Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Cookies

I tried playing Martha Stewart this year and created the MS cookie box (I purchased the boxes at the craft store). I love the way you can make 4 separate sections and decided it would be really fun to fill each with a different kind of cookie. That way, people with allergies, preferences, health conditions, etc. would all be able to hopefully find a cookie they can enjoy. All recipes are already on this site. Below us here you will find (clockwise from upper left corner): oatmeal butterscotch cookies, vanilla and nutmeg merigues, blackberry amaretto thumbprints, and snowballs.

I'm really (REALLY) not a baker. Baking to me is like paint-by-number whereas cooking is like being able to draw whatever you want. Still, at Christmas, cookies seem the inexpensive and appropriate choice. Either way, these cookie recipes are already up on this site and each of them is quite quite simple. I couldn't have it any other way.

I am still amazed that people really read my posts. It makes me feel very blessed, and it also makes me feel like I might actually have something to contribute that isn't already out there. So thank you. And happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Not as good as oatmeal cinnamon chip, but still really really good.

  • 1.5 sticks butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla (used 2)
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups quick-cooking or regular rolled oats, uncooked
  • one 11oz package butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375.

Beat butter, sugar & brown sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs & vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon & salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well- blended.

Stir in oats & butterscotch chips; mix well.

Drop by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown (look out, they cook FAST).

Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blackberry Thumbprint Cookies

  • 3/4 cup grated almond paste (freeze it first so it's easier to grate)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg whilte
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • blackberry preserves (or raspberry or any other kind)

Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place first 3 ingredients in a bowl; beat with mixer 4 minutes. Add vanilla & egg white, beat well. Add flour and salt, beat at low speed till well blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press thumb into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 325 for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from pan & cool on wire racks.

Spoon 1/2 tsp jam into the center of each cookie.

Nutmeg Meringues

I've always wanted to try making meringues and the nutmeg intrigued me. They turned out really lovely and delicious and there are so many ways to vary them. Also, they're really low in fat (true, they're basically little sugar balls, but at least the fat isn't there).

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (or cinnamon, or ginger, or clove...)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300. Line a large cookie sheet w/ parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine egg whites, vanilla, nutmeg & cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up).

Transfer meringue to a pastry bag (or a ziplock with a small corner of the bag cut off and fit it with a pastry tip if you have one (but you don't need it). To make each cookie, pipe meringue into 1 1/2 inch shapes 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet (or use a spoon to drop meringue onto parchment).

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Turn off oven. Let meringues dry in the oven with the door closed for about 1 hour, until they are dry and crisp. Transfer to wire racks. Let cool.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

The irresistable mexican wedding cookie has many names and many origins. "Russian Tea Cakes", "Italian Wedding Cookies", "Snowdrops", "Snowballs", etc...

  • 2/3 cup toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts - I used walnuts)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Toast Nuts: Place nuts in a baking sheet & bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown & fragrant. Cool completely.

Once the nuts have cooled, place them, along with 2 tbsp of the flour into food processor & process until they're finely ground (but not a paste). Set aside.

Use hand mixer to cream the butter & sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in nuts.

Cover & refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or until firm.

Form dough into 1-inch balls and place them 2 9nches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool for only about 5 minutes.

Roll cookies in the remaining cup of powdered sugar until coated.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Banana Bread

Don't throw away those mushy nanners! I was making dinner tonight and noticed that there were 3 bananas left in the fruit bowl that were kind of beyond the peel'n'eat stage. I felt guilty and crappy because money is tight as hell and here we are wasting good produce and vitamins and junk like that. Then I remembered that you could use them to make banana bread. Or at least that's what I've been told. I've never made bread of any kind and generally avoid any kind of baking. But I looked up a recipe anyway and it turned out that we had all the necessary ingredients. So I made that joint.

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Spices (amounts are up to you but a little goes a long way): nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat sugar & butter.

Add eggs, bananas & water & beat until blended.

Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & spices (add all or just the ones you want, it's entirely to your taste). Mix until blended.

Stir in walnuts.

Pour into loaf pan (I used a souffle dish and it worked fine).

Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

This was so easy (and I suck at baking). It was also delicious. So next time your bananas are going bad, get crackin.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tuscan Carbonara

Carbonara is a little tricky to make because you're dealing with egg yolks and you don't want them to solidify, but remain part of the sauce. Might take a little practice - just cook it really gently.

  • 1lb spaghetti
  • 1/2lb pancetta or bacon
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (dude, you can use regular or even dried parmesan but don't expect it to be the same. Geez, stop trying to cut corners.)
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • I think people put peas in this, too. So feel free. I hate them.

Cook the spaghetti til al dente (done, but not mushy).

Meanwhile, fry the pancetta & onion over medium heat in a large, straight sided skillet until the pancetta is crispy and the onion has softened. Turn the heat off.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together yolks, cream & grated cheese.

When the spaghetti is ready, drain & toss it into the skillet w/ the pancetta & onion.

Quickly pour the egg mixture over the spaghetti, & toss everything together to combine.

So I stole the image from the BBC. Mine looked like this. Mostly.

Wayne's Fried Chicken

When we were younger, Wayne worked at Planet Hollywood. Everyone there loved the "Chicken Crunch" fried chicken. The key to it is the sweetness of the Cap'n Crunch (yes, that's exactly what I said). This is Wayne's adaptation. Make a lot. People can not stop eating this stuff. He doesn't measure so I made him estimate the amounts. It's about trial and error, and what you like.

  • Flour ("about a cup")
  • Cornflakes ("about a cup" crushed)
  • Cap'n Crunch ("about a cup" crushed)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups Milk (buttermilk is especially good but not necessary)
  • sugar ("maybe 1/4 cup")
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • chicken wings, or breasts cut into strips
  • 1/2 tsp thyme (EASY on the thyme!)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • canola oil (for frying)

For batter, mix egg, milk & sugar in one bowl.

Mix the rest of the dry stuff in another bowl.

Soak meat in wet bowl, dredge in dry. Quickly dip again in wet & dredge in dry.

Fry in canola oil (boiling on high in a large pot or in a fryer) until brown.