December 27, 2010

Corn Pudding

When I think of pudding, I think of rich warm homemade chocolate pudding. That's because I have a one-track dessert-focused mind. This corn pudding at least gave my mind a delicious detour to associate with the word "pudding."

I have had this recipe marked for several years and finally made it for Christmas dinner. It was delicious! It has a nice texture and excellent flavor. This shall be repeated in the future.

Corn Pudding
3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
1 large egg
1 large egg white
6 Tbsp. oyster crackers, crushed
3 Tbsp. cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine 1 cup corn and 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. evaporated milk in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Combine remaining milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg and egg white in a large bowl. Stir in pureed corn mixture, remaining 2 cups corn, 3 Tbsp. crackers and cornmeal.

Spoon mixture into a greased 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Combine remaining 3 Tbsp. cracker crumbs and melted butter together. Sprinkle evenly over dish. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

Hot Mulled Wine

This was one of our Christmas beverages, and it's simple to throw together. I even made my own Mulling Spices.

Hot Mulled Wine
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1 bottle dry red wine
1 satchel Mulling Spices

Combine ingredients together in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook 20 minutes. Remove satchel. Serve warm. Serves 6.

Mulling Spices

This is a simple recipe to throw together and can then be used in a variety of recipes. I made one set of spices as a gift and used another for Hot Mulled Wine.

Mulling Spices
2 tsp. whole allspice
1/4 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick-broken in half
1 (3 x1-inch) strip orange rind

Combine ingredients together in cheesecloth satchel (or the highly sophisticated coffee filter method).

Spanish Hot Chocolate

One of the many things I miss from Spain is the hot chocolate. I would often get a mug of chocolate after my classes, savoring the rich drink that was literally thick enough to eat with a spoon. This recipe replicates the flavor but is not quite as thick. I think I could adjust the thickness by adding more instant pudding, which I'll have to try in the future.

Spanish Hot Chocolate
1 1/2 cups milk
4 oz. dark cooking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp. vanilla instant pudding

Warm 3/4 cup milk in non-reactive pan over low heat. Add the chocolate, and stir until all the chocolate is melted.

In separate container, mix the remaining milk and vanilla pudding until blended. Add to the warm milk chocolate mixture, stirring until drink is thick. Do not let it come to a boil, and continuously stir. Remove from heat when thick, and whisk until frothy.

December 24, 2010


This was the other bread I selected for our Christmas breakfast. The original recipe called for 1/2 cup golden raisins and 1/2 cup glace cherries (halved). Since the cherries grossed me out in the grocery store, I opted for pomegranate-flavored dried cranberries to replace both items. (I didn't feel like buying golden raisins just for this.)

2 tsp. yeast
3 eggs plus scalded milk to equal 1 1/3 cups
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup wheat flour
3 cups bread flour
1 cup pomegranate-flavored cranberries
1/2 cup silvered almonds

Warm the eggs under hot tap water, and crack into a measuring cup. Cool the milk until warm, and add to eggs. Add yeast. Let stand 5 minutes. Add the salt, cardamom, sugar, butter, wheat flour and half the bread flour. Beat well. Cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

Knead in remaining bread flour until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl, and dough is soft and springy. Cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Shape dough into a round loaf (or a Christmas tree pan if you desire). Cover, and let stand until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Glaze loaf with egg wash. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the loaf is evenly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Optional: Glaze bread with powdered sugar glaze if desired.

Sesame-Soy Meatballs

This was the first time I ever made meatballs, which is somewhat surprising given how much I enjoy meatballs. Despite all the grease that accumulates during the cooking process, the meatballs are not greasy. They have a nice flavor, not overly spicy or salty. If you like spicier foods, you could increase the chile paste. They went well with seasoned couscous.

Sesame-Soy Meatballs
1/3 cup minced green onion
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp. chile paste
1/4 tsp. salt
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground sirloin

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Combine first seven ingredients together, and then mix in the beef. Shape mixture into 20 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs 4 minutes, stirring to brown all sides. (You may have to divide the meatballs into smaller batches, depending on your pan size.)

Arrange browned meatballs in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake for 7 minutes or until done. Yield: 4 servings of 5 meatballs each

Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread)

Although we haven't tried this bread yet, it's waiting in the freezer for us to get around to eating it. The loaf turned out well, a nice large round loaf that looks quite tempting. (It's not uncommon for me to freeze bread immediately after baking it if we have other bread out that we're eating.)

Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread)
2 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cornmeal
2 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Sprinkle yeast into milk, and let stand 5 minutes. Add the water. In separate bowl, combine cornmeal, flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour, and add the wet ingredients (yeast mixture and olive oil). Knead until a firm, moist, elastic dough develops.

Cover dough, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, and then let rest 10 minutes.

Shape dough into a round loaf. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Sprinkle loaf with cornmeal. Bake 45 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Brandied Cherry Cupcakes

I regularly follow the Cupcake Project, and that's where I discovered the idea to ship cupcakes in jars. I also was intrigued by her Brandied Cherry Cupcakes, which I made for Christmas.

I cannot explain why these cupcakes are blue, but they appear to be blueberry or blue-food coloring tinted, which I assure you they are not. They are pretty delicious, though. For my frosting, I just combined butter, powdered sugar and some extra cherry juice I had on hand. (P.S. This is the frosting I taught my goddaughter to eat straight from the piping bag by tilting her head back and saying "Aaaahhh!")

Brandied Cherry Cupcakes

2 15-ounce cans of cherries in heavy syrup
½ cup brandy

Combine ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low.
Simmer for fifteen minutes.

Use a sieve to strain out the cherries. Reserve both the syrup and cherries.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
Brandied cherry syrup from above
Brandied cherries from above

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

In another medium-sized bowl, beat butter, sugar, and honey until well combined. Beat eggs and milk into the butter mixture. Alternately fold the flour mixture and 2/3 cup of the cherry syrup into the wet ingredients. Fold in all of the brandied cherries.

Fill cupcake liners approximately 2/3 full. (I used 24 regular size and 6-9 mini ones for the extra batter.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Cool completely on wire racks, and then frost.

Rustic Cabbage Soup

This was my method of using the head of cabbage I purchased, and I think I would have been better off just pan frying the cabbage for my family. The soup is really garlicky, like a garlic broth. Maybe if my beans would have been fully cooked, I would be more impressed.

Rustic Cabbage Soup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Pinch of salt
1/2 lb. potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
5 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups white beans, pre-cooked
1/2 medium cabbage, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons

Heat olive oil in large pot, and stir in salt and potatoes. Cover, and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook for another couple minutes. Add the stock and the beans, and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage, and cook until the cabbage is the desired texture. Serve drizzled with Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

December 23, 2010

Cheesy Potatoes

This is a family recipe from my mother-in-law. It's a favorite through the year and is especially popular during the holidays. This year, we're introducing my family to Cheesy Potatoes.

Cheesy Potatoes
2 lb. shredded hashbrowns
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup melted butter
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups grated cheese
Crushed cornflakes to top

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix first eight ingredients together, and spread evenly into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Top with cornflakes. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, until cornflakes are golden and potatoes are hot.

Chocolate, Cherry & Hazelnut Biscotti

It's been a long time since I've made biscotti, and I nearly forgot how delicious those crunchy little tidbits are! This is a version with chocolate, wine-soaked cherries and hazelnuts, which is a good combination.Chocolate, Cherry & Hazelnut Biscotti
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup port or sweet wine
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and bake until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring once. Turn nuts onto a towel, and roll up towel to rub off the skins. Chop the nuts.

Microwave wine for one minute, and then add the cherries. Let stand for 30 minutes, and then drain well.

Place sugar and chocolate in a food processor, and process until chocolate is finely ground.

Place vanilla, egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium until well blended. Add sugar/chocolate mixture, and beat one minute.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually mix in flour mixture, beating until just blended. Add in hazelnuts and drained cherries. (Dough will be very crumbly.)

Turn dough out, and knead several times. Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape each into an 8-inch roll. Place rolls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and pat each roll to a 1-inch thickness. Bake at 350
ºF for 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks.

Reduce oven to 325

Cut each roll diagonally into 12 slices. Place, cut sides down, the cookies on the cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Flip cookies, and bake another 10 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Yield: 24 biscotti

Chocolate Babka

This recipe caught my eye immediately, but I waited until now to prepare it for Christmas morning breakfast. My favorite part of the bread now is how you can't tell from the outside that the loaf is swirled with delicious chocolate. (I'm pretty sure my favorite part after I taste it will be the chocolaty richness of the bread.)

P.S. This bread is amazing and looks so intriguing on the inside!

Chocolate Babka
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
6 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
5 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter, softened

Dissolve 1 tsp. sugar and yeast in warm milk for five minutes. Combine remaining sugar, vanilla, salt, egg yolk and yeast mixture in mixing bowl. Add 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour and all of the bread flour, beating with the dough hook until well blended. Add butter, beating until well blended.

Knead dough until smooth and elastic, adding remaining flour gradually as needed to prevent dough from sticking. Cover dough, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough, and let rest 5 minutes. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5 pan with parchment paper, and spray the sides with non-stick spray. Combine filling ingredients together.

Place dough on generously floured surface. Roll dough into a 16-inch square. Sprinkle filling on dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border on all sides. Roll up jelly-roll style, pinching seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough four times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan, twisting dough to fit into pan. Cover, and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare streusel by combining those ingredients together to form coarse crumbs. Sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned and sounds hollow. Cool in pan 10 minutes, and then cool completely on wire rack. Yield: 16 servings.

Poolish-Style Pre-Ferment

This is a very moist sponge or starter for delicious wonderful breads.

Poolish-Style Pre-Ferment
4 cups flour
4 cups cool water
1/4 tsp. yeast

Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat or whisk together until well mixed and smooth, about 1 minute.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until frothy and bubbly, about 3 to 5 hours.

Make sure the poolish is tightly covered, and refrigerate overnight.

You can use for baking (or freeze any extra for future baking) the next day.

Sweet Rustic Bread

Although this is called Sweet Rustic Bread, it is not the type of sweet bread you think of when you imagine banana bread or other dessert-like breads. This is a complex flavor that tinges more toward sweet than savory, but it comes in the form of a crusty, chewy bread.

Sweet Rustic Bread
2 cups poolish-style sponge
4 1/2 cups bread flour
5 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup cool water

Measure the refrigerated poolish, and let stand at room temperature one hour to remove the chill.

Combine all ingredients using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.

Mix on slow speed 1 minute, and then switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium for 8 minutes. You may have to scrape the sides once or twice. The dough is very batterlike and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until it is 1 1/2 times its original size, about 3 hours.

The dough should be slightly stiffer at this point. Scrape it onto a heavily floured surface, coating your hands in flour as well. Knead the dough gently for a few seconds. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for another hour.

Prepare three baking pans by covering them with parchment paper and then sprinkling them with semolina or flour.

Fold and knead the dough gently for a few seconds. Pat the dough into a thick disk, about 6 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 6 to 8 wedges with a knife. Keeping your hands floured, transfer the wedges to the baking sheets. Make sure there is plenty of space between each piece, and do not stretch the pieces. Mist the tops of the dough with cooking spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand for 2 hours at room temperature or until the pieces increase to about 1 1/2 times their original size. Refrigerate them overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake. The dough should be double the original size.

Preheat oven to 475ºF. Place empty cast iron skillet on bottom rack of oven. Fill a water bottle to spritz loaves. Place loaves in oven, and quickly pour 2 cups hot tap water into cast iron pan. Quickly spritz the oven and loaves, avoiding the oven light.

After two minutes, spray the oven and loaves again. After 5 minutes, reduce heat to 425
ºF. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, and then rotate loaves in the oven. Continue baking another 10 minutes. Loaves are done when golden brown with an internal temperature of 205 to 210ºF. Cool bread completely before eating.

Pate Fermentee

Ah, nothing like the word "ferment" in a recipe to make it sound appealing. Of course, all yeast breads ferment, which develops the variety of wonderful flavors. This is a starter for a variety of breads.

Pate Fermentee
1 3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yeast
1 1/4 cups cool water

Combine the flours, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the water, and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Knead the dough vigorously until it is soft, pliable and tacky but not sticky. Knead in a few extra drops of flour or water as needed to obtain this consistency. The dough is fully kneaded when it is between 77 to 80 degrees (feels neither warm nor cool to the touch).

Place the dough in a large clean bowl misted with cooking spray. Mist the dough itself lightly with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap, and let dough rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Knead the dough for 30 seconds, form it into a ball, and re-cover the bowl the plastic.

Place the bowl into the refrigerator, and retard the pre-ferment overnight. It is ready to use the next day and may be frozen at this stage.

Fan Tans

These are decorative buttermilk rolls, which have a good flavor. They are fun to eat because you can pull the roll into different sections by separating the fan pieces. These were the second roll I made for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Fan Tans
2 tsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. buttermilk
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast and sugar into the buttermilk. Let stand 5 minutes to dissolve. Meanwhile, mix flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Create a well in the center, and pour in 2 Tbsp. melted butter and dissolved yeast mixture.

Mix until a soft dough forms. Knead until smooth, elastic and glossy. Cover the dough, and let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Punch down, and let rest 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a rectangle, 12 x 20 x 1/2 inch. Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter. Use a sharp knife to cut the buttered dough into seven strips, each about 1 3/4 inches wide. Place the strips in a vertical stack. Then cut the stack into eight equal sections or pieces.

With each of the eight pieces, pinch one side together to form the bottom of the roll. Place the pinched side facing down into a buttered muffin tin. Use your fingers to separate the top of the roll to fan out the pieces. Cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden. Turn onto wire rack to cool slightly, but serve while still warm.

Partybrot (German Party Bread)

This was one of the rolls I created for Thanksgiving dinner with my family. It is made with a traditional Parker House Roll recipe, but is shaped and baked differently. These rolls were good, nice and soft with a crustier top and sides.

Partybrot (German Party Bread)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
Egg glaze (1 egg yolk & 1 Tbsp. milk)
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Sprinkle the yeast into 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk. Let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the remaining milk in a saucepan with the butter and sugar. Stir until the butter melts. Cool until lukewarm, and then beat in the eggs until evenly combined.

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour the dissolved yeast mixture into there. Mix in the flour to form a soft, sticky dough.

Knead the dough until smooth, shiny and elastic, kneading in extra flour 1 Tbsp. at a time if the dough is too sticky. The dough should be soft, not dry, so do not add too much flour.

Put the dough in a buttered bowl, and cover with a dish towel until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down, and let rest 10 minutes.

Divide dough into 19 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball. Grease a cake or springform pan (about 9 1/2 inches in diameter) with melted butter. Arrange rolls into the greased pan. Cover with a dish towel, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Brush the top of the rolls with the egg glaze, and sprinkle with seeds. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding. Turn onto a wire rack to cool slightly, and then wrap in a dish towel to keep warm. Serve immediately.

Scots Baps

These are incredibly soft breads, heavily dusted with flour prior to baking, which gives them a neat appearance. They are delicious slathered with butter while still warm. Then again, what isn't?

Scots Baps
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
3/4 cup water
2 tsp. dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. milk to glaze

Combine milk and water together. Take 1/2 cup of the liquid in a small dish, and sprinkle with yeast and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour in the dissolved yeast. Mix in the flour. Stir in the reserved milk/water mixture as needed to form a sticky dough. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

Cover the dough, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down, and let dough rest 10 minutes. Then divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a flat oval, about 1/2-inch thick. Place on a floured baking sheet. Brush each bap with milk, and sift with a heavy dusting of flour.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Proof, uncovered, until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes. Sift another dusting of flour onto the baps, and use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each bap. Bake 15-20 minutes until risen and golden. Cover with a dish towel 10 minutes, and cool on a wire rack.

December 19, 2010

Scotch Shortbread

I'm not sure why this is called Scotch Shortbread, as opposed to simply shortbread. It's my mother's recipe, and I love the buttery flavor of this simple recipe.

I made a double batch this year, since it does not create an obnoxious amount of cookies. (My double batch fit into one gallon bag. I created three variations this year, and I'll note my additions at the bottom of the posting.

Scotch Shortbread
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups sifted flour

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in flour. Chill several hours until firm.

Preheat oven to 300ºF. On ungreased cookie sheets, divide dough into halves. Shape each into a circle, 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick. Score with a fork or roll with a cookie cutter.

Bake 30 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Break apart and cool on wax paper.

Chocolate Shortbread
Add one package of hot cocoa mix to half of the dough. Knead in well prior to chilling dough.

Chai Shortbread
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves in amounts of 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. to half of dough. Knead in well prior to chilling dough.

Almond Cookies

By now you're wondering how many favorite Christmas cookies and candies my family has, right? This was one of my dad's favorite Christmas cookies, although I'm not sure who can resist the buttery nutty flavor of these cookies. If you have ground pecans instead, those will work as well. These cookies taste best chilled, in my opinion.

Almond Cookies
1 lb. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups ground almonds (1 lb)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 cups flour
Additional powdered sugar to coat

Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla, lemon extract, almonds and flour, blending well. Chill dough at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Form dough into small crescents, and place on buttered cookie sheets. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are starting to brown. Carefully remove cookies from sheet, and gently roll in powdered sugar to coat. The trick is to get the cookies coated while they are still warm enough that the sugar sticks without breaking the fragile cookies. Do not place cookies touching each other, or they will stick together.

Cool completely on wax paper.

Peanut Butter Balls

This was the favorite holiday candy in my household and continues to be requested each year. This is my family's tried-and-true peanut butter ball recipe. Why mess with such a good thing?

Peanut Butter Balls
4 cups crunchy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
Chocolate to coat

Combine all ingredients together. Chill for several hours until firm. Shape into balls. Chill again to help them hold their shape ... and because your hands need a break. Dip balls into melted chocolate to coat them completely. Place on lined cookie sheets to chill.

Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks until they are gone!

Spritz Cookies

This has been a holiday staple in my family for as long as I can remember. The favorite was always the green Christmas trees, but I like to have a variety of colors and shapes. You'll need a cookie press for these, but they're extremely easy to make.

(I remember my husband being intimidated by my mom's electric cookie press when we were dating. Now I have a squeeze-gun version, which I think would be less scary for a newcomer to the world of pressed cookies.)

Spritz Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
4 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. milk

Thoroughly cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract. Beat until smooth.

In separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Gradually add this to the butter mixture. Beat in milk until dough is smooth.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Divide dough into portions, and use different food colors for each portion. Press dough through cookie press to create desired shapes onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7 to 8 minutes until edges begin to brown.

Cool for one minute on cookie sheets, and then cool completely on newspaper (lined with wax paper). Makes 5 dozen (little) cookies.

Spiced Vanilla Cookies

Lately I've tried at least one new recipe each Christmas season, and this year was no exception. After all, I have so many recipes flagged to try that I'm not sure how I'll ever get through them all. This year, I tried Spiced Vanilla Cookies.

These cookies are crisp and flavorful. They also contain less butter than most of my holiday creations, ranking them as the "healthiest" cookie I have. (Although I will always try to justify my chocolate-covered raisins because they are fruit!) They're good, but they probably will not become a regular in my holiday repertoire.

Spiced Vanilla Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 egg white

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together. In mixing bowl, combine sugar, butter and oil on medium speed until smooth. Add syrup, vanilla and egg white to sugar mixture, beating until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until just combined. Divide dough in two portions, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill dough for one hour.

Working with one portion at a time, press dough into a 4-inch square between sheets of wax paper or heavy-duty plastic wrap. Roll dough to 1/16-inch thickness while still covered. Place dough in freezer for 30 minutes. Repeat with second portion of dough.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Working again with one portion of dough at a time, cut dough into 2-inch round circles. Place cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 5 minutes, and then cool completely on wire rack. Makes approximately 44 cookies.

Chocolate Peppermint Cakes (in Jars)

After I saw a posting about cupcakes in jars at Cupcake Project, I had to try it for myself especially with Christmas right around the corner. I bought all ingredients for the featured cupcake before I realized the cupcakes must be eaten within two days, which wouldn't work so well for mailing them to grandparents in Texas and Michigan. So, I created a chocolate peppermint cupcake recipe instead. (Don't worry, the Brandied Cherry recipe should be coming after Christmas!)

The cupcakes were moist with sticky bits of crushed candy cane. The frosting was delicious, although I can't give you an exact recipe. Unless I'm duplicating a recipe exactly, I usually combine powdered sugar and butter until it tastes good, temper it with milk and my extract of choice. Use your favorite buttercream recipe spiked with peppermint extract, and you'll be fine!

Chocolate Peppermint Cakes (in Jars)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups water
3 candy canes, crushed

Grease a combination of half-pint mason jars or cupcake tins, totaling approximately 24 to 30 cupcake depositories. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium/high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, beating until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg. Beat in chocolate and vanilla.

Add portion of flour mixture, alternated with portion of water, beating on low after each addition until just combined. Continue alternating until both flour mixture and water are mixed into the batter. Stir in the crushed candy canes.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake tins and jars. Note: these cupcakes rise fairly well, so only fill jars 1/3 full. You'll want room for your cupcake and frosting!

Bake for 20 minutes, and then check cupcakes. Continue baking until a toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean. (Depending on the size of your cupcakes, they may take quite a bit longer.)

Cool cupcakes on wire rack. Frost. Share!


This recipe is extremely simple to make, as long as you have the patience to wait for it to steep several weeks. The final product is deliciously potent and keeps well in the freezer or refrigerator for a year ... but doubt you'll be able to make it last that long!

Note: We started with limoncello, but then we swapped out the lemons for limes to make limecello as well as oranges for orangecello. I personally don't have a favorite variety, but somehow the limecello seems to taste the strongest of our varieties.

4 cups vodka
1/2 cup lemon rind strips (about 7 lemons)
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine vodka and rind in a bowl. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 2 weeks. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, and discard solids.

Combine water and sugar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Add to the vodka mix. Stir to combine. Store in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator or freezer as it tastes best served chilled.

December 2, 2010

Almond-Stuffed Chicken

For the second consecutive post, the recipe didn't turn out exactly as I hoped. This chicken flavor was good, but perhaps my chicken breast was thicker than the recipe expected. It took much longer for my chicken to fully cook, to the point my chicken was much darker than a nice golden brown.

Almond-Stuffed Chicken
1/3 cup light garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese
1/4 slivered almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
4 (6-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. better
1 1/2 tsp. butter

Combine cheese, almonds and parsley in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff 1 1/2 Tbsp. of cheese into each chicken breast, and close with a toothpick. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken to pan. Cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan, cover, and let rest 2 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

December 1, 2010

Rustic Grains & Honey Pecan Bread

This was a slightly frustrating bread for me because ... it didn't rise well. Every now and then, I end up with a dense bread that refuses to rise, no matter how much warmth I give it within our sometimes chilly house. For this reason, I had a bugger of a time incorporating the raisins and pecans, so I ended up with probably only a third of them mixed within the dough. The bread is still edible, just not nearly as good as I imagine it could be. I'm sure it's not the recipe but rather something goofed on the baker's end.
Rustic Grains & Honey Pecan Bread
2 tsp. yeast
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup toasted Rustic Grains mixture
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Heat the water until warm, between 105ºF and 115ºF. Pour into warmed mixing bowl, and add yeast. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add honey, butter, salt, rustic grains and half the bread flour. Beat well. Slowly add the remaining bread flour, and beat until a smooth dough forms. Cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

Knead the dough until soft and springy but soft to the touch. Gently knead in raisins and pecans. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Turn dough onto lightly greased or floured surface, and punch dough down. Shape into two round loaves. Place the loaves, seam side down, on the baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375
ºF. Glaze with egg wash. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden. Remove from cake pan, and cool on wire rack.