed just until blended.

Sift the flour and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon until blended.

Fill a cookie press with dough following the manufacturer’s instructions. Press the cookies out directly onto the pans. (Any dough that doesn’t come out of the press neatly may be scraped off the baking sheet and put through the pres again.) If the dough becomes too warm and sticky, refrigerate it for a few minutes to firm it up.

Lightly brush each cookie with egg white (if desired), and sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles or press a chocolate chip or candied cherry in the center of each. Bake just until the edges are golden, 8 – 10 minutes. (If the shapes don’t hold their definition after baking, refrigerate the dough for the next batch for 20 minutes to firm it up before pressing.) Let the cookies cool on the pans on wire racks for 1 – 2 minutes before transferring them to the racks to cool completely.

Recipe Source: The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Asian Shrimp with Pea Pods & Bell Peppers

This was super fast to whip up for dinner after church today. Make sure you have all the ingredients ready to go before you start because it cooks so quickly. And remember to start the rice before anything else—cooking the rice takes longer than making the stir fry.

Asian Shrimp with Pea Pods & Bell Peppers

1 pound fresh (or frozen & thawed) medium (31-35 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined (OR you can substitute 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast pieces cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
5 tablespoons butter, divided
¾ pound fresh snow peas, strings removed
½ up matchstick cut carrots
4 green onions, cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into ½- to 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup chicken broth
½ cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Chopped peanuts, if desired
2 cups hot cooked rice

Dry shrimp on paper towels. Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, five-spice powder and garlic powder in large resealable plastic food bag; add shrimp. Seal bag; shake to coat.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add coated shrimp; cook, stirring often, until shrimp turn pink (2 to 3 minutes). Remove shrimp to medium bowl; keep warm.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to same skillet. Cook over medium heat until sizzling; add snow peas, carrots, onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisply tender (3 to 4 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients except peanuts & rice in small bowl; mix well. Pour into skillet with vegetables; cook until mixture comes to a boil and thickens (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in shrimp. Continue cooking until heated through; add peanuts, if desired. Serve over rice.

Recipe Source: Land O’ Lakes Comfort Classics

Peanut Butter Bars

Super easy.  Wonderfully delicious.  Seriously addicting!  This recipe is from my niece, Jamee McMurdie.

Cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt (I think 1/2 tsp. would be enough, maybe even 1/4 tsp.)
2 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal

Mix well.  Spread on big cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees until light brown for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Spread with Chocolate Frosting.

Chocolate Frosting:
2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3-5 T. milk

Mix until smooth.  Frost cooled peanut butter bars.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Plain (but Perfect) Cheesecake

Alyssa requested a PLAIN cheesecake for her birthday. She didn't want any fancy crusts, fillings, toppings, swirled flavors, etc. She just wanted a graham cracker crust, regular cheesecake, and served with fresh raspberries (no sauce). I was initially a tad bit disappointed with her choice, but after eating it, we all agreed that she made a great decision! The cheesecake was perfectly creamy, and fresh raspberries were a great compliment. This is the same basic cheesecake recipe I use for mini cheesecakes, but I'm posting it here again to include the baking instructions for the 9-inch version. By the way, I absolutely LOVE my new cheesecake pan (a Magic Line 9x3-inch round cheesecake pan with a removable bottom but no spring on the side).

Rich and Creamy Cheesecake

2 cups (10 oz—or about 2 packages) crushed graham crackers
8 tablespoons (4 oz) butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons (1 ½ oz) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons (3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 pounds regular cream cheese
1 ¼ cups (8 ¾ oz) sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon zest from 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup (2 oz) heavy cream
¼ cup (2 oz) sour cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Wrap two layers of heavy duty foil around outside of 9-inch springform pan.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the butter, brown sugar, flour and salt and mix well. Press about half (or up to 2/3) of the crumbs onto bottom of springform pan. Press remaining crumbs around side of pan, about 1 inch high. Bake the crust until beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed until it is fully incorporated, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl after each addition. (If you don’t scrape down bowl after each egg, any cream cheese sticking to sides will make batter lumpy.) Add zest and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Stir in cream and sour cream by hand. (Note: do not over mix or cake will puff up from too much air and then collapse.)

Pour batter into springform pan. Set roasting pan on oven rack, set springform pan in it, and pour in enough boiling water to come about halfway up the side of springform pan. Bake until perimeter of cake is set but center jiggles when pan is tapped, 55 to 60 minutes. (Note: this time frame will vary considerably depending on what pan you use--check early just to make sure you don't overbake it.) Turn off heat and leave oven door ajar, using a long-handled kitchen fork or spoon if necessary to hold it open for 1 hour. Remove springform pan from water bath and set on a wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. Cheesecake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Recipe Source: The Perfect Recipe by Pam Anderson

P.S. Here's a picture of my cheesecake pan (from

Chicken Tikka Masala

Alyssa LOVES Nepalese food. For her birthday dinner, she requested Potato Samosas, Naan bread, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Basmati Rice Pilaf. I tried this new-to-me recipe for the chicken tikka masala. I loved how much easier it is to make than the last version I tried (plus--I didn't set my oven on fire!), and we all LOVED the flavor!

Chicken Tikka Masala

*Plan Ahead: This recipe requires the chicken to be marinated overnight.
*Variation: The marinade and sauce are also delicious with shrimp, lamb and vegetables.
*Make Ahead: The masala can be made and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.

*Serves 6

Masala Marinade:
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pounds chicken breasts (about 3-4 chicken breasts)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds (optional--I didn't add them because the sauce looked so perfect without them)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
16-ounce can tomato sauce
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Garnish: lots of fresh cilantro

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each). Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate covered overnight. (Note: I cut up my chicken into bite-size pieces before I marinated it instead of waiting until after it had marinated.)

In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

In a large enameled cast-iron dutch oven or a large pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chili powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the tomato sauce and the sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. While the mixture begins to simmer, remove the chicken from the marinade and cut into bite-sized pieces (if you didn't cut it into bite-size pieces before you marinated it). Throw the chicken into the pot of simmering tomato sauce. Continue simmering/cooking the chicken, partially covered, for an additional 10-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened just slightly. Add the cream and ground almonds (if desired) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Serve with lots of fresh cilantro over hot, steamed rice.

Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Pasta Alla Norma

It’s been kind of nice lately planning our meals around the produce we harvested from the garden. We had some beautiful eggplants that needed used, so I found this recipe. Yum! This is a delicious skillet pasta dish!

Pasta Alla Norma

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds), ends trimmed, cut into ½-inch cubes (I peeled mine)
3 (14.5 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups water
12 ounces (about 3 ¾ cups) penne, ziti, medium shells, farfalle, campanelle or orecchiette pasta (I used campanelle)
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese OR Parmesan OR Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved (about 1 cup)
¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves
Ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until it begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is fully tender and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer the eggplant to a bowl, cover to keep warm, and set aside.

Meanwhile, pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain, about 12 pulses.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the garlic, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the processed tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the water, then add the pasta. Cover, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

Stir in the eggplant and ricotta salata cheese (or Parmesan or Romano) and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Stir in the basil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve, passing the Parmesan separately.

Recipe Source: The Best Skillet Recipes (from Cook's Illustrated)

Apple & Bacon Puff Pancake

We made this for breakfast this morning. The smoky bacon adds a great savory contrast to the sweet apples and maple syrup. We all loved this dish! It was very quick to make, and it makes a fabulous fall breakfast. The recipe states it makes 2 servings, but we just divided it into fourths and it was perfect. If you have a larger family, you’ll probably want to make 2 at the same time. (Note: I keep extra cooked bacon in the freezer. That makes it simple to use for recipes like this.)

Apple & Bacon Puff Pancake

4 tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
2 eggs
4 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
¼ cup maple syrup
1 medium apple, peeled, quartered, sliced
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar (if desired, for garnish)

Heat oven to 425°F. Place 2 tablespoons butter in 9-inch glass pie pan; putinto oven until melted and pie pan is hot (4 to 5 minutes). Brush melted butter over bottom of pan.

Meanwhile, combine flour, milk and eggs in medium bowl; beat with wire whisk until well mixed. Carefully pour batter into hot pie pan; sprinkle with bacon. Bake for 14 to 17 minutes or until puffed and light golden brown (you might want to check it a little early).

Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add maple syrup, apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook until apple is tender (4 to 5 minutes); keep warm.

Spoon apple mixture over puffed pancake; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: Land O’ Lakes

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dinner for a Friend, Part 2

Yesterday I took the following to my friend: Chicken Rice, Plain Jello topped with whipped topping, lettuce salad, apple crisp, and homemade vanilla ice cream. When Bryn got in the van to help me deliver it, she said, "It smells so good." I said, "Yup. Let's hurry so we can come home and eat dinner." I love Chicken Rice and it has been a while since I've made it, so I really enjoyed dinner last night. I even convinced Bryce to just drive home from Rexburg last night without stopping for dinner, so he could enjoy the home-cooked meal I had waiting for him. I don't think we've posted Chicken Rice yet, so here is the way I make it.

Chicken Rice

3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups minute rice
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 Tbsp dry parsley
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp dry celery flakes
1 Tbsp dry minced onion
3 cups water

Pound the chicken breasts until they are about 1/2" thick and then slice into 3 to 5 pieces depending on the size of the chicken breast. Dredge chicken in flour and then brown in hot oil in a frying pan. (You don't have to cook the meat through, just brown it to make it look nice and pretty.) Set aside.

Put the two cups minute rice in a 13x9" baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour this mixture over the rice and stir to mix it up well. Place the chicken on top of the rice mixture and sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. This should probably serve 6 people.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Crock Pot Squash

I wanted squash with our Sunday dinner, but didn't want it to over cook or burn while we were at church, so I used the crock pot and it worked wonderfully!

1 butternut or acorn squash
aluminum foil
maple syrup, brown sugar, or sugar and cinnamon

Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Wrap each half in foil.  Place in crockpot, and fill crockpot with 1" of water.  Cover crockpot with lid and cook on Low for 7-8 hours (we cooked it on high for 2 hours and then turned to low for 4 hours, and it was cooked to perfection when we got home from church).  Remove squash from cooker and allow to cool until you can handle it.  Scoop out flesh.  Dot with butter and drizzle with maple syrup or sprinkle with brown or granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Layered Chicken Cordon Bleu

This is a great recipe for Sunday dinner, since it cooks slowly in a crockpot.  The chicken is moist and flavorful.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 lb. deli-sliced cooked ham
1/2 lb. baby Swiss cheese, sliced
10 3/4-oz. can cream of chicken soup
1 box dry stuffing mix, prepared according to box directions (actually, if I were to make this again, I would use less liquid than called for, because my crockpot lid has a rubber seal and retains moisture really well)

Layer all ingredients in the order they are listed into your slow cooker.  Cover and cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender but not dry (6 hours was plenty).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mounds Pudding

This recipe is actually called “Toasted Coconut Pudding” in Quick Cooking. However, the chocolate and coconut make me think of Mounds candy bars—so that’s what I’m choosing to call it. The pudding is a cinch to whip up. I made the pudding while Joshua made us a pasta salad for lunch today. The pudding had set up just right in time for dessert.

Mounds Pudding

Recipe Source: Quick Cooking Annual Recipes 2003

½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt (if desired--I like to add it but the recipe doesn't call for it)
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (this time I used 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon coconut extract)
¾ cup flaked coconut (toasted if desired)
¾ cup miniature chocolate chips

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch (and pinch of salt if desired). Stir in milk and egg yolks until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; add butter and vanilla (and/or coconut extract if desired).

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons each of coconut and chips into dessert dishes. Top with pudding mixture and remaining coconut and chips. Serve warm or refrigerate until serving.

Yield: 6 servings.

Brownie Molasses Ginger Cookies

Here’s what you get when you cross a brownie with a gingersnap! None of us could believe how delicious these cookies turned out. I doubled the recipe so we would have enough to give away for neighborhood “spooks.” However, Bart absolutely refused to allow us to give any away—especially anonymously. He said these are the best cookies he’s had in a long time, and apparently I don’t have the best record of repeating some of his favorite recipes. Thus, he wanted to make sure he would have them on hand for a while. (P.S. We bought some refrigerated Halloween cookie dough and wrapped it up with decorative ribbons to give away as neighborhood spooks instead.)

Brownie Molasses Ginger Cookies

Recipe Source: The Brownie Lover’s Bible (by Lisa Slater)

2 oz (56 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (plus more for folding in—see below)
2 oz (56 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ cup (115 g) butter
1 cup (220 g) brown sugar
¼ cup (3 oz) molasses
1 egg
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
6 oz (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup finely diced candied ginger
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolates (2 oz amounts) in a small bowl over a pot of simmering water. Set aside. (Note: I try to remember that chocolate melts easily at body temperature. This helps me to keep the water at a LOW temperature so the chocolate doesn’t burn. You really don’t need much heat at all to melt chocolate—just allow it some time.)

In an electric mixer set on low speed, beat together the butter and brown sugar until combined, scraping the sides and bottom from time to time.

Add the melted chocolates and molasses and mix until combined.

Add the egg and mix until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low until combined. The dough will be soft.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, scrape the paddle and fold in the chopped chocolate and grated and candied ginger.

Mi the sugar with the cinnamon in a bowl.

Using a small scoop or tablespoon, portion blobs of dough and roll into a ball using your hands. Drop a few balls in the cinnamon sugar and roll them to coat completely.

Place the balls on the cookie sheet and set them at least 3 inches apart from one another. You’ll be able to fit 12 per sheet.

Use the palm of your hand (or insert from a food processor) to gently press the balls to half their original height.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until they spread. Because the cookies are dark, it is hard to tell when they are done. The edges will be crisp, but the centers will still appear soft. The longer you bake them, the crispier they will be. (If you like them chewy—you might want to begin checking them at 7 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and let sit on the cookie sheet until they are firm enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Yield: about 36 cookies.

Brown Sugar Oat Muffins

These muffins taste just like a delicious bowl of brown-sugar sweetened oatmeal but with the texture of a muffin!

Brown Sugar Oat Muffins

Recipe Source: The Taste of Home Cookbook

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine the oats, flours, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 400°F for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 1 dozen.

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Scrumpets

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Scrumpets

Recipe Source: Quaker Breads, Cookies, Muffins, Snacks & More

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick or old fashioned oats, uncooked
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into pieces
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup (4 ¾ oz) creamy peanut butter
½ cup (6 oz) honey
½ cup (4 oz) milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup (3 oz) honey
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 2 tablespoons warm water

Heat oven to 375°F. For scrumpets, combine flour, oats, and baking powder in large bowl; mix well. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chocolate chips. Cmbine peanut butter, honey, milk, egg and vanilla in medium bowl using wire whisk or fork; blend well. Add to oat mixture all at once; stir with fork just until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not overmix.)

For each scrumpet, drop 2 heaping tablespoons dough in mounds 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks; cool 5 minutes.

For glaze, combine honey, cocoa and enough water to make pourable mixture in small bowl; blend well. Drizzle over scrumpets. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 16 scrumpets.

Sweet Carrot-Cranberry Muffins

I found this recipe while looking for ways to use up some of the many carrots we got from our garden this year. We all thought these muffins were incredibly delicious!

Sweet Carrot-Cranberry Muffins

Recipe Source: The Williams Sonoma Baking Book

4 large eggs
¾ cup (6 fl oz) canola oil
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups (14 oz) sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 cups (15 oz) shredded carrots (3-4 carrots—I recommend finely grating them)
¾ cup (3 oz) dried cranberries or ¾ cup (4 ½ oz) golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 14 standard muffin cups with Baker’s Joy; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Beat vigorously with a whisk until smooth and slightly thickened, about 1minute. In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture and beat just until smooth, about 20 strokes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the carrots and cranberries just until combined.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it three-fourths full.

Bake the muffins until golden, dry, and springy to the touch, 18-23 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the muffins cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

If you still have some garden-fresh tomatoes, this is a great use for them! We love this salad. It is so delicious and filling that we prefer to serve it as a main-dish.


Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis (Everyday Italian)

• 6-9 ripe tomatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds total), cored and scored on the bottom
• 12 ounces ciabatta or other country-style white bread, 2 to3 days old
• 2/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• ¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
• ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
• ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil, plus whole springs for garnish
• 1/4 cup drained capers
• 1 cup drained roasted red bell pepper strips
• 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved lengthwise


Submerge the tomatoes into a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water to cool slightly. Using a small sharp paring knife, peel off the tomato skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Cut the crusts off of the bread (we actually prefer to leave the crusts on the bread—it makes for a more chewy salad). Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch cubes. In a large bowl, whisk 2/3 cup of the olive oil, 1/4 cup of vinegar, garlic, and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper to blend. Add the bread cubes, tomatoes, and sliced basil, and toss to combine. Set aside until the bread absorbs the vinaigrette, tossing occasionally, about 5minutes. Season the salad with more salt and pepper to taste.

Soak the capers in 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a small bowl for 10 minutes. Drain. In another small bowl toss the roasted peppers with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the peppers with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Transfer half of the bread mixture to a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass dish. Arrange half of the roasted peppers, drained capers, and olives over the bread mixture. Repeat layering with the remaining bread mixture, then the remaining roasted peppers, capers, and olives. Cover the salad and let stand at room temperature for flavors to blend, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the salad (if desired). Garnish with the basil sprigs and serve.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dinner for a Friend

Today was the first day of my baby gift to a friend -- one meal a week for four weeks. This is what I fixed for her family (and my family). In addition to these foods I also took some frozen corn from Mom and Dad's garden that I did this year. These recipes are all from Taste of Home or Quick Cooking.

Italian Mini Loaves

* 2 to 2-1/4 cups bread flour
* 4-1/2 teaspoons sugar
* 1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
* 1 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1/4 cup water
* 2 tablespoons butter, divided
* 1 egg
* 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour, sugar, yeast, garlic salt, Italian seasoning and parsley. In a saucepan, heat milk, water and 1 tablespoon butter to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough; beat until smooth.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds; shape into loaves. Place in three greased 5-3/4-in. x 3-in. x 2-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
Melt remaining butter; brush over dough. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks. Yield: 3 loaves (4 slices each).

Sausage Pasta Sauce
This one has a little bit of a kick, so it doesn't taste like a regular spaghetti sauce. But it is yummy, and the veggies are all blended up, so you just have the chunks of the sausage in the sauce.

* 2 pounds bulk Italian sausage
* 2 medium onions, chopped
* 2 medium sweet red peppers, chopped
* 2 medium green peppers, chopped
* 6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 cans (29 ounces each) tomato sauce
* 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) Italian stewed tomatoes, drained
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 4 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1 teaspoon pepper
* 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1-1/2 pounds uncooked bow tie pasta
* 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
* Shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain and set aside. In a Dutch oven, saute the onions, peppers and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce, tomatoes, brown sugar and seasonings.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a blender, process tomato mixture in batches until smooth. Return to the pan. Add sausage; heat through. Gradually stir in cream. Cook and stir over low heat for 5 minutes. Drain pasta; top with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 12 servings.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart

I used Kendra's chocolate chip cookie recipe today and just measured out 18 ounces to put in the pan. I'm thinking this could also be made in a pie pan for those people who don't have a springform pan.

* 1 tube (18 ounces) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
* 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
* 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
* 1 tablespoon butter, softened
* 2 cups confectioners' sugar
* 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Press cookie dough onto the bottom of an ungreased 9-in. springform pan. Bake at 350° for 20-24 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and butter until smooth. Beat in confectioners' sugar. Place crust on a serving plate. Spread cream cheese mixture over crust to within 1/2 in. of edge. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Salad

Chicken Cordon Bleu Salad

1 pound fingerling or small yukon gold potatoes, quartered lengthwise
Salt and pepper
2 chicken cutlets (4 ounces each)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
1/2 pound 1/2-inch-thick ham steak
1 large shallot
1/4 cup grainy dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/3 pound thick deli-sliced swiss cheese
1 celery root, peeled and cut into matchsticks (or use 2 stalks of celery, sliced on the diagonal)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 bunch watercress, trimmed
1 baguette, warmed, for serving
Butter, for serving


1.In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Rinse under cold water; drain well.

Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat a drizzle of EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the cutlets and cook, turning once, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the ham steak to the skillet and cook, turning once, until browned, about 5 minutes.

While the meats cook, grate the shallot into the bottom of a large salad bowl. Whisk in the mustard, vinegar and honey, then whisk in 1/3 cup EVOO. Season with the thyme, salt and pepper.

Cut the chicken, ham and swiss cheese into thin strips and add to the dressing. Add the celery root, carrots and potatoes. Toss to coat well. Divide the salad among plates garnished with the watercress leaves. Serve with the baguette and butter.

Recipe Source: Rachael Ray

Saturday, October 9, 2010

French Toast Fingers

"Why buy French toast sticks when you can make your own at home for less?  These are great for a breakfast buffet... and kids love 'em!" (Taste of Home)

French Toast Fingers
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
8 slices day-old white bread
confectioners' sugar, optional

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk; set aside.  Spread preserves thinly on four slices of bread; top with the remaining bread.  Trim crusts; cut each sandwich into three strips.  Dip both sides in egg mixture.  Cook on a lightly greased hot griddle for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.  Yield:  4 servings

Wilson's Preferences:  We (well, everyone except Jesse) LOVE peanut butter on French toast.  The consensus was that these would be better with a thin layer of jam AND peanut butter!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ande's Mint Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 pkg. semi sweet chocolate chips

Heat ingredients in a small saucepan until chocolate chips are melted, then add:

2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Shape rounded tablespoons into balls and place onto a cookie sheet. Lightly press to flatten the balls. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. Immediately upon removal from the oven, place an Ande's Mint onto each cookie. When the melt smooth the chocolate evenly over the cookie. Let cookie cool completely before serving.

Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 c. shortening
1 1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. milk

(Beat until creamed and then add:)

3 c. quick oats
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix at low speed just until blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes

Feel free to add in any mix-ins you want (chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc.)

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Last month when I was away at Sisters' Weekend, Jesse broke our blender.  It really wasn't Jesse's fault.  We just haven't had good luck with blenders.  We loved the Kitchen Aid one Mom and Dad gave us, but it broke awhile ago and we replaced it with a cheap Wal-mart blender.  So this time I did more research.  I finally decided on another Kitchen Aid.  I got a re-furbished one from Overstock. The original one sells for $140; I got the refurbished one for $65.  It comes with a poly-carbonate pitcher, which is light-weight and easier to handle than a glass pitcher.  And the blades come attached to the pitcher; it's all one piece.  My neighbors had one like this and loved it, and the blender had a 5-star rating.  And the pitcher is 56 oz, which is bigger than most blender pitchers.

Anyway, since I got a new blender, I had to try a new recipe.  And it's a keeper for sure.  I would never have thought of adding buttermilk to a smoothie, but I loved the depth of flavor it added.  I don't know if it was the buttermilk or the blender, but the smoothie was very smooth, just like a smoothie should be!  I think this recipe could be very versatile.  Just think of the possibilities:  raspberry/peach, blueberry/peach, etc.  I'm sure you could come up with a favorite fruit smoothie!

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup frozen unsweetened sliced strawberries
1 cup milk
3 medium bananas, broken into quarters
3 T. orange marmalade (I didn't have this ingredient, so I added 3 T. sugar)

Place ingredients in pitcher of blender.  Cover and blend at LIQUIFY 15-20 seconds, or until smooth.  Makes 5 servings (1 cup each), 170 cal per serving.

Note:  When I read the instructions to blend for only 15-20 seconds, I thought, "Yeah, right."  Guess what?  It really worked!  My smoothie was done in 15 seconds!  So far I LOVE my new blender!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Heavenly Chocolate Cheeesecake

I made the original recipe on Sunday, and after making the Pumpkin Cheesecake today, I knew how I would change this recipe to make it like I really like cheesecake... very thick and creamy, with cream cheese being the star... not the other ingredients.  So here's how I will make it when I make it again.

Heavenly Chocolate Cheesecake (Teresa's version) -- not yet tested
1 3/4 cup finely crushed chocolate cookies
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
10 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Brush inside of a 10" springform pan with melted butter and chill.  Add remaining butter to cookie crumbs.  Stir until all crumbs are moistened.  Press crumb mixture even over bottom of pan.  Chill until firm, approximately 30-60 minutes.  Meanwhile, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth.  Stir in melted chocolate.  Pour filling onto crust and bake until sides are set but center is still soft (original recipe said 50-60 minutes; but I lowered the temperature and thickened the cheesecake, so I think it will be more like 1 hour 30 minutes).  Turn off oven and leave cake inside until cool.  Refrigerate 4 hours before serving.

What I changed:  The original recipe called for only 2 packages of cheesecake, but it made for a very thin (only about 1" thick) cheesecake.  Also, I thought it was too chocolately (I know you're shocked to hear that from me).  I wanted it to be more like a chocolate mousse flavor, so I didn't change the amount of chocolate even though I doubled the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

Betty Crocker's Pumpkin Cheesecake

Oh, my!  This was REALLY good chicken!  The cheesecake is light and creamy.  I love how the pumpkin makes it not quite so rich, so you can have a bigger piece!

By the way, I knew that Jesse had a big birthday lunch at work, so when he got home, I took Valerie's advice and only served dessert!  Now that's how you celebrate a birthday!  Happy Birthday, my handsome man!

Pumpkin Cheesecake
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 24 squares) -- I used crushed vanilla wafers and eliminated the sugar; ginger snaps would have been divine, too!
2 T. granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted (I used 5 T., which I thought was plenty)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
4 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9" springform pan with shortening.  In small bowl, mix crust ingredients. Press crust softly in bottom of pan.  Wrap foil around outside of pan to prevent drips.  Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In another small bowl, mix flour, pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin; set aside.  In large bowl, beat cream cheese with mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Gradually beat in brown sugar and 2/3 cup granulated sugar until smooth.  On low speed, beat in 1 egg at a time just until blended.  Gradually beat in pumpkin mixture until smooth.

Pour filling over crust.  Bake 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes (mine should have baked at least another 10 minutes, so 1 hour 35 minutes) or until set but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved (I think it means very slightly jiggles; mine jiggled a little more than slightly, and when I cut into the cheesecake, it wasn't quite done in the very center).  Turn oven off; open oven door at least 4 inches.  Let cheesecake remain in oven 30 minutes.

Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake.  Cool in pan on wire rack 30 minutes.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.  To serve, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake.  Carefully remove side of pan before cutting cheesecake.  Store covered in refrigerator.

ps - I wish I would have used the waterbath method and maybe the cheesecake wouldn't have cracked down the middle.  You can read about how to do a waterbath here.