Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ollie-Bollen

Ollie-Bollen are deep-fried Dutch fritters traditionally made on New Year's Eve. There are several different spelling variations of the name, including Olie Bollen, Oliebollen and Oliebol, but they all refer to these delicious Dutch doughnuts. The literal translation of Ollie-Bollen is "oil balls" as they are deep fried. This doesn't make them sound very appealing, but they really are good, and don't turn out very greasy at all. Although they are referred to as doughnuts, Ollie-Bollen are closer in taste and texture to little fritters. They are made from a yeast dough enriched with flour, eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla. They are usually flavored with something too, commonly apples, raisins, citrus zest, or combinations of these; although we have also successfully made plain ones, a bit bland, but nothing a pile of icing sugar can't fix!  Ollie-Bollen  are dropped by teaspoons into hot oil and fried just until crispy and golden. Then they are drained and dunked in as much icing sugar as possible. It isn't considered Ollie-Bollen unless you can inhale icing sugar while biting into a fritter.
My father's family used to always make Ollie-Bollen on New Year's Eve, and we recently began continuing the tradition. The leftovers are commonly eaten for breakfast the next morning with a cup of coffee. Ollie-Bollen are said to have originally been in eaten in the Netherlands by Germanic tribes during the Yule period.
Ollie-Bollen are not particularly difficult to make, but they do take some practice, and you must be familiar with a deep fryer to make them. Although they can be fried in a pot of hot oil on the stove, this can be dangerous and is not recommended. Ollie-Bollen dough also requires some rising time, so plan ahead. You may find some fritters close to Ollie-Bollen in coffee shops, especially in Europe, but homemade are much better. Ollie-Bollen are nice and crisp on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. They also have a nice flavor and a sweet coating. There is nothing like a fresh Ollie-Bollen on New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lasagna

Lasagna is a special, favourite dish in our house. We don’t make it too often, as then it would lose its special appeal. We often make it for company, as it is a perfected, delicious, crowd-pleaser every time. My mother usually does most of the cooking at our house, but my father is always the one who made the lasagna. Ever since I can remember, I would assist my father in preparing his special lasagna. We always made two 9x13 inch pans of lasagna, that way there would be enough for company and for leftovers for us. One was always meatless, as my brother used to not care for ground beef. I started out by chopping the onion and mixing up the cottage cheese mixture for my father. However as I got older, I would put together the entire meatless lasagna while he made the meat, as well as do a lot of the prep work. Now my father and I work in perfect harmony while preparing lasagna, a tradition perfected over the years. Although we never race, we take our time to put pride into the meal we are creating, I sometimes finish first, and joke to my father that I am beating him. I tell him he better watch out, that I’ll be taking over his kitchen soon, and tell him he is getting slow in his old age. I always treasure the times I spend with my father preparing lasagna together, and I am looking forward to the next time.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stir-Fry

Stir-fries are great fast meal ideas. We often make stir-fries if we have a variety of vegetables around. They make great side dishes or main courses. We usually serve ours as a side, but sometimes we add meat to make a main course. Our stir-fries are most often served with any type of pasta or rice. You can throw pretty much any vegetable or piece of meat into a stir-fry, as long as it is cut to an appropriate size. So many different stir-fries can be made using so many different ingredients. We usually just end up seasoning our stir-fries to taste, but you can also make any kind of sauce you want for your stir-fry. There are so many stir-fry ideas out there, you will never tire of them. Stir-fries are a fast, easy, and healthy idea for supper. Here is one of our stir-fries, it contains broccoli, carrots, onion, mushrooms, and asparagus. Other popular ingredients in our stir-fries include zucchini, cauliflower, and even peas. 
Stir-fries are just as the name states; they are cooked in a frying pan and stirred often to prevent burning and promote even cooking, as typically little fat is used. Although they do require stirring often, stir-fries certainly are not labour-intensive, time-consuming, or difficult to make. They are also a great way to use up leftovers! Stir-frying originated as a Chinese method of cooking, in a special pan called a wok, but now stir-fries are popular in many different cuisines. You can also buy frozen stir-fry meals, but why would you want to?  Stir-fries are so quick, easy, and tasty to whip up!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Goodies

Well Christmas Day may have come and gone, but that certainly does not mean the entire holiday season is over. We are still entertaining and visiting guests, and of course that means food. There is still quite the stockpile of Christmas cookies, cakes, and goodies stored carefully in the freezer, which are easy and convenient to pop out for guests. This way, there is no need to worry about whipping something up last minute, and your guests can enjoy a wide variety of treats without you having to worry about a ton of leftovers. Here we have a nice display of Christmas goodies, most of which have already been displayed and talked about on my blog.  On the top plate, there are Hershey's Kiss chocolate chip cookies, and my mother's decadent chocolate fruitcake. The bottom level contains crispy chocolate smartie cookies made by my mom and button shortbread cookies my mother and I made together. The front plate contains iced gingerbread cookies I made and shortbread cookies my mom prepared and I helped decorate. This all makes for a very colorful and tasty array of Christmas goodies to enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Leftovers

It is entirely possible that some of you are still finding yourselves knee-deep in a pile of leftovers from Christmas dinner. Meat, vegetables, breads, desserts; you name it, there's probably some left. Christmas leftovers appear to be inevitable. So, what can you do with them all? You can certainly freeze many aspects of Christmas dinner, especially turkey and sweets. They will keep in the freezer, well-wrapped, for a few months or so. Vegetables may be a bit more difficult, as they don't tend to freeze as well. Here are some ideas for leftovers.

TURKEY/CHICKEN: Chop or shred and use now or freeze for later use. Good for soups, stews, stir-fries, casseroles, sandwiches, salads, meat pies.

HAM: Chopped cooked ham keeps a bit longer than turkey or chicken in the fridge, but it may also be frozen. It can be added to soups, stews, stir-fries, casseroles, pot pies, sandwiches, and omelettes. It is also great with cheese and crackers.

POTATOES: Use for Shepherd's pie, potato bread/rolls, and potato fudge. Mashed sweet potatoes can be baked into sweet potato pie, loaf or biscuits.

VEGETABLES: Most precooked vegetables will do well in quick soups, stews, stir-fries, pot pies, and casseroles. They are also good for making ragus or ratatouille. You can also puree vegetables and freeze in small portions to sneak into baked goods to make them healthier. There are several cookbooks around devoted to this process.

BREAD/ROLLS: These can easily be frozen, or be used fresh in the following dishes. French toast, bread pudding, and stuffing (if you don't already have enough). They can also be pulsed into breadcrumbs, which are used in a variety of dishes such as meatballs, hamburgers, coatings for chicken and fish, macaroni and cheese, etc. It is best to dry out the bread either on the counter or in the oven beforehand for these ideas.

GRAVY: Great for hot turkey sandwiches, Shepherd's pie, beef stroganoff, and meat pies. Adds some flavor to any dish, and will keep for a while in the fridge. It is also easy to reheat.

CRANBERRY SAUCE: This can easily be frozen or used in another way. It can be used as is, sweetened up a little, or flavored with something else. It makes a good sauce for desserts, and can be used as a filling for cranberry oat squares. It is also excellent on turkey and even ham sandwiches, and makes an alternative spread for toast and bagels in the morning. 

EVERYTHING: You can throw all (or at least most) of your leftovers together into one big dish. You can make a soup, stew, meat pie or pot pie, casserole, or stir-fry. Add in some new ingredients and flavors, and you won't have to eat a plain old turkey dinner for days in a row. Bring some variety to the table!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Dinner

Here is a picture of one of the plates of the amazing Christmas dinner my family and I had the great privilege of enjoying yesterday. My grandmother prepared most of this delicious food. She did have some help, as it would be nearly impossible to prepare such an excellent meal alone, but she did a lot of the work herself, and always made sure everyone's plate was full and everyone was satisfied. Our Christmas dinner included: peas, carrots, coleslaw, sweet potato, mashed potato, pickles, cranberry sauce, rolls, stuffing, gravy, and of course, turkey. This dinner was prepared for nearly twenty people. That's no small feat! The coleslaw, the gravy, and the cranberry sauce were all homemade from scratch by my grandmother. The vegetables were freshly prepared, cooked, and seasoned. And the turkey was freshly roasted.  We certainly indulged in a divine Christmas dinner, and I haven't even said a word about the delicious desserts...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Well, today is Christmas day, and I would just like to take this time to wish all of you a very merry Christmas. Enjoy this day and spend it with your family, friends, and loved ones. Christmas is a time of joy and peace, kindness and happiness. Relax and enjoy the true meaning of the season. And most importantly, remember that Christmas comes only once a year, and it serves as a time to indulge! So enjoy all of those goodies that you get to enjoy only once a year, and go ahead and taste one of everything at the buffet table. Enjoy the special treats and goodies that go along with the holiday season. Have a great Christmas and best wishes for the New Year!
PHOTO CREDIT:"merry_christmas.jpg"  http://www.allthingschristmas.com/traditions/merry-christmas.php . All Things Christmas, n.d. Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yummy Christmas Decorations

As I was admiring our Christmas tree the other day, I noticed that we have quite a few food-related decorations on it. Here are all of the ones I could find:


  • Real Candy Canes
  • Beaded Candy Canes
  • Ice Cream Cone
  • Real Gingerbread Cookies
  • Plastic Gingerbread
  • Apples
  • Pickle
  • Peppermints
  • Candy
  • Rootbeer
  • Pasta (an angel made by my brother out of different pasta shapes)
  • Egg
  • Cookies
We have also got other food decorations besides those on the tree. We have got a train and a sled made entirely from candy (and hot glue) by my father, with peppermint wheels, lifesaver engine, and chocolate kiss decorations. As previously displayed, we have a gingerbread house. We also have several shellaced gingerbread cookies around. And there are always freshly baked Christmas cookies around, that are pretty enough to serve as decorations.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rum Butter Sauce

Yesterday I showed you the figgy pudding I made for Christmas. Today I am going to share with you the rum butter sauce I served with it. It turns out figgy pudding, much like fruit cake, does get a bit better with age, but it gets even better with a sauce. This is a simple, quick sauce that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. It will keep well in the refrigerator for a number of days, but it isn't likely there will be any leftovers. The sauce is best served warm, so it is a good idea to whip up a batch every time you serve figgy pudding. This recipe makes a small batch, but it could easily be doubled or tripled to serve more. Here is the recipe.

Rum Butter Sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 Tablespoons rum (light and dark both work well)
1 Tablespoon milk or cream

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the rum and milk, heat until bubbly, cook for 3-5 minutes until bubbling subsides and sauce has thickened. Serve immediately.
Here is a recipe for an alternate hard sauce for figgy pudding. It does not require cooking, and it makes a lot more, so it will feed a crowd. It also contains a lot more liquor that has not been boiled off, so it is a lot stronger.

Creamy Rum Sauce
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
2 cups dark rum or brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, mixing at low speed. Add the rum and vanilla.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Figgy Pudding

Figgy Pudding is not just a made up food sung about in a popular Christmas carol, it is actually a real traditional Christmas dessert. Every year at Christmastime, my grandfather asks for figgy pudding, so this year I decided to make it for him. I had never had figgy pudding before, so I didn't really know what to expect, or have any ideas of what figgy pudding 'should' be like. There are many many recipes for figgy pudding to be found online, but for my first attempt, I decided to stick with a fairly basic and easy recipe. Normally figgy pudding is baked in a large bundt or tube pan, but I decided to make mini figgy puddings. I used a special mini cake pan to give the figgy puddings an attractive appearance. I made six of them, and I poured the leftover batter into six muffin cups to make small figgy pudding muffins. This worked out quite well, they baked very nicely and in half of the time as one large figgy pudding would. The muffins took slightly less time to bake than the mini cakes.

Most figgy pudding recipes begin with figs, of course, and also contain molasses, spices, eggs, butter, flour, and milk. Some recipes contain other fruit additions, such as raisins, dates, and even chopped cherries. Some contain nuts or chocolate. Some use dry breadcrumbs instead of flour. I even came across one recipe that was made with pumpkin puree. The recipe I used was fairly basic, and used figs and raisins. Figgy pudding is also commonly served with a pouring sauce, usually a custard sauce or a hard sauce, often flavored with dark rum. Although figgy pudding is very good on its own, sauce takes it to another dimension.  

Figgy Pudding
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup molasses
2 cups total chopped figs and raisins
(I used about 1 1/4 cups figs and 3/4 cup raisins)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon rind (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch tube pan or miniature cake pans or muffin cups.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until soft. Add the eggs and molasses and beat until fluffy. Add figs, raisins, lemon rind, and buttermilk.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared pan(s). 

Bake large cake for about an hour or small cakes for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out pretty clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eggnog Muffins

We always seem to end up with more eggnog than we can drink. I myself am not a fan of eggnog, but if it is baked up into some yummy muffins, I will gladly eat it. My mother made these eggnog muffins. They are made with spices, raisins, and 1 3/4 cups of eggnog. The eggnog adds a nice new flavor dimension and moistness to the muffins, but the muffins don't actually taste "eggnog-y". These muffins rose nice and high, and had a light and fluffy texture. The recipe came from the world wide web.

Eggnog Muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups eggnog
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans
Preheat 350F. Line 16 muffins cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the first five dry ingredients.
In a seperate medium bowl, combine the egg, eggnog, and oil.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stir until just moistened.
Fold in raisins and pecans.
Fill prepared muffin cups two-thirds full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool.

We didn't have any nutmeg, so my mom used some cinnamon and cloves. She also left out the pecans, although they probably would have made a nice addition. She even made a few plain muffins - no raisins or pecans.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Panettone

Panettone is an Italian Christmas fruit bread. It is very popular around Christmas time, and many grocery stores sell commercial varieties of it starting in November. It isn't hard to find. Every brand of panettone is slightly different, but usually panettone is flavored with citrus fruits and anise. Anise, commonly found in the form of star anise or anise extract, is an herb with a flavor very similar to licorice. It adds the characteristic flavor to panettone. Panettone also contains a plentiful amount of dried fruit; usually raisins, cherries, and mixed peel. Some varieties of panettone also contain pine nuts. 
Traditionally panettone is baked in a special pan to give it a unique shape. For home cooks though, panettone is normally just shaped into a round by hand and baked free-form on a baking sheet. The dough is very soft and smooth and easy to work with. This bread is quite rich, as it contains butter, eggs, and milk. Some types also contain a little liquor for added flavor. The recipe I used yields two large loaves, but this year I decided to make them into four smaller loaves to give as gifts. You can also buy large loaves, or small individual-sized loaves, more like panettone muffins.  
Panettone is one of those foods that gets better with age. When well wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place, homemade panettone can keep for at least a month, and really should not even be tasted before two weeks of aging. It can also be frozen for prolonged storage. Store-bought panettone contains many more preservatives, and some will last for up to a year. Panettone is great eaten for breakfast with a little butter or honey, or even nothing at all. It goes great with tea and coffee. It is also delicious toasted. I highly recommend that you try some panettone this year. I don't say this often, but the store bought varieties are perfectly acceptable if you are still a little leery about making some yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chicken & Rice Dinner

I found this recipe in a little booklet designed to promote a brand of soup, since every recipe in it uses soup. They all seemed quick, easy, and tasty, so I decided to try one for supper tonight. This one was a 20 minute chicken, rice and vegetable skillet. However, I changed the recipe around a bit. I used regular rice instead of instant, so I cooked it separately on top of the stove, and then mixed it in with the chicken and vegetables when they were both cooked. I baked the casserole in the oven instead of simmering it in a skillet. I also precooked the chicken in the oven too. I used a frozen vegetable blend of broccoli, mushrooms, beans, carrots, and onion. So this dish didn't end up being a 20 minute one pan meal, but it was still easy and convenient. And most importantly, yummy! The entire family enjoyed it, and it will make good leftovers for tomorrow.

Chicken & Rice Dinner
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 can (10 ounces/284 mL) cream of chicken soup (regular or reduced fat)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked instant rice
2 cups frozen vegetable mixture 

HEAT oil at medium-high in large skillet. Add chicken, cook until browned - about 10 minutes; set chicken aside. Reduce heat to medium.

COMBINE soup, water, paprika and pepper in skillet. Heat to a boil, stirring often.

STIR in rice and vegetables. Top with chicken. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through - about 5 minutes. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

German Pancake

Here is a quick and appealing alternative to regular pancakes: a German Pancake, also called a Dutch Baby Pancake. It is not completely clear as to whether this dish first originated in Germany, Holland, or somewhere else entirely. It is a large, puffy cross between a pancake and a souffle. Usually the miniature versions of these baked in individual-sized pans are referred to as "Dutch Babies" and the larger-size designed to serve many became known as  "German Pancakes". Whatever you want to call it, this dish is good! It is also very simple and quick to make, and is a great alternative to pancakes, which require cooking carefully in batches and paying close attention to ensure they do not overcook. This pancake is poured into a preheated skillet, then put into the oven at a high temperature for a short time to create a puffy, golden pancake. This large pancake forms high sides on the edges, leaving an open center that may be filled with a variety of fillings. Fresh fruit, chutneys, preserves, maple syrup, or simply powdered sugar are all great fillings. I found this recipe in a magazine.

German Pancake
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Heat oven to 425F. In a blender, puree the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt until well combined.
Heat a medium or large (9 to 10 inch) cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Add the batter, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the pancake is puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

I served my pancake with a simple apple compote. I melted a tablespoon of butter and added 3 large apples, peeled and coarsely chopped, with 1/2 cup apple juice, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I boiled this mixture until it was thickened and the apples were soft, but still held their shape. Delicious!

 "German Pancake.”  http://www.womansday.com/recipefinder/german-pancake-recipe-122888?click=recipe_sr. Woman's Day, n.d. Sunday, December 18, 2011. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Marble Brownies

These squares combine two of my favorite foods: chocolate and peanut butter. A match made in heaven! These squares are rich, sweet and decadent. They remind me of a Reese peanut butter cup. Here is the recipe, from another little baking booklet I found. This is the original, but I halved the recipe to make an 8x8 inch pan, which worked out very well. I also didn't bother with an electric mixer, I just mixed by hand. Dividing the batter in half sounds like a bit of a bother, but it is really easy to do.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Marble Brownies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup peanut butter baking chips
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, sugars, eggs and milk together on medium speed of an electric mixer until blended. Add flour and baking powder, mixing until smooth. Divide batter in half. Stir in peanut butter and peanut butter chips into one half. Stir cocoa and chocolate chips into other half. In greased 9x13 inch pan, alternate spoonfuls of batter in checkerboard pattern, using abut 8 spoonfuls of each. Swirl through batter to create a marble effect. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until set. Cool completely then cut into squares.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cookies For Santa

The most challenging question of the holiday season: What kind of cookies should I leave out for Santa? Should they be healthy, since he will have to toss back so many other cookies? Does he have a peanut allergy? Maybe he hates chocolate?

Some people say chocolate chip, the old classic, are Santa's favorite. Others swear he prefers oatmeal raisin. And others still, claim Santa cannot resist a good gingerbread cookie. So, what on earth should I leave for Santa, and how much should I leave him? 

There is also the matter of milk as well, does Santa want fat-free, or 2%, or would he really rather eggnog? And who knows how long the milk sits out before Santa arrives. At our house, we always just leave out a clean glass, and a note telling Santa to help himself to the milk in the fridge. Although sometimes he is a little careless and forgets to put the milk back into the fridge.

So, what type of cookie would Santa enjoy best? I think the best answer, is to just choose a cookie that you really like and are really good at making, and I am sure Santa will enjoy them! Here are some ideas:
  • Christmas Cookies: Shortbread, sugar, cherry winks, gingerbread, gingersnaps, fruitcake cookies.
  • Classic Cookies: Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, double chocolate, peanut butter, macaroons, meringues.
  • Fancy Cookies: Biscotti, whoopie pies, bar cookies, iced cookies. 
PHOTO CREDIT:"images.jpg"  http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/154547/a-z-christmas-la-navidad/mostvotes/15/15 . Spanish Dict, n.d. Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Iced Ginger Cookies

I was in the holiday mood again today, so I decided to make some ginger cookies. I made some gingerbread men, as well as some trees and some bells. I used a very basic recipe that makes quite sturdy cookies, which withstand decorations, and can even be made into hanging ornaments. The dough was firm and easy to roll out. It also did not require refrigeration time before rolling, which saved some time. I decided to decorate my cookies with red and green piping. Here is the recipe, from Company's Coming "Cookies".

Rolled Ginger Cookies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup water
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
decorations

In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together. Add molasses and water. Mix in remaining ingredients.

Roll out on lightly floured board. Cut dough into shapes. For ornaments, make hole 1/2 inch from top edge using drinking straw. Arrange on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 350F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cook thicker cookies a bit longer. Makes about 2 dozen.

Decorations: The recipe recommends brushing the tops of the cooled cookies with warm corn syrup, and applying decorations. The glaze will stay sticky for about thirty minutes. Decorating the cooled cookies with icing also works.
These cookies can also be decorated before baking. Just press sprinkles, colored sugar, or candy-coated chocolates into the cookies before baking.

ParĂ©, Jean. "Rolled Ginger Cookies." Recipe. Cookies, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1989. 92-93.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scrumptious Squares

Scrumptious Squares, I cannot think of a more accurate description or a better name for these squares, they truly are scrumptious. They begin with a shortbread base, followed by a layer of caramel and a cream cheese filling, with a milk chocolate topping. I found the recipe in a Company's Coming cookbook "Chocolate Squared". The recipe calls for 3/4 cup of caramel ice cream topping, but I didn't have any, so I whipped up my own homemade caramel sauce. I also decided to leave out the 1/2 cup chopped nuts called for. If you don't happen to have milk chocolate on hand, semi-sweet chocolate chips would also work for the topping, but I think the more mellow flavor of the milk chocolate creates a better balance with the cream cheese and the caramel. The method for topping these squares is the easiest and most convenient ever: just sprinkle the squares with the chocolate chips immediately after removing them from the oven. Allow to stand for a few minutes to soften, then spread with a knife until smooth. A quick and easy icing! This is another square recipe that is fairly quick and easy to make.
Scrumptious Squares
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hard margarine (or butter), softened
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
4 ounces (125 grams) light cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Mix first 3 ingredients in small bowl until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 2/3 cup flour mixture. Press remaining flour mixture firmly in ungreased 9x9 inch pan.

Beat egg and cream cheese in medium bowl. Add ice cream topping and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add reserved flour mixture. Mix well.

Add walnuts. Stir. Spread evenly over flour mixture in pan. Bake in 375F oven for about 30 minutes until set and edges are golden.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let stand until very soft. Spread evenly. Let stand until cool. Cuts into 36 squares (or a lot less if I cut them). Cut them when they are thoroughly cooled, but don't refrigerate them before cutting. The chocolate topping will become too brittle and will crack when cutting.

ParĂ©, Jean. "Scrumptious Squares." Recipe. Chocolate Squared, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 2009. 20.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No-Bake Chocolate Oat Drop Cookies

Here is a master recipe for what has got to be one of the most basic, easiest, and quickest cookie recipes around. It is a very simple recipe, a good recipe for beginner bakers to start out with. It requires only six ingredients and no oven - only the stovetop. And surprisingly, these cookies are really good! 

This recipe has been published by numerous different sources, and you can find many variations of it too. Some add coconut or nuts, and others offer butterscotch versions instead of chocolate. My earliest memories of these cookies are that they were one of the first recipes we made in cooking class in school. I remember our group added an extra spoonful of cocoa, which turned out to be a really good idea. Sometimes it pays off not to follow directions, our cookies were the best in the class! The hardest part of the entire recipe is waiting for the cookies to set in the refrigerator before eating them.

No-Bake Chocolate Oat Drop Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or hard margarine
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
3 cups minute oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar, cocoa, and milk. Stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil, boil and stir for three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Quickly mix in the oats.

Working quickly before the mixture has time to harden, drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate at least one hour, or until firm.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The "B"est Foods

Way back in August, I did a fun little post where I named as many foods that I could think of beginning with the letter A. 

Today, I will do the letter B. I'm thinking there are more foods beginning with the letter B than A, but we'll see. Okay, this will be strictly from my head, no brand names or flavors.  
Here goes:
  • Banana, Blueberry, Blackberry, Brownie, Beet, Broccoli, Brussels Sprout
  • Bubblegum, Bean,Butter, Beef, Bread, Bran, Baking powder, Baking soda
  • Borscht, Bannock, Biscuit, Bib lettuce, Boston Cream Pie, Beignets
  • Brown Rice, Barley, Bark (as in chocolate bark), Buttermilk, Burger
  • Breadcrumbs, Bagel, Buttercream, Barbecue Sauce, Basil
Well, I beat my A record! Are there any I left out?
PHOTO CREDIT:"B-Autonorte.jpg"   http://ilgattohanuovecode.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html.  ilgattohanuovecode, n.d. Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shreddies Chocolatey Party Mix

The holiday season just would not be the same without my mother's delicious mix. It is a simple recipe composed of shreddies cereal and chopped peanuts, which is coated with a mixture of butter, brown sugar and corn syrup, that has been boiled for 5 minutes. It is then baked at a low temperature for 40 minutes, during which the enticing aroma is almost too much to handle. When cool, miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips are added. A handful of this mix is an ooey-gooey treat. It is both sweet and salty and crunchy and chewy all at the same time. This mix isn't really holiday-themed or anything, it could be made any time of the year. My mother just always happens to make it around Christmas time. It will keep well stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few weeks. It is best to keep this mix hidden though, as it tends to disappear fairly quickly. It is a great sweeter alternative to the normal chip bowl. If this recipe does not seem to be to your liking, there are many many other cereal mix recipes. A lot of them use shreddies as well, but others use different cereals and mixtures of cereals. There are sweet, spicy, and savory mixes; some baked, some not; some complex, some simple. Check them out!
Thanks again Mom!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The List

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the never-ending list I have going. Anytime I see a recipe that sounds appealing, and every time I come across a new recipe I want to try, I write it down on my list. My list is now composed of hundreds of recipes I would like to try from a variety of sources. I come across new recipes and tasty new ideas on a daily basis, so my list is constantly being updated. I try to keep my list as organized as possible, but that is not easy when it just keeps growing and growing. I keep this list recorded in a simple notebook, organized by sections. The sections are by recipe source (cookbook, magazine, newspaper article, online), and categorized farther by author and recipe type (meal, snack, dessert). I turn to this list every time I need to bake something, as it gives me ideas of what I should make. Beside the recipe name, I write the source, the page number (if applicable) , and how much the recipe will make. This makes it very convenient to simply flip through the notebook when I want to bake something, and easily find a recipe with a suitable yield, using ingredients already on hand. When I make an item from this list, I write the date I made it, and some comments and ratings next to it. It seems like I add ten more items for every one I cross off. Some day, probably far off in the future, I will finally get through this entire list. I don't often make the same items twice, only if they are particularly good, because I love to try new recipes.You may be wondering why I am not baking something from the list today, instead of rambling on about it. You see, it is nearly impossible for me to bake everyday. There are time constraints, and other chores that need doing. Plus, if I baked everyday, there is no way everything I baked would ever get eaten! Now, I must go add some more recipes I just found to my list...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hershey's Kiss Surprise Cookies

Here are some excellent Christmas cookies. They all start with a classic milk chocolate Hershey's kiss. This gets encased with a decadent chocolate chip cookie dough and baked. Then, a final drizzle of melted chocolate and these cookies - a chocolate lover's dream - are ready to be devoured. Actually, I usually skip this final step, it really isn't necessary, the cookies are still divine without it. Usually the cookies aren't around long enough to withstand a chocolate drizzle anyway. It is fun to see peoples' faces light up when the bite into a cookie, thinking it is just a regular chocolate chip, and then they discover the surprise Hershey's kiss inside! My mother made this delicious batch of cookies, yum!
Hershey's Kiss Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 bag (10 ounces) Hershey's kisses milk chocolates
1 cup (two sticks) butter or hard margarine, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Hershey's miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
1/4 cup Hershey's miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening

Remove wrappers from Hershey's kisses. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add flour, blend until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll scant tablespoons of dough around each chocolate kiss, covering completely. Shape into balls, place on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set. remove from cookie sheets and cool, then drizzle with chocolate drizzle, if desired.

In a small microwaveable-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and shortening together on high (100%) for 30 seconds, stir until smooth. If necessary, reheat for an additional 20 seconds at a time, until chocolate is smooth. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Makes approximately four dozen (48) cookies.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Dark Chocolate Tartlets

Well, here is the finished product: cream cheese tartlets with dark chocolate filling and vanilla buttercream topping. These were quite easy and quick to make, and look very cute. They are the perfect bite-sized treat. I simply placed a spoonful of some dark chocolate ganache in each tart, and used a star tip to pipe some of my classic buttercream icing on top. Sweet and simple. The flavors of the chocolate filling and vanilla buttercream complement each other perfectly, and the cream cheese shell provides a sturdy holder and nice balance of flavors and textures. You can see some of the chocolate filling peeking out from the buttercream covering in some of the tartlets.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Cream Cheese Tartlet Shells

Here is a super simple, quick, and yummy recipe for easy and versatile tartlet shells. They are a good base for many different tarts, sweet or savory. If you are using them for a slightly sweet but not decadent filling, add a little sugar to the dough. If you are using them for a savory filling, add a little salt. These tartlet shells can be filled before or after baking, depending on your filling. Keep in mind that they puff up a little during baking, so if you fill them before baking, be very modest with your amount of filling. Otherwise, you may end up with a mess on the oven floor. These are easy to make, and miniature muffin cups are the perfect size to bake them in, as long as you don't want them to deep. They are minis - so a lot of filling is not required. I am baking them today to have them ready to fill. I will display the finished product tomorrow.

Cream Cheese Tartlet Shells
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white all-purpose flour
1-3 Tablespoons sugar, if desired
1 teaspoon salt, for savory fillings
Blend the cream cheese and the butter together until smooth. Add the flour and sugar or salt, and blend. Shape dough into a ball and press into a flattened disk. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325F. Shape the dough into 24 1-inch balls, press thinly into ungreased miniature muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. These are very easy to remove within minutes of baking, just when cool enough to handle. Don't try to cool them in the muffin tin.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Button Cookies

Another Christmas cookie to display: Button Cookies. We just started making these cookies a few years ago, but since then, they have become a tradition that is greatly adored. These button cookies are really just brown sugar shortbread cookies with holes poked in them after baking. They must be made using real butter for the best taste, and it is customary for them to be overloaded with powdered sugar, so that you inhale it when you take a bite. The holes are simply poked with a wooden skewer, we usually go with four holes, but have also tried three and five holes, which look nice too. My mother and I make these cookies together: she does most of the mixing and the baking, and I poke the holes and sprinkle with icing sugar. These cookies are quite fun to make, and they really are cute as a button.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Espresso Gingerbread Cake

Here is a new twist on an old holiday favorite: gingerbread with a coffee-flavored frosting. Not your typical gingerbread, but the flavors of ginger, molasses, and coffee compliment each other very nicely. It was surprisingly delicious. The cake was spicy and had a nice tender crumb, and the frosting suited it perfectly. The recipe came from an old booklet I found lying around the house.
Espresso Gingerbread Cake
CAKE
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup fancy molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
3 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
FROSTING
1 1/2 tsp boiling water
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1/3 cup 35% whipping cream
2 Tbsp softened butter
2 cups icing sugar

Butter an 8-inch round springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F.

CAKE In a large, heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the butter and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the molasses and brown sugar, egg and ginger.
Stir the flour with the baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom. Add to the butter mixture in two additions, blending with a spoon until smooth. 
Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING
Place boiling water in a large bowl. Add the coffee and stir to dissolve. Add cream and butter, blend well. Gradually beat in icing sugar until smooth. Spread over just the top pf the cooled cake and allow some frosting to run down the sides.

The recipe recommends garnishing this cake with crystallized ginger strips, but I didn't have any. So I garnished with chocolate chips, because everyone loves chocolate (at least in this house).

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Roast Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Dinner

Here was tonight's supper: a roasted pork tenderloin cooked with mushrooms, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, and cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce. It was very easy and efficient to make, since the entire meal cooks together in one dish. The various aspects cooked beautifully together, and cleanup was a breeze. I found the recipe in a 2011 calender. The only big changes I made was to use two small pork tenderloin "quick roasts" because that is what I found at the grocery store, and to add an extra sweet potato.

Roast Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Dinner
1 large pork tenderloin, trimmed (about 1 lb/500g)
2 medium white potatoes, cut in 3/4 inch chunks
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in 3/4 inch chunks
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
8 oz (250g) mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Place pork in center, tucking thin end underneath. Arrange potatoes around pork, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, onion, paprika, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in broth and mustard. Whisk flour into milk, stir into pan and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring for 1 minute.

Pour sauce over pork in pan, roast 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 160F. Let rest 5 minutes, before cutting pork crosswise into thin slices. Serve with a scoop of mushrooms and potatoes and a drizzle of sauce. 

 "Roast Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Dinner.” http://www.dairygoodness.ca/recipes/roast-pork-tenderloin-and-mushroom-dinner. Dairy Goodness, n.d. Sunday, December 4, 2011. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Country Seed Bread

I attempted to make another homemade whole wheat bread today. I think it turned out pretty well. It was hearty and filling, with plenty of flavor. This bread is enriched with some different types of seeds for added crunch. The exterior crust is also especially crunchy, most likely due to the initial baking at 400F. It is very easy to slice, and holds together well, making for an excellent sandwich bread. I found the recipe in a book compiling the so-called best bread and pizza recipes, but of course I made some variations.

Country Seed Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tsp quick-rising (instant) dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tbsp liquid honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt

In large bowl, stir together flours, seeds and yeast. In small bowl, whisk water, honey, oil and salt; stir into flour mixture until sticky dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until dough is still slightly sticky and springs back when pressed in center. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

Punch dough down, gently pull into a rectangle. Place in greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Using a serrated knife, make a 1-inch deep cut lengthwise along top of loaf. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350F and bake 30-35 minutes longer, until browned.

Baird, Elizabeth. "Country Seed Bread." Recipe. Canadian Living's Best Breads & Pizzas, Mississauga, Ontario: Telemedia Communications Inc. 1998. 22.