Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pecan Tartlets - Variation

It may seem silly to do a completely different post on a variation of a recipe that was posted yesterday. There are just so many photos that I wanted to do this differently. I'm not going to be including ingredients in this post so if you want to know how to make this tartlet variation, check the Pecan Tartlets post first.

I made 3 dozen pecan tartlets and decided that I didn't want to make any more. However, I had enough dough and filling to make at least six more tartlets so I had to come up with something to use up what was left. My dear hubby helped me. This variation is what we came up with. We can't think of any good names for it though. Suggestions?

I actually really enjoyed this little variation. It tasted so yummy and had a less sweet flavor than the tartlets themselves. It also looked so pretty!

Roll out pastry dough in a circle to be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Place on a greased cookie sheet and roll the edges up to create a barrier. Be sure your barrier is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch high and that it is rolled tightly so it won't come undone.
Sprinkle chopped pecans on the crust. I also used up a few walnuts I had leftover from making Lemon Tea Cakes.

Pour some corn syrup mixture over the nuts.
This is why that barrier is so important. You don't want your syrup leaking out and making a mess all over your pan. Actually, forget the mess you'd get on your pan. Let's talk about how sad it would be to end up with a pastry with nuts and no syrup! That would be a sad day indeed. You really want it to stay on top of the pastry. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve cut into triangles.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pecan Tartlets

You know me, I love pecan pie. It is my all-time favorite pie. You've heard that already. But because it's my favorite, when I saw the recipe for these Pecan Tartlets, I just knew I had to make them. And I'm so glad I did! They are so yummy and you pretty much can't go wrong with them! I will say that they are a bit time consuming, cutting out all the little circles of dough and forming all the tartlets. I don't think it would have taken me as long if I had more mini muffin tins, but since I only have one it took me a while.  However, they are so yummy and very worth it. I'm so glad I made them {and glad I gave most of them away or else I would have eaten them all!}.
Also, check back tomorrow for a little something different I did with my leftover tartlet makings.

Pecan Tartlets
Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Makes: 3 1/2 dozen tartlets

You will need a mini muffin tin

For the pastry:
6 oz. cream cheese {I used 1/3 fat cream cheese and it worked really well}
1 c. butter
2 c. flour
1/8 t. salt
Place cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add flour and salt and beat until dough comes together and forms a ball.

For the pecan filling:
2 eggs
2/3 c. corn syrup
2/3 c. sugar
2 t. flour
2 T. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Combine all ingredients, except pecans, and beat or whisk until combined. Reserve pecans for assembling the tartlets.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out dough about an 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. I prefer my dough to be a little thinner but if you like a thicker crust, a 1/4 inch would be perfect, too. If your dough is excessively sticky or too soft, refrigerate for 15-20 minutes before rolling out. This helps give it a firmness.
Another trickI have is to handle the pastry dough as little as possible. Mix it up, roll it out, cut the circles. Gently combine the scraps from that batch then roll it out again. In other words, you don't have to get it perfectly in a ball the second time before you roll it out again. The less you handle your pastry, the more flaky and soft it will be when it's baked. However, don't let my "handle with care" tip scare you away from making these yourself. This is probably the easiest pastry dough I've ever made in my life.
{Because I only have one mini muffin pan, my pastry dough was sitting on the counter between batches. If you find that it begins to get too warm in your kitchen, the dough will soften and get stickier, thereby making it more difficult to handle. This is when the fridge trick will be especially helpful. Put your dough in the fridge while one batch is baking. When that batch is finished baking, you can take them out of the oven, put the tartlets on cooling racks then pull out the dough from the fridge and make more circles. This also helps give your pan time to cool down so you can make more tartlets without having to use a hot pan.}
Using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out circles. Press into mini muffin tins, going all the way up the sides of the cups. I used my knuckle to press the dough into the baking cups {I have long nails so using my fingers didn't work for me}. I also found that a bottle cap from my baby's bottles worked really well.
Using my knuckle to press the pastry into the baking cup.
Your pastry should look like this.
Sprinkle a generous teaspoon full of pecan pieces into the bottom of each tartlet. 
You can use a teaspoon to spoon the pecans into the pastry...
. . . or do like me and just dump some pecans in there until you have the amount you want.

Spoon about 1 1/2 t. of the syrup on top of the pecans, covering the pecans and filling at least 3/4 of each tartlet.
I found that a teaspoon was about enough.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and filling is set. Note that the filling won't appear to be very set right when you pull it out. You can jiggle the pan a little to see if the filling moves a lot. It is seems like it mostly there, they are probably done. Your best judge at this point will be the pastry dough. It should be lightly golden.
Note: these are super sticky.


Variation: The pastry dough can also be filled with your favorite jam before baking. Bake as directed above and sprinkle with powdered sugar after the tartlets have cooled.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oatmeal Wafers

These oatmeal wafers are super yummy! They are a different kind of cookie. my Farmor {she's Swedish - I think I've mentioned her before} says these are authentic Swedish oatmeal cookies. They are crunchy with the perfect amount of spice. They are also easy to make. So if you want to try a different kind of cookie that's crunchy and uber yummy, these are for you. :D

Oatmeal Wafers
Known in Swedish as Havreflarn
Recipe from Grace Lindquist via my Farmor

½ cup butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup oatmeal
2 Tbsp. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg

Melt butter; remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Mix until blended. Butter cookie sheet generously and dust with flour. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet, 3 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 1 minutes before removing quickly with sharp knife. Cool. For more decorative effect place cookie immediately on handle of wooden spoon. Make one pan at a time.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


This is a traditional dessert found in the Mediterranean. Actually, it is kind of an interesting thing, if you look it up. All over the Middle East, countries will claim it as their own, asserting that other countries stole the recipe or that their country improved it. You can click HERE to see a history of this fantastic, crunchy, sweet dessert. There are also apparently many different recipes. This particular recipe is Greek. Which seems appropriate since phyllo dough (the most important ingredient!) is also Greek. Or at least the word "phyllo" is Greek. 

Anyway, I saw some Baklava in a food catalog and decided it looked really good. I didn't really want to pay the price to try it through the company, so I looked up a recipe and made my own. I'm glad I did. I thought this stuff was wonderful! I took it to a family Thanksgiving party and everyone who tried it liked it. It's a little more labor intensive but that doesn't mean it's hard to make. It's actually super easy, it just takes time. However, I think it's well worth the time!

Recipe from allrecipes
18 servings or 3 dozen squares

Filling and dough:
1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough {this dough can be found in the frozen section of your grocery store - look near pie dough}
1 pound chopped nuts {I used walnuts though I think pecans would be even yummier!}
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 pan.
Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut off about two or three inches from one end so it will fit into your pan. 
I know this is probably the worst picture ever known to man. Or at least it's pretty close. {I have no idea why it turned like that. Sorry.} And the blue tint makes it even worse. I know. But I wanted to demonstrate just how thin phyllo dough really is. "Phyllo" is "named after the Greek word for leaf', being 'thin as a leaf'" {see above link}. Really, I would go with paper. This dough is paper thin.
Cover phyllo with dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan; using a pastry brush, butter throroughly. Butter the dough sheets carefully. Since they are so thin it can be easy to tear them if you aren't careful. Repeat until you have 8 sheets of layered dough.
You can see that my phyllo dough is climbin up the sides of my pan a little. I didn't experience any problems with this and actually liked the little extra dough it provided. You can, however, trim the dough to fit your pan exactly if that's what you want.

Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top of phyllo dough layers.

Top with two sheets of dough, butter those sheets, then add more nuts. Continue layering in this manner until you feel the pan is full enough or you run out of nuts {which is what happened to me}. Just be careful not to use all your dough. You need 6-8 sheets for the top and final layer. Also, buttering the dough sheets after you start layering in the nuts can be a challenge. I found it easiest to get my pastry brush really buttery and then pat the butter onto the sheets. This kept the dough from tearing but enabled me to butter it thoroughly.

Cover the last layer of nuts with two sheets of phyllo dough and butter them. Then add two more sheets and layer as in the beginning until it is 6-8 sheets deep. On the final set of two sheets, be sure to butter well. That will help make that top layer nice and crispy!
Using a sharp knife that has been well buttered, cut into square or diamond shapes {I found squares easiest and they go further}. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until Baklava is golden and crisp. My Baklava was definitely done after 40 minutes so be sure to check it at the lowest baking time.

Make the sauce while the baklava is baking.
Boil sugar and water until sugar is dissolved and incorporated. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. The Baklava will be completely drenched in this honey liquid. Don't be alarmed. You did, in fact, do everything you were supposed to! The honey sauce will thicken as the Baklava and sauce cool and the nuts and dough will soak it up.
Let cool.

For a pretty touch, serve the sqaures in cupcake baking cups.
Leave it uncovered or it will get soggy.
Baklava freezes well. Just put individual pieces in a good freezer container and pop into the fridge. Pull it out a couple hours before serving and allow to thaw on the counter top.
Enjoy the crispy, honey goodness!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Orange Bursts

These are very yummy, very subtly citrus-y cookies. I think they are perfect holiday cookies. The slight orange flavor is enticing and fresh

Orange Bursts
Recipe from Guittard White Vanilla Chips
Makes: 4 dozen 3-inch cookies

2 ½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla*
1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
1-2 cups Guittard Choc-Au-Lait Vanilla Milk Chips {I used about one cup and I thought the ratio was perfect}

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest and chips.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until golden around edges. Cool for several minutes on sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Substitute: lemon zest for orange to make lemon bursts.

*Note: If you want more orange {or lemon, depending on which you are doing} flavor, you could substitute the vanilla extract for orange or lemon extract.

~from Guittard vanilla milk chips bag

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pecan Pie

I loooovvvee pecan pie. It is my all-time favorite pie and a necessary food tradition at Thanksgiving and Christmas. If there were fifty other types of pie, I would still choose this one. Because it's the best one. Honest. It's a good thing it's pretty much a once-a-year pie because I could eat several slices of it every time I sit down. Heck, I could eat several slices of it while I'm standing. And not feel guilty. {At least not right away ;) !} If you like pecan pie, you'll love this recipe. It is rich and fantastic and turns out every single time. My mom has been baking it for years. She got this cookbook from an old ward {or something like that} and has never felt the need to find another recipe because this one is perfect. Enjoy your pie!

Pecan Pie
Recipe from Irene Westernfelder in Treasure Chest of Tested Recipes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Start to Finish: 1 hour 20 minutes
Makes: 1 Pecan Pie

1/3 cup shortening
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup milk
3 eggs
½ tsp. salt
1 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Unbaked pie shell
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well; then add all remaining ingredients except pecans. Make sure everything is mixed well. Add pecans last and stir in. Pour into unbaked pie shell. 
These are the unbaked pies. They look a little sloobery {I just made that word up...} and they can potentially make a mess. See how full they are? They need to be just that full. Trust me. You don't want to skimp on pecan pie filling. But since they are so full, I recommend baking them on cookie sheets so the mess doesn't end up on the bottom of your oven. If you really want to avoid a mess, put on tinfoil on the bottom of the cookie sheet, then place your pie on top of that. You'll be glad.
Bake in preheated oven to 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Finish baking at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. The pie is done if it is set and not jiggly {or sloobery!} anymore. If the top of the pie starts to brown too quickly but the pie is not done, lightly cover with tinfoil until it is finished baking.
Serve with homemade whipping cream. Or don't. It's fantastic by itself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lemon Tea Cakes

I recently bought a book titled "Betty Crocker Cookies: 100 Favorite Recipes" {the link is the closest thing I've found to what I have}. I bought it at Barnes and Noble in their bargain books section for about $7.00. I was so excited! For some reason, this book has me excited about cookies and baking and I have already been through the book twice and I'm itching to make so many things from it! One of the recipes I've made already is Russian Tea Cakes {also known as Mexican Wedding Cookies} - though I actually made lemon because I was in the mood for a bit of citrus flavor. They are so yummy! They were pretty easy to make, though a little bit time-consuming, just because you have to crush the lemon drops and roll the cookies in powdered sugar. However they are worth it!  These cookies are best within about three days of making them . . . and I love them just a tad warm. Yum!

Lemon Tea Cakes
Recipe from Betty Crocker
Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Start to Finish: 1 hour 35 minutes
Makes: about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts - I used walnuts, and chopped them up nice and fine in my food processor
1/2 - 1 cup crushed lemon drops, divided - I think I used about 3/4 cups of drops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Crush the lemon drops in a food processor or blender. Lemon drops are really hard and I will warn you, crushing the drops by either method is very loud. Earplugs are seriously recommended! I found that my food processor was considerably quieter than my blender - my baby really hated my blender! What I found easiest was crushing them first in my food processor, then putting the larger chunks in a plastic baggie, putting the plastic baggie between a towel and then breaking those chunks into smaller chunks using using a rolling pin. Unless your food processor is better than mine. Then it might just crush them all in one try.
In large bowl, beat butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the lemon extract with an electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with a spoon until creamy and fluffy. Mix the grated lemon rind with the flour. Add flour mixture and salt to the butter mixture. Stir in nuts and 1/4 cup crushed lemon drops.
Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls. On un-greased cookie sheet, place balls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 7-9 minutes or until set but not brown. In small bowl, place addition powdered sugar. Immediately remove cookies from cookie sheet; roll in powdered sugar; wait 10 minutes, then roll in reserved crushed lemon drops. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 30 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Russian Tea Cakes
Substitute vanilla extract for the lemon and omit the grated lemon rind and crushed lemon drops. Everything else as directed.

Chocolate Filled Russian Tea Cakes
Use all same dough ingredients as Russian tea cakes, adding milk chocolate stars, chocolate chips or chopped pieces of chocolate candy. When dough is made, shape tablespoonfuls of dough around chocolate stars and form into 1-inch balls. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until bottoms start to brown. While baking make sugar coating: 1 cup powdered sugar; 1 Tbsp red sugar; 1 Tbsp. green sugar. When cookies are baked, roll into the sugar coating mixture. Reroll, if desired.

Peppermint Tea Cakes
Crust 3/4 cup hard peppermint candies in food processor or blender. Stir in 1/4 cup of the crushed candies with the flour; reserve remaining candy. Bake as directed. Immediately roll baked cookies in powdered sugar; wait 10 minutes, then roll in reserved crushed candy. Reroll, if desired. 

Cinnamon Tea Cakes
Add 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon to the cookie dough, at the same stage as adding the flour and salt. Bake as directed above. When baked, roll cookies in a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Reroll, if desired. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Deals to Meals

I just wanted to tell all of you about a great online service that can help you with your shopping, food storage and saving money. The site is called Deals to Meals.
They tell you how to find the good deals.
They tell you good prices, where to shop, and when to do it.
They are now in twelve different states, including Texas, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
They give you great menu ideas and fantastic recipes.
I'm a huge fan of their recipes.
I especially love that they tell you how to use all that food storage so it doesn't just sit there.
Love that!

Go check it out!
PS - if you go check it out soon {aka-today!}, you can find out how to enter a L'Equip Hand Blender.
Or don't.
If you don't, I have a better chance of winning! ;)
Okay, just kidding! Really, go see what they've got!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I really love good mashed potatoes. But I really hate not-so-good mashed potatoes. I personally love creamy, whipped, homemade mashed potatoes. One thing I hate: lumps in my mashed potatoes. If your definition of good potatoes doesn’t fit into that description, perhaps you should stop reading this post! 

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Time: 1 hour
Makes: 4-6 servings

2 large potatoes
1/8-1/4 cup milk, cream or half-and-half {using cream or half-and-half will give you thicker, slightly more flavorful potatoes} 
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

First you must boil the potatoes. Scrub or peel them {I like some peel on my potatoes but it’s whatever you like} and cut them into small cubes. The smaller your cubes, the faster your potatoes will cook. Put the potatoes in a sauce pan and cover with an inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 30-40 minutes or until a fork inserted into a potato goes through easily. You want ‘em nice and soft. Drain the water off {you can save the water if you like to make pancakes or something with the potato water}. 
Mash the potatoes using some kind of masher. Mash ‘em up about as good as you can with that. 
Yes, I am aware that my "masher" isn't really a potato masher. Actually, to be honest, I don't know what it is really for.
Add the milk, sour cream, butter and salt and stir it around until well incorporated and the butter is melted. 
Use less milk if you prefer a stickier, stiffer mashed potato and more milk if you like them thinner.
Now use a hand mixer and whip the potatoes up for 3-4 minutes or until they are nice and fluffy. 
Voila! Perfect, non-lumpy mashed potatoes!

Lemon Cookies with White Chocolate

Here is another super-duper easy cookie recipe that you will love - especially if you like lemon! I really loved these cookies. This is the first recipe I'm going to be sharing from one of my favorite cooking blogs, Jamie Cooks it Up!, and I've made them a couple times. I did slightly adapt the recipe for my own purposes so I'll share here the way I did it but know that you can go to Jamie's site {see link to the recipe below} to find the original recipe and proportions to make more cookies. My sister thought these cookies tasted a bit like lemon bars in cookie form, which is a good way to describe them!

Lemon Cookies with White Chocolate
Slightly adapted from: Jamie Cooks it Up!
Time: 1 hour
Makes: approx. 2 1/2 dozen cookies
1 box Lemon cake mix
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg
2 tsp. lemon juice {fresh or from the baking section}
1/2 cup white chocolate chips + additional 1/2 chips for melting
Melt butter and add to the cake mix. Mix around for a little bit then add the egg.
Squeeze a fresh lemon and add to the mix.
Mix with a spoon or in a mixer until just combined.
Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and mix until incorporated evenly. Note: at this point the dough can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours. Just cover well and put in the fridge, then pull out and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before finishing.
Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until bottoms are begin to turn golden brown. Do not over bake. Take the cookies out of the oven when they have cracked on top. Then let them finish baking on the sheets for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack or tea towel to finish cooling.
Melt the remaining 1/2 cup white chocolate chips in the microwave for 30-second intervals. You can add 1/2 tsp. shortening to help with this. Don't over-melt your chips because they will just harden and make drizzling pretty much impossible. Melt just until you see some of the shapes of the original chips left and then stir it around until it's all melted.
Drizzle the white chocolate over the tops of the cookies. Or do like me and put the chocolate into a plastic baggie, snip off the corner and squeeze it onto the cookies. I like this method better because I can control where and how much chocolate ends up on each cookie. I also put my chocolate on while the cookies were sitting on wax paper.

Sprinkle the cookies with a bit of powdered sugar. Let the cookies rest of a wire rack until the white chocolate has set up. Mmmm . . . delicious Lemon Cookies!

Mile High Chocolate Cream Pie

Disclaimer: I didn't actually taste this pie. I know it's abominable to even post a recipe that I myself did not try. But in my defense, when I made this pie I wasn't really feeling very well so I made it and sent it away. However, I was told that it was really yummy!
This is called "mile high" for a very good reason - this pie is soooo tall!! You will not believe how much pie you will get when you make this. But it is easy which can be super nice with all the holiday hubaloo that keeps you so busy!

Mile High Chocolate Cream Pie
Recipe found at Instructables
Time: 20 minutes + at least 6 hours refrigeration
Makes: 1 pie or 8 servings

1 Graham Cracker Crust {use the good kind so your pie doesn't fall apart}
2 3/4 cups Milk, separated
2 envelopes Dream Whip {there are four envelopes in one box, which you can find next to the pudding in your grocery store}
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1 small box instant butterscotch pudding
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 8oz tub cool whip
-You'll also want an electric mixer unless you can hand mix something for about 8 minutes!

Put one cup cold milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and two envelopes dream whip in a large bowl. Mix on high for about 6 minutes or until you get stiff peaks. I stopped the mixer every two minutes to scrape the bowl.

Now add the two boxes of pudding mix and 1 3/4 cups milk to the mixture. Mix on slow for one minute until combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Then mix on high for two minutes, scraping the bowl once more half-way through. When finished, the mixture should be stiff.

Pour the mixture into your graham cracker crust and put in the fridge. The longer it is there, the more set-up it will be. I would say that you could probably get away with 4 hours though more is certainly good.
Once pie is completely set-up, spread the cool whip on the top.
You can add sprinkles, chocolate syrup, crushed chocolate cookies or chocolate curls to the top.
You can also do like we did and just add the cool whip to the top of each individual piece rather than spread all the cool whip on top. I just couldn't handle the idea of that much cool whip on the top of one pie, plus the fact that you would have a hard time getting your pie out of the pan if it were that high!

Variation: you could use the sugar-free forms of pudding and skim milk to make this a relatively low-fat, low-sugar dessert.

Chicken Corn Chowder

I love this soup! It is definitely one of my favorites. I can't even begin to tell you how delicious this soup is. One of the things I love about it is that there is no pasta and no potatoes. Don't get me wrong - I love pasta and potatoes but if you are trying to watch carb intake, those are not exactly great things to have in your kitchen! So if you want a super easy and absolutely delicious soup, this is the one for you! Serve this soup with the Holiday Crescent Rolls for a really yummy combo.

Chicken Corn Chowder
Slightly adapted from The Sister's Cafe
Time: approx 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Makes: approx. 9-10 good-sized servings


2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely shredded
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, seeds and membrane removed (do not omit)
1/4 Cup thinly sliced or chopped ham or canadian bacon
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14 oz cans or 1 28 oz carton chicken stock
3 Tablespoons flour
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Saute celery, bell pepper, onion and jalapeno until softened {if you are like me and are scared of jalapeno peppers, use disposable latex gloves to cut, remove the seeds and membrane (which is the white part on the inside of the pepper that the seeds are attached to), and chop. I promise this works really well for keeping all the spice off your hands and out of the soup but still keeping that indispensable flavor the pepper gives}.
Stir in garlic and ham; cook for another 3 minutes.
Whisk the broth with the flour in a large bowl then stir into soup.
Stir in corn and chicken. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat. {If you get the soup to this point but don't want to serve it for a while, you can transfer the soup to a crock pot and cook it on low until you are closer to being ready to serve. Then, about 5 minutes before serving, complete the last step so everything is warm.}
Whisk together the sour cream and milk in a large bowl until smooth. Stir into soup along with the salt, pepper and cheddar cheese.
Simmer until ready to serve.

Holiday Crescent Rolls

I found this recipe at one of my favorite cooking blogs, Jamie Cooks it Up! Jamie is so fresh and honest - you can really tell she is herself. And her recipes are fabulous! I have two recipes I'm sharing in this little mini-series from her and you'll love them both, I promise! Now, this recipe is purely from Jamie, however, in this post I'm going to share with you exactly how I made them. I cut the recipe in half because I didn't need 48 rolls so I'll just tell you how I did it. These are quite possibly some of the best rolls I've ever had so you won't regret making these . . . except for the not-good-for-your-hips part {but hey, that's what the holidays are all about, right? Right??........okay, maybe not}!

Holiday Crescent Rolls
Recipe from: Jamie Cooks it Up!
Time: 3 hours
Makes: 24 rolls

1 cup scalded milk {put it in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes}
1 Tbsp. yeast + pinch of sugar
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup {1/2 stick} butter, softened
1 1/2 eggs {I use egg beaters or other type of egg substitute, so you would use 1/4 + 1/8 cup}
5-6 cups flour
1/4 cup {1/2 stick} butter, melted {for shaping the dough}


Place the warm water, yeast and dash of sugar in the bottom of your mixer. Stir it around and let it proof {get all bubbly} for 5 minutes.
Add 3 cups of the flour and mix for 30 seconds. You want to add this much flour, before you add the scalded milk and eggs because the hot temperature of the milk would be too much for the yeast, and you don't want to "cook" your eggs.
At this point, drop your sugar container on the floor and spill all the sugar. 
And yes, that really is my beautiful kitchen floor.
Okay, I kid! I kid! This was just my clumsy self making a huge mess. . . .

Add the scalded milk, sugar, salt, softened butter (not the melted butter) and the eggs. Mix for 1 minute.

When you turn on your mixer, be careful not to turn it on too high. I'm just sayin'. Your kitchen could end up looking like this. Not that I would really know anything about that . . . 

The stuff was all over my floor too . . . but you saw enough of that already {besides the fact that you couldn't really see it because everything just blends into the lovely design}

Add the flour 1 C at a time, until the dough scrapes the side of your mixer clean.
Mix on high for 8 minutes. This much mixing really improves the texture and elasticity of the dough. I have also noticed, if I don't mix it long enough the dough doesn't rise as nicely.
Let the dough rise, in the mixer for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down (I just turn the mixer on for about 5 seconds) and divide it into 6 equal parts. Shape each part into a nice round ball and let them rest on the counter top. I always spread a little of the melted butter on the counter top, before I set the dough on it. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Letting dough rest for just a bit before it's shaped makes a HUGE difference when you are trying to shape it. Let's just say it cooperates better.
With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a nice round circle. You want the dough to be about 1/2-3/4 of an inch thick after rolling it out. Pour a bit of butter in the center....I said it was no dieters delight...you see now what I mean.
With a pizza cutter, cut the circle into 8 equal triangles. Start from the fat end and roll each triangle up. Place on a large, sprayed cookie sheet.
It works best to place them in 3 rows, 8 rolls deep. They like to be about this close together.
Place them in a warm 170 degree oven, and let them rise for about 20 minutes. Don't let them get too tall. Once they start to touch each other, they have risen enough. I have a convection oven, so I can cook both pans at the same time. If yours is a conventional oven (this means it does not have a fan in the back), you will definitely want to cook one pan at a time. Just set one pan on the counter to rise. It will rise more slowly than the pan in the oven, but it will be just the right amount of time to get the other pan cooked and your oven empty and ready for the second pan.
Turn your oven up to 350. Leave the rolls in while the oven increases in temperature. (I have had people tell me who own gas ovens that they are better off taking the pans out of the oven while the temp. rises) Bake for about 15 minutes. After about 7 minutes (or when the top pan has gotten a bit golden on the top) I switch the bottom pan to the top, and the top to the bottom.
When the rolls are still hot, I brush them all over with more of the melted butter. Delightful!

Butterfinger Cookies

These may be some of my most favorite cookies of all time. I'm actually not a huge cookie fan. Maybe it's just "regular" cookies I don't love. You know, like chocolate chip. Maybe that's because I don't really love chocolate. Maybe it's 'cuz I'm crazy. However crazy I be, though, I love these! They are cake mix cookies so they are super easy and I really love the Butterfinger addition. Just a couple things to keep in mind: 1) more butterfinger candy bar can be used - actually, I think more is better in this case; and 2) when you crush your candy bar, be careful not to crush it too much. If the butterfinger bar gets too fine, they will actually be absorbed into the mix and you won't hardly taste the butterfinger at all. This proves to be a very tragic cookie.

One day I'll take a pretty picture of cookies. I'm determined that it will happen!

Butterfinger Cookies

1 yellow or chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 Butterfinger candy bar

Preheat oven to 350. Mix cake, eggs and oil until powder is completely dissolved in dough. Cop candy into tiny pieces and mix into dough. Drop dough in small balls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 min. or until lightly golden. Do not over bake.

Apple Butterscotch Cookies

These cookies were so yummy! I'll admit I'm not really a cookie person {I know, I know - not liking chocolate and cookies just makes me super weird!} but I really liked how these turned out. This is another recipe I created and I really liked how "cake-y" they were. We also took these to our nieces and nephew and they loved them as well. In fact, a couple of them said they were some of the best cookies they'd ever had!

Apple Butterscotch Cookies
Created by: Cucina di Harwood
Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 white cake mix
1 egg
6 Tbsp. applesauce {1/4 + 1/8 cup}
1/4 cup {be super generous with it!} grated apple
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2-1 cup butterscotch chips

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a well-greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees on the middle for 8 minutes. Then move to the top rack and bake for an additional 2 minutes. Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and leave the cookies on the sheet to finish baking for 2 more minutes.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack or tea towel to complete cooling. Or enjoy warm! Either way, they are good!

Note: The cinnamon in these cookies provides a rather subtle spice flavor. I prefer it this way. But if you want a little more spice, add 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg to the dough.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cherry Cookies

I'm going to be doing a mini-series of posts of some recipes that could be deemed appropriate to grace your holiday tables this year! Yes, I know, it's kind of late. But I really wanted to share a few recipes anyway so I'm gonna. I hope you enjoy them!

This is a recipe I recently created {don't applaud yet - you'll soon see that this is so easy anyone could have created it!}. My husband really enjoyed them and I liked them quite a lot. If you like cherries, you'll probably really like these cookies!

Cherry Cookies
Recipe created by Cucina di Harwood
Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 box Cherry Chip cake mix {see, I told ya!}
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries
1 egg
4 Tbsp. melted butter
3 Tbsp. water or cherry juice
1  tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Chop your maraschino cherries. I used most of a jar of cherries to get 1/2 cup. I saved a few to put on top of some of my cookies but you don't have to do that. If you want, you could chop up all the cherries and put all of 'em in the cookies. It just depends on how many cherries you want. I found the perfect size was to chop the cherry in half, then each half into four pieces. You can do it however you'd like, I just found that to be the perfect size. Warning: cherry juice stains clothing and counter tops. Just be aware!
Put the cake mix, egg, water/juice and almond extract in a medium sized bowl. Stir just until the cake mix is all mixed in. You don't want to over-mix as the cherry chips in the cake mix will disintigrate if you mix it too much and you'll lose some of the flavor - you don't wanna do that! Note: if you want a little more cherry flavor, use the cherry juice from the bottle of maraschino cherries instead of water. I just used water and it turned out great - a nice cherry flavor without being too much; it just depends on what you're going for. 
Add the chopped cherries and fold in. Your dough will be very stiff and sticky. This is okay.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until the bottom edges are slightly golden. Don't over-bake. Take the cookies out of the oven and leave them on the cookie sheet for another 2-3 minutes to finish baking - and because if you try immediately to take them off the sheet, your cookies will be in nice little pieces when you're done. Trust me
At this point, if you want to add a cherry to the top, you can put half a cherry in the center of the cookie and press lightly until slightly depressed into the cookie. Doing this while they are still warm will make the cherries stay put when they are cool. You don't have to do this. It does make them a little prettier and gives an extra cherry flavor, which I really liked, but it isn't necessary. 
Transfer the cookies to a rack or tea towel and allow to finish cooling.

Note: for an added measure of pretty and sweet, drizzle melted milk-chocolate over the cookies before serving. 


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