Saturday, January 4, 2014

What's Baking's December Roundup: Christmas Traditions

This month I was the host of the What's Baking recipe challenge.  I chose Christmas traditions (savory or sweet) because I love to see all the different traditions from family to family.  When I was a kid, I thought everyone celebrated the same way we did, and as I grew up I found that it seems like everyone had slightly different traditions than I did.

I apologize to the group for not participating this month.  I thought I would be able to get something made either while on vacation or immediately when I got back, but driving 16 hours alone in the car took more of a toll on me than I thought it would.  Please enjoy looking at the recipes the two participants chose to make and read more about their family's traditions:

Amanda from Our Italian Kitchen, made Christmas Sugar Cookies with Glazed Icing.  Her and her family gather every year and make cookies and this is a recipe that she likes to make.

Ange, from The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen, made Ricotta Cookies.  Every year, she makes a ton of Christmas cookies and this year she decided to try a cookie she loves but has never made herself.

Thanks for participating in this month's What's Baking Challenge Amanda and Ange.  I had fun reading about your traditions, and both cookies look delicious! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Apple Pie Bread

I've been a little absent from my blog lately.  Once my husband left for his deployment, I started working out and lost 11 pounds.  It is hard to lose 11 pounds when you're perusing food on the internet all the time.

                       Secret Recipe Club

However, I signed up for the Secret Recipe Club this month, so that I at least had one exciting dish to look forward to.  I was assigned IlonasKitchen.  I found out that she is from New Jersey too and I had a blast looking through all the recipes finding delicious ones like Pork Carnitas, Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta with Lemon and Spinach, and for dessert Strawberry Cake Batter Blondies.  Every recipe sounded delicious, but I settled for Apple Pie Bread.  I love quickbreads and am going through a Honeycrisp apple phase, so it sounded like the perfect pairing.

Apple Pie Bread
slightly adapted from IlonasKitchen
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
 2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped, peeled apple (about 4 medium)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon ginger

2 tablespoons brown sugar

 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of an 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in  both sugars until combined. Add buttermilk and baking powder; beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour and salt; beat until combined. Stir in apple and spices.
3. Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle brown sugar and nuts over the batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
4. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

The second you bite into this bread you just want to say yum.  It has all the comfort qualities of apple pie in a quick bread.  I just eyeballed my apples and I think I had more apples than batter, but it paid off in the long run.  Each bite was bursting with apples and flavor.  The only thing that the original recipe called for that I wish I would have done was add the pecans to the batter.  I loved the crunch that they added to the top layer, but I think it would have been better if they were throughout the batter as well.  I guess it just depends if the people that you're feeding it to like nuts.  I can't wait to use this quick bread for get togethers in the future.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms

It seems like just yesterday was the October post date for Secret Recipe Club, and here it is already November.  For this blog swap, I received Kate's blog: Kitchen Trial and Error.  The question leading into the name on her blog was: Isn't everything in the kitchen trial and error?  I feel like that is still very true for me!  I still cross my fingers hoping everything turns out edible almost every time I turn on the oven.

Secret Recipe Club

I told myself that I was going to look for a soup recipe for this month.  Kate has some great sounding soups (32 soups in total on her blog), like: Vegetarian Wild Rice Soup, the amazing looking Toasted Orzo Chicken Soup, and Tomato and Meatball soup.  All sound perfect for fall.

However, in looking at a soup on her blog, one of the "You might also like" pictures was for Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms.  I couldn't go back to soup once I read about this recipe.  My husband has been deployed for a month and I haven't made one stuffed mushroom dish (he isn't a fan).  I knew that I had to make this dish.

Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms
barely adapted from Kitchen Trial and Error
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
juice from half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
salt & pepper
2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and gills removed
about 1 cup leftover risotto
2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese

1) Melt the butter over medium heat in a dutch oven. Add the leeks and saute until slightly soft, about 3 minutes.
2) In a separate pan, warm the broth over medium high heat.
3) Add the rice to the leeks and stir and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.
4) Add the marsala wine and stir to deglaze the pan. cook until mostly evaporated 1-2 minutes.
5) Preheat your oven to 400F and clean the mushrooms. put the mushrooms on a sheet tray upside down (gill side up) and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper and Italian seasonings and bake about 15 minutes until softened.
6) Add about 1cup of broth to the rice. stir to incorporate. cook until the liquid is absorbed. continue adding broth, stirring to incorporate, and cooking until the liquid is absorbed until creamy, about 30 minutes.
7) Add the frozen peas and mix in. Mix in the parmesan cheese. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand a couple minutes. Once it is done standing, add in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
8) When the mushrooms are done, spoon the risotto into the caps and top with cheese. bake an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.   

Like Kate says, people either love mushrooms or hate them, however if you love mushrooms, this is a great stuffed mushroom recipe to try.  The mushroom and the risotto pair nicely to make a great meal.  I may have added more marsala wine than recommended above, and could taste the extra that I had put in.  This is a great dish and I think would make a great special occasion dish for anyone who is vegetarian.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

When I think of treats that I want at Christmas, they are things that remind me of home.  Home is what makes Christmas so special in my mind, probably because it is the one time of year that I tend to make it home more than any other.  The things that make desserts seem like home are pumpkin, cinnamon, and spices like allspice.  I think that is why pumpkin pie, apple pie, etc make it to the top of everyone's favorite dessert lists.

I decided to make a dessert for 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, hosted by Brenda at Meal Planning Magic, that doesn't scream Christmas, but reminds you of home. 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
from Recipe Girl
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Rolling Sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1) In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until fluffy. Add sugars and pumpkin puree and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time just until incorporated.
3) Cover dough with plastic and chill at least an hour, or until dough becomes slightly firm.
4) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray with nonstick spray). Mix rolling sugar ingredients in a small bowl.
5) Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Use your hands to roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and make sure they're coated really well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a glass with a nice, flat bottom dipped in sugar and flatten the balls.
6) Bake at 350°F. for 15 minutes, or until they are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes or so, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

The only comment that I have about this recipe is that the original cooking time (10 to 14 minutes), listed on the Recipe Girl website didn't work for my cookies.  My oven was still heated from dinner by the time I put the cookies in and they were still underdone in the center.  I think fifteen minutes should be the low end of baking time for these cookies.

I did love these cookies.  Pair them with a glass of milk and you have a perfect dessert, in my opinion.  I love finding delicious pumpkin recipes to try outside of pumpkin pie.  This one hits the spot. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Granola Cookies

My husband deploys for six months starting tomorrow.   We've known he was going to deploy for awhile, but we just found out the day that he was leaving less than a week ago.  Needless to say...things have been stressful at our house.  I was thankful for the Secret Recipe Club this month because it gave me some respite from the stress and allowed me some time just to think about baking for awhile.

Secret Recipe Club

This month's assignment was Love and Flour, written by LeAndra.  I actually found my recipe by going and looking at things pinned from Love and Flour on Pinterest.  It helped me focus my eyes onto this great Granola Cookie recipe.  Please go check out all the delicious desserts on Love and Flour, and also check out her Oktoberfest series.  All the recipes look delicious.

Granola Cookies
from Love and Flour
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granola
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
1) Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
2) Beat in the eggs and the vanilla until the mixture is well incorporated and smooth.
3) Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
4) Now beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.
5) Stir in the granola, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
6) Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
7) Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes until golden brown along the edges and puffed in the centers.
8) Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

I have this amazing cherry vanilla granola that I buy in stores and it worked perfectly for these cookies.  I love cookies with little surprises in them and between the crunchiness of the granola, the sweetnes of the chocolate, and the tanginess of the cranberries, these cookes are the perfect balance of everything good in a cookie. 
Please browse through all the other recipes made this month.  I plan to cook a lot while my husband is gone to pass the time, so please check back if you have a chance. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cherry Surprise Crinkles

It is time for another 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats.  This great idea is hosted by Brenda at Meal Planning Magic.  I love this recipe get-together because it provides great ideas once Christmas actually rolls around (I don't have enough self restraint to keep all of these good treats in my freezer until Christmas).

One of my guilty pleasures around Christmas is chocolate covered cherries.  There is something about the combination of cherries and chocolate that just seem so Christmas-y to me.  For my first treat, while I would love to make chocolate covered cherries, I know they would never live up to my favorite treat, so I decided to make these Cherry Surprise Crinkles.  They combine the two greats into cookie form that creates a delicious cookie.

Cherry Surprise Crinkles
from Better Homes and Gardens
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained and patted dry with paper toweling
12 Kisses cherry cordials or Kisses dark chocolates
Powdered sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and almond extract until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour and the cherries.
2) Take a tablespoon of dough. Shape each portion into a ball around a Kiss. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Lightly dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar

I thought for sure that I'd be eating these cookies alone in my house because I'm much more into the cherry and chocolate combination than my husband, but after only 2 days, there were only enough for the picture.  Success in my mind.  I wish that the Maraschino cherries has a better quality to them, but these were fantastic cookies. 
Please see all the other treats below.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Samoa Bars

Confession: I was assigned Ewa's blog Delishhh for the Secret Recipe Club this month and I spent more time looking at the pictures than reading the actual recipes.  The pictures are so gorgeous and in all honesty, my pictures don't even do this dessert justice, so please go to her blog and eat with your eyes.  You'll thank me for telling you to go there.

This month, while I was looking at Ewa's pictures, I had a hard time deciding.  Ewa has a passion for healthy, simple, delicious, and fun recipes.  While I set out to find a healthy and simple recipe, I ended up getting hooked on a delicious and fun one.

In my mind, the problem with Girl Scout Cookies is that they are only available at certain times of the year. Sometimes you just have a day where you really need those delicious cookies, and they are totally out of season.  I honestly had that kind of month where I needed BOXES of those cookies, so these Samoa Bars were screaming at me.  I know, I know, it isn't Girl Scout season.  Actually it is about 6 months from Girl Scout season.  Luckily, the Keebler Elves saved my life and provided me with Coconut Dreams (aka Samoas) and Sandies (aka Trefoils or however you spell them).

Samoa Bars
barely adapted  from Delishhh
4 tablespoons of melted butter
1 box (9 oz) of shortbread cookies

2 boxes of Samoa Girl Scout cookies (or Coconut Dreams from Keebler)
16 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup jarred caramel sauce

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9 by 9 baking pan.  Line the pan with parchment paper, allowing the excess to hang over the sides of the pan.
2) For the crust: Pulse the shortbread cookies in a food processor until the cookies resemble the texture of bread crumbs.  Melt the better, and pulse with the crumbs to incorporate.  Press the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 12 minutes until golden brown.
3) Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl by microwaving for 30-second increments and stirring after each increment, until completely melted.
4) Pour the chocolate on the shortbread crust, reserving 2 tablespoons.
5) Pulse coconut cookie until they are 1/2 inch pieces.  Press Samoas on top of the chocolate layer.
6) Sprinkle coconut on top of the cookie layer, and then layer caramel sauce and chocolate drizzle.
7) Refrigerate 30 minutes to set.

These bars are incredible.  Ewa has a recipe for caramel on her blog, but mine turned out horribly wrong and I ended up having to cheat and use the jarred caramel.  I love how these bars have Samoa cookies in them, but then the bar themselves is a bar-like form of the cookie.  These are definitely fun and delicious.  I can't wait to try them with the real Girl Scout Cookies.  Check out what all the other swap participants made for this swap.