Monday, December 21, 2009

Jelly Roll Cookies

Note: These are nothing like the more common jelly roll cake. I have never actually had one of those, but I imagine the taste and consistency being completely different.

A few years back my Dad's cousin Ivy flew in from Florida, and taught me how to make her Grandmother's jelly rolls. These are my Dad's favorite cookie, and for good reason. The cookie part is airy and slightly sweet while the filling is gooey enough to balance out any dryness in the dough. Of course, while I was learning the process of making these, I did not take any notes, so I was left only with the ingredient list. I have made these for my dad a few times since then, always having to guess at what the actual process was, and always with a satisfactory outcome, but not exactly the way Dad remembers them. This year however, I had a break through. I made them this past weekend for my Dad's birthday. I wrote down my process, and they turned out better than ever before. They received rave reviews from Dad, Mom, and Tim (Dad's opinion is the only one that I really count on these, because he is the only one out of the group that has tasted the originals). So, from now on I will know the process and not have to feel intimidated every time my Dad asks for these. I think I will be making them a lot more often!

Jelly Roll Cookies:
4 C of flour to start-you will probably need to add more as you work though.
1 C sugar
1 C oil
6 eggs
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
large jar of preserves-Dad will only accept strawberry, but I like them with apricot as well.
Golden Raisins
Cinnamon and Sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Mix flour, sugar, oil, baking powder, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, and mix thoroughly before adding the next one. You will need to get your hands in there and mix everything up, so roll up your sleeves and wear an apron!
Add more flour very gradually until dough is a workable consistency. It should still be shiny but not too sticky to work with. Be careful not to make it too dry or it will not stay together the way you need it too. I ended up using about 5 cups of flour total.
This is what the dough should look like:

Divide your dough into 4 equal sections. Place one section on a well floured work space or pastry sheet, and set the rest of the dough aside.

Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. You don't want it to be too thin because you don't want the dough to tear when you roll it up.
Spread a thin layer of jelly and make sure to leave an inch or so around the edges so that it doesn't ooze out when you try to roll it. Top the jelly with golden raisins and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Roll up to make a long roll, gently pinch the seams together, and transfer to a baking sheet with the seam side down.
Repeat these steps with the 3 remaining pieces of dough. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the rolls are lightly browned.
Allow the rolls to cool completely and then cut each into 10 pieces. These are great by themselves, or with a big mug of coffee!

Monday, December 14, 2009


I love to bake bread at all times of the year, but during the winter is when I really have the time to spend on a delicious loaf of bread. Plus, what is better than a warm slice of bread when it is chilly out side? As I was trying to decide what to make as my first loaf of bread this season, I came across a challah recipe in my America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. I have always wanted to make challah, but have also always been intimidated by it. My usual mantra is that delicious food does not have to be beautiful, and that came about because I am clumsy and usually do not end up with perfectly stylized food. I do need some practice on my challah braiding skills, but the flavor was right according to my father and his friend Harvey. Both of them know their challah, so I trust them. I added a little cinnamon and sugar to the glaze to add some sweetness, and that seemed to be a hit with the tasters as well. The bread was a bit denser than I would have liked, but that was probably due to me over-mixing, so I will have to play around with that.

*Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book Pg 113

***Remember to save the leftover egg white for the glaze

1/2 C Warm Water (110 degrees)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
3-3 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C sugar
1 envelope instant or rapid rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

1 Large egg white
2 Tbsp water
cinnamon and sugar for topping

For the dough: Whisk the water, melted butter, eggs, and egg yolk together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 3 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the water mixture and mix until the dough comes together-about 2 minutes.

Increase mixer speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If after 4 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/2 C flour, 2 Tbsp at a time, until dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand into a smooth, round ball. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover. let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 2 pieces, one twice the size of the other. Divide each piece into 3 pieces, and roll each piece out into a 16-inch-long rope.

For the glaze and the braid:
Beat egg white and water together in a small bowl.

to braid:
take the ropes from the thicker piece of dough and pinch the ends together. braid these three strands together. Transfer this braid to the baking sheet and repeat the braid with the ropes from the smaller piece. Brush larger loaf with some of the glaze and top with a fair amount of cinnamon and sugar. Place the smaller loaf on top of the larger one, Take both ends of the loaf and tuck them under the larger loaf. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled in size-dough will barely spring back when lightly pushed with finger-45-75 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Top with the remaining glaze and more cinnamon and sugar. Bake until golden and the center of loaf is at 200 degrees. 30-40 minutes. Rotate the loaf halfway through. Cool on baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to wire wrack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cookie Swap 2009!

This past Saturday I hosted a cookie swap at my house. We had a lot of fun trying cookies and relaxing. The main idea was to share our favorite cookie recipes before all the Christmas and Hannukah baking begins. This way we can all add some new favorites into our cookie platters this year. We had a wide variety of cookies, and no duplicates! We were able to taste all the different types, and I e-mailed all the recipes to the participants so that they can use them all in the future. I also wanted to share all the recipes with you, and maybe get you excited for your holiday baking this year!

I apologize for the random blue lines at the bottom part of the post...I don't know where they came from, or how to get rid of them
Here 'goes:

Cranberry Cookies

½ C butter

1 C sugar

¾ C brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 C Milk

1 egg

3 C sifted all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp baking soda

1 C mixed candied fruit, diced (optional)

1 Tbsp grated orange peel

2 ½ C fresh cranberries, coarsley chopped

½ C chopped nuts, optional

2 Tbsp orange juice

Cream butter, sugars and vanilla together. Beat in milk and egg. Sift and mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into creamed mixture and blend well. Add candied fruit,

orange peel, and cranberries.

For each cookie, mound two level tablespoons on well greased cookie sheets. Space about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Yields 3 ½ dozen.

Ricotta Cookies and White Butter Icing


½ Lb butter

1 C sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1 lb ricotta cheese

3 eggs

4 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar, then add next three ingredients, adding one egg at a time. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda and add to butter mixture. Roll out and cut with cookie cutters, or drop by Tablespoons onto cookie

sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. You may ice the cookies if desired.


¼ lb butter

1 box confectioner's sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Mix together with mixer and add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time until proper consistency for spreading. If you like, tint small amounts of the icing with pink, green, yellow, etc. food coloring. Ice the cool cookies and dip them in coconut flakes or jimmies.

Honeyed Almond-Cherry Shortbread

For the macerated cherries

1 C dried cherries, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp dry sherry

1 Tbsp finely grated tangerine or orange zest

For the honeyed almonds

½ C honey

1 Oz. (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter

2 C lightly toasted sliced almonds

½ tsp coarse salt

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

For the cookie dough

8 Oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)

¾ C confectioner's sugar

2 ¼ C all purpose flour

1 ¼ tsp coarse salt

Prepare macerated cherries: combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and toss to combine. Let Stand for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Make the honeyed almonds: cook honey and butter in a medium

sauce-pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and deep amber, about 5 minutes. Add almonds, salt, and vanilla. Stir to coat completely. Remove from heat, and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let cool, about 30 minutes. Coarsely chop.

Make the dough: Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add macerated cherries, and mix until combined. Add flour and salt, and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Add honeyed almonds, and mix until just combined.

Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment, and form into a 2 ½-by-16-inch rectangular log. Pressing edges with a ruler to shape. Wrap in parchment. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Cut dough into 1/4-inch thick slices, and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Bake until cookies are golden and set, 30-35 minutes. Let cook completely on baking sheets. Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sugar Cookies

1 C unsalted butter, softened

1 C sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

2 eggs

3 C flour

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 C sifted confectioner's sugar

2 Tbsp milk

multicolored nonpareils

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla: mix well. Stir together flour, salt and baking soda; mix into sugar mixture until well blended. Chill 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide dough into quarters. Roll out one quarter on lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes and place onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 5-8 minutes or until cookies are barely browned at the edges. Cool on wire rack.

Mix together the confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Spread on cookies; sprinkle with nonpareils.

Lime Melt aways

¾ C unsalted butter, room temperature

1 C confectioner's sugar

finely grated zest of 2 limes

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 ¾ C plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour

2 Tbsp cornstarch

¼ tsp coarse salt

Put butter and 1/3 C confectioner's sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add lime zest , juice, and vanilla, and mix until fluffy.

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Add to butter mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Place each half on an 8-by-12-inch sheet of parchment paper. Roll in parchment to form a log 1 ¼ inches in diameter, pressing ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Refrigerate logs until cold and firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove parchment from logs. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, 8-10 minutes. While still warm, toss cookies with remaining 2/3 C sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers and room temperature up to 2 weeks.

Dulce De Leche Cookies

2 C all-purpose flour, sifted

¼ C confectioner's sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting

½ tsp salt

1 C unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened

1 ½ C dulce de leche, at room temperature

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and butter. Pulse until dough comes together into a ball. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour so that you can shape the soft dough into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter cut out the cookies and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bring the dough scraps together and gently press into a ball. Flour your work surface and re-roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut out more rounds.

Bake the cookies until they are golden and firm, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely, about 25 minutes.

Place the dulce de leche in a small bowl and stir in the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Spread about 1 ½ tsp on the dulce de leche on the flat side of a cookie and sandwich with the flat side of another cookie. Place on a platter and dust with powdered sugar.

Ginger Snaps

1 C brown sugar

¾ C shortening

1 egg

¼ C light molasses

2 C flour

2 t baking soda

1 t ginger

1 t cinnamon

¼ t salt

¼ C quick oats

Cream shortening, and sugar. Stir in egg and molasses. Sift together the flour and spices. Blend these, together with the oats, into the creamed mixture. Chill until dough is easy to

handle. Shape into balls and roll in sugar. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass which as been dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

Butter Pecan Crescents

1 cup butter

6 T confectioners' sugar
1/2 t salt
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1 t vanilla
confectioners' sugar for dusting

sift flour once, measure and re sift w/salt. Cream butter until light & fluffy. Add conf. sugar & vanilla, blend well. Work in flour then add nuts. Roll into crescents and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. When cool, dust with conf. sugar.

Peanut Butter Candy Bars

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 lb confectioners' sugar (2 cups)

2 cups peanut butter (can use creamy or chunky)
1/2 lb melted butter

Mix all together and press into a 9 x 13 or 11x13 pan.

1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips* and 1 stick margarine

Can be melted in microwave or in a pan. Stir well, then pour over mixture in pan. Cool in refrigerator. Cut into 1 inch squares.

*May use a 6 oz pkg semi-sweet chips & a 6 oz pkg milk choc. chips.

Tastes like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Butter Cookies

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

3 eggs

2 C sugar

1 tsp salt

3 C flour

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Combine butter, eggs, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; stir with wooden spoon until smooth, about 1 minute. Combine 2 ¼ C of the flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time to make a soft, sticky dough. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup of the flour on the counter; place dough on the flour. Knead, incorporating more flour just until dough is no longer sticky. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator; cut off a 2-inch piece. Re-wrap remaining dough and return to refrigerator. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-in thickness. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets; bake until edges turn golden brown, 7-8 minutes per batch. Transfer cookies to wire wrack to cool. Repeat with remaining chilled dough.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ½ C granulated sugar

½ C packed brown sugar

1/3 C unsalted butter

1/3 C shortening

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ C all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ C chopped nuts

16 oz chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Mix sugar, butter, shortening, egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill dough or drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheet. Bake until light brown, 8-10 minutes.

Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

You may roll dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for a month, baking as needed.

Oatmeal Fruit Cookies

½ C butter

½ C oil

1 C sugar

2 Tbsp honey or molasses

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla

2 ½ C rolled oats

1 ½ C whole wheat flour

1-1 ½ C diced dried fruit: cherries, blueberries, apricots, raisins, cranberries, currants

1 C grated coconut or nuts (chopped)

1 tsp baking soda

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees

In a a large bowl cream together butter, oil, sugar and honey or molasses until light and fluffy.

Beat in egg and vanilla.

Combine oats, flour, fruit, nuts or coconut, and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture in 3 additions, stirring just until thoroughly mixed. Add a little extra flour if mixture seems too wet. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven until just set, 18-20 minutes. Immediately remove from pans and place directly onto clean counter top or table surface. As soon as cookies are cook out into air-tight containers.


1 lb peanut butter

1 lb powdered sugar

2 c. graham crackers

1 tsp. vanilla

1 big bag chocolate chips

Cream the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Then add graham crackers and vanilla and mix. Form into balls, put a toothpick into the center of each one (this makes dipping easier later on) and place on parchment or wax paper in the fridge for at least a day. Once they are good and hard melt the chocolate chips and dip the bottom half of each ball into the chocolate. Place back on wax paper, remove toothpicks and refrigerate until chocolate hardens. Store in fridge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pre Thanksgiving Food

Before any holiday that is centered around gluttony, I like to spend a few days making sure that I eat light and healthy. I usually don't even end up eating that much on holidays because I get full too fast, but I always intend to. I love food, and just thinking about all that comfort food in one place gets me to start thinking about the best strategy to be able to eat as much as possible in one meal. And then there's dessert. Oh the pies, cookies, and other random sweet treats gathered around the house. It's all too much for my food loving brain to bear! So anyways, the point is that this week I am making very light and simple dinners, so that if I happen to be able to eat as much as I want to on Thursday, I will not have to feel like a complete pig. Last night I made rice and beans. I used to make this a lot when I was in college because I was a vegetarian, and it is so cheap and easy to make. It is packed with veggies and is also really filling. It is not any sort of authentic rice and beans okay? It is just my own concoction of deliciousness, so don't be expecting Dominican Rice and Beans, or Cost Rican Rice and Beans. Those are all super delicious too, but that is not what I am talking about here.
All you will need is:
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 half of a medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 C cooked brown rice

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Stir to coat, and cook until tender. Add beans and tomatoes and cook until heated through. This should only take a few minutes.
Spoon bean mixture over the rice, and dig in. So easy, flavorful, and healthy. We usually have a little bit of the bean mixture left over, and it is great as a dip for tortilla chips or as a topping for many other things. Enjoy!

I plan to make hummus to eat tonight and tomorrow, also easy and healthy.

15 oz garbanzo beans or chick peas
2 tablespoons minced onion,
a few cloves of garlic, depending on how much you like-I add 3-4. You can add the garlic to the food processor whole, no need to mince it ahead of time.
7 tablespoons of lemon juice
a few teaspoons of good quality olive oil, (if you do not have good oil, just leave it out)
2 tablespoons of tahini.
Throw everything in your food processor and pulse until it is smooth. You can top it with fresh parsley if you want to. This will just add some color and a nice boost of flavor. Serve with fresh pita bread, carrot sticks and cucumber slices. Yum!

What are you pre-holiday eating strategies? Eat more or eat less? I am curious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Accidental Cookie

I made these cookies completely on accident. I know, I know it makes no sense, unless you know me and how oblivious I can some times be. Then, it makes perfect sense. I was really trying to make the cookies on the neighboring page of my Simply In Season Cookbook. One of our favorite types-Oatmeal and fruit cookies. I still have to loosely refer to the recipe because I don't have a great memory and I have only made them a few times. I start throwing ingredients into a bowl according to the page that I am reading, and in the back of my brain is a voice saying "this does not seem right". Finally I take a step back and realize that I am in the process of making Sunflower Chip Cookies instead. These sounded pretty great too, and I happened to have everything on hand so I pressed 0n. They are delicious, and since they have only whole wheat flour, and only brown sugar, I keep telling myself that they are healthy, and a great source of protein too! This may or may not be true, but I am sticking with it! I am now addicted to these cookies, and have eaten almost all of them. Tim likes them, but thinks they are "too nutty". I still keep catching him with his hand in the cookie jar, so he must like them a little bit! :-)

Sunflower Chip Cookies
*recipe from Simply In Season pg 314

3/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 C Wheat Germ
1/2 t Baking Soda
2 T Dry Milk Powder
1/2 C Butter, softened
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 t Vanilla
1 C Chocolate Chips (or substitute raisins)
1/2 C Roasted Sunflower Seeds
1/2 C Chopped Peanuts

pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
Mix together the flour, wheat germ, milk powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients.
Stir in the chocolate chips (or raisins), sunflower seeds, and peanuts. drop by rounded teaspoons on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 8-12 minutes.
Easy and delicious, and if you ask me-healthy! I even had one after breakfast one day :-0

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mashed Potato and Black Bean Burritos

One of my favorite restaurants, Irazu-a Costa Rican restaurant in Wicker Park, has an interesting vegetarian taco flavor. Mashed potato. Ever since the first time I went there I have wanted to try these tacos because it was such a unique idea to me. I finally ordered them a couple of months ago, and was not disappointed at all. It is simply plain mashed potatoes inside a taquito style shell. Nothing super flavorful, but simple and satisfying.
This week I was shopping for sweet potatoes to make a dish that is a staple in our house-sweet potato and black bean burritos. All of the sweet potatoes at our produce market were really gross, and my mind immediately went to the mashed potato tacos from Irazu. "Why not sub in mashed potatoes for the sweet potato cubes?" I thought. And so, I left with a gigantic 8 pound bag of baking potatoes (it was on sale for $1.50 and I am sucker for a good bargain!). I knew I would have to add a lot more seasoning than I normally do with the sweet potatoes because, let's face it...baking potatoes are just kind of bleh on their own. My result was a creamy, delicious burrito that leaves you feeling pretty full and has a touch of comfort food as a result of the mashed potatoes. Perfect for a cold winter, or fall, night.

Mashed Potato and Black Bean Burritos

6 small baking potatoes
chili powder
garlic salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 large (28 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 0z can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 burrito size tortillas

Peel and halve about 6 small baking potatoes. Place them in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until potatoes are easily poked with a knife or fork. This should take about 10 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Use a hand mixer to blend mashed potatoes and butter. You want the potatoes to be significantly more dry than normal mashed potatoes because they are going to be mixed with a lot of other things. You don't want them to get too rich and over-power the dish. Add in some cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic salt to taste. I do not have exact measurements for this, but do it according to the flavors you like. Add some, mix it up, taste, repeat. You want the potatoes to be pretty well seasoned to provide a good base for all of the other ingredients.
You also want to cook your black beans before adding them to the burritos. After they have been rinsed simply throw them in a pan and cook them until they are heated through.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Lay a tortilla flat and spread a thin layer of mashed potatoes in the center. Top with a scoop of black beans, then a scoop of diced tomatoes, then some cheese. Roll of the tortilla and place it in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat this with the remaining ingredients. Put your burritos in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Take them out and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes.
This is an all-in-one meal, no need for any accompaniments, but if you want something else, stick with some good quality tortilla chips and some fresh salsa. This is a very heavy meal, so keep everything else simple.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Basic Biscuits

Tim loves bread. Shawna loves soup. I look forward to the colder months so that I can live off of soup. Tim has a black hole for a stomach and cannot quite wrap his brain around the idea of soup being his whole meal. So, out of guilt, I decided to make him some biscuits to go along with our soup. This seems to make him feel better about the meal, and I feel like I can enjoy my soup without worrying whether Tim is still starving. What a relief!
I believe the first round that I made were cheddar cheese biscuits with a hearty broccoli soup. Tim loved this. Last night I made lentil soup. Tim is not crazy about this soup because he thinks it is boring. I knew he was gonna need some biscuits to get through that meal! I made a basic biscuit recipe and just added a tablespoon, maybe a little more, of sour cream to the dough. This made them super moist. They spread a bit more while baking, so they were thinner than normal, but I thought they were really delicious. Tim also liked them, but thought that I should add both sour cream and cheese next time...can you tell the boy has Wisconsin in his blood???

Here is the basic biscuit recipe:
*from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book Pg 27

2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t sugar
3/4 t salt
1 C butter milk -see note below-it will make your life easier
8 T (1 stick) melted butter, slightly cooled

*note* If you do not have buttermilk on hand, you can make soured milk out of 1 C of milk, 1 T lemon juice, and 1 T white vinegar. Let this stand at room temperature for 10 minutes at which point it should be thickened. I usually don't keep buttermilk in the house, so I find this to be really helpful.

If you want cheesy biscuits just add enough grated cheese so that it looks like it is evenly spread throughout the dough. I think I probably used a cup of grated cheddar cheese, but I didn't measure, so you should add a little bit at a time, stir, keep adding until it looks like you have enough. I am very precise, aren't I? :-)

If you want the sour cream biscuits add about a tablespoon of sour cream into your dough, and leave a little extra space in between biscuits on the cookie sheet because they spread more than the normal ones.

Adjust oven rack the center slot and pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray of line with parchment paper.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix butter and buttermilk together until the butter starts to form small clumps. Stir the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture together just until incorporated. You don't want to over-mix or your biscuits will be tough.
Use a greased 1/4 C measure to scoop dough onto cookie sheet. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, 12-14 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Serve warm.

Sorry I don't have any pictures of these!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seared Steaks with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola

One day, a couple of years ago, I was surprised with an issue of Eating Well, addressed to me, in my mailbox. I never signed up for the subscription but by some happy accident I ended up with a two year subscription. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, and sometimes go back and re-read the issues. Yes, I know, I have a bit of an addiction to anything food related. hey, at least it's not heroin :-) Anyways...........I happened upon this recipe for seared steaks and was instantly drawn in. As a former vegetarian, I do not always get super excited about red meat. I do, however, love a good steak once in a blue moon. I also love, love, LOVE Gorgonzola. Tim is not a fan of pungent cheese, but he went along with the operation due to the fact that it was on top of a big, fat, juicy, steak. This steak was delicious, yet simple. Elegantly served on a bed of caramelized onions, how can you go wrong? I served this with a very simple salad of spring greens, avocado slices, and heirloom tomatoes. Yum!

Seared Steaks with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola
*recipe from Eating Well December 2008. Pg 22

2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Large onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (I may have added more than that...Tim made me do it!)
1/2 Cup reduced sodium beef broth (I used chicken broth because that's what I had on hand...still wonderful!)
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound beef tenderloin (fillet mignon, or sirloin steak, about 1 inch thick),trimmed and cut into 4 steaks
1/4 Cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add brown sugar and onions and cook, stirring often, until brown and very tender. This should take 15 minutes. Add broth, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and continue to cook until liquid is almost evaporated, about 3-4 minutes. Keep warm.

season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook until browned, 3-5 minutes. Turn them over and top with the cheese. Cook until cheese is melted and the steaks are the desired done-ness. This will be another 3-5 minutes for medium-rare. Serve the steaks with the caramelized onions.

Eating well is also kind enough to provide nutritional information for all of their recipes. Here is the info for this one:
338 calories, 16 G fat, 69 MG cholesterol, 11 G Carbohydrates, 36 G protein, 2 G Fiber, 468 MG sodium, 565 MG potassium.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cinnamon Toffee Apple Pie Squares

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week for the simple reason that on that day, I get to read the Good Eating section of the Tribune. I love the Good Eating Section. This recipe came from September 23rd's Good Eating. It is clear that the writers over there at the Trib are in full holiday mindset, and this recipe is a true Fall delight. I am hoping to make this again for Thanksgiving. Be prepared that this is no quick and easy recipe. It requires time, and a lot of peeled, cored, and sliced apples but it is so worth it. For someone who finds joy in the process of creating a beautiful and delicious dessert, this recipe is perfect. There is a thick crust on the bottom that wraps up the sides, a streusel top, and pounds of apples in the middle. This filling is simple, with just a bit of sugar and lemon added to highlight the flavor of the apples. The only thing that I changed was that I omitted the pecans in the streusel and used a cup of oatmeal instead. I am not a huge fan of the texture that pecans add to baked goods, but if you are a pecan lover go ahead and keep them, I am sure they add a delicious flavor. I know that if I am ever making these for my father-in-law, the pecans will be a must. For me though, the toffee added enough crunch while the oatmeal smoothed everything out. I also dusted the top with cinnamon to add some extra color.


3 Cups all purpouse Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Vegetable Shortening, frozen and cut into small bits
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, very cold and cut into small bits
1/2 Cup Water
3 Large Egg Yolks (don't throw the whites away-you can freeze them in ice cube trays and thaw them when you need them)
1.5 teaspoons Lemon Juice

Cinnamon Toffee Streusel

1 Cup Pecan Halves
1 Cup All Purpouse Flour
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
pinch Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter, very cold and cut into small bits
1/2 of an 8 oz package of Toffee Bits


4 Pounds Mixed Apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious) peeled, cored, sliced
1.5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 C Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
Grated Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1/4 teaspoon Salt

For the crust:
Put flour, baking powder and salt in to a food processor and process until well mixed
Sprinkle in shortening and cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs.

Mix water, egg yolks and lemon juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle over flour mixture and process just until the dough gathers into a ball. Do not over-mix or the dough will become tough. Transfer to a large sheet of waxed paper and flatten into a large disc. Wrap and refigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out to a rectangle that measures about 12 X 16 inches. Place the dough in a greased 9 X 13 pan and press it to make it even along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

For Streusel:
Put pecans in food processor and chop coursely. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon to the food processor. Process to mix. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add to pecans Stir in toffee bits. Squeeze mixture into small clumps and set aside.

For Filling:

Put apples into a large bowl. Toss with lemon juice to coat. Stir in the sugar, tapioca, lemon rind and salt. Mix well.

Take your pan with crust out of the refrigerator and evenly spread apple mixture over the crust. Top with streusel to completely cover the apples. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until top and crust are brown, about 40 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack to cool, and serve when barely warm.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Butternut Squash? In Chili?

Tim was craving chili and cornbread last week. Some one told him they were having it for dinner, and he immediately wanted some for himself. That same night, I talked to my sister on the phone and she said that she had just made her favorite chili recipe. She didn't know where it came from but that it was scribbled on a piece of notebook paper with a recipe for meatloaf on the other side. Those are the best kinds of recipes. So, she e-mailed it to me, and I used her base recipe to create a colorful, veggie-packed chili that was hearty but not overly meat-filled. I am not a huge fan of ground beef, so I usually make turkey chili but this one had enough other flavors in it that the beef was more of a compliment than a focal point. It helped that I had a lot of vegetables in my fridge begging to be eaten, but from now on, I will purposely buy them when I am making chili. Feel free to sub-in any veggies that you have, chili can be an experiment, that way it won't get boring!

1 lb Ground Beef (I used just under a pound which worked well when I added in all the extras) cooked, drained
2 (15 Oz.) cans of chili beans
2 large Green Peppers, Chopped
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
4 Celery Ribs, Chopped
3-4 large cherry tomatoes or small roma tomatoes, diced
1 Red Pepper, Chopped
1 Small Butternut Squash, peeled, cubed, pre-cooked (directions in recipe)
1 (8 Oz) Can of Tomato Sauce
1 envelope Chili Seasoning
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 (8 oz) package of Macaroni Noodles, cooked and drained
Cheddar Cheese, grated
Salt, Pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Start with your butternut squash because this is the most time consuming part of the whole process. Cut off the top and the bottom with a sharp knife. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to get all of the skin off. Cut up the squash into small cubes. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil, or other cooking spray. lay squash in the cookie sheet in a single layer and season with salt. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. Set aside.

While the squash is cooking, brown your meat and prepare all of your other veggies. Throw everything (squash last) except the macaroni, cheese, and salt and pepper into the crock pot. Add the squash last so that you can see how much you think you need. I probably added half of a pretty large squash. That was a perfect amount, but I just eye-balled it until it looked like it had a good ratio of ingredients. You can keep the rest of the squash in your fridge and use it with another meal because all the hard work is already done! Hurray!

Now that you have everything in the pot, turn it to low and let it cook for 6 hours. If you are using macaroni, stir it in after the cooking time is complete. I decided to leave the macaroni out just because there were already so many other things in this chili, I thought it may be too heavy. But, I do love chili mac, maybe I will try it next time. Season it with salt and pepper, and grate some sharp cheddar (or regular cheddar if you prefer) over the top of each bowl. Serve it by itself or with some good bread. Tim always needs to have cornbread with honey if he is having chili, but any hearty bread with some soft butter would do. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rustic Plum Cake

For my birthday I received several baking related books from my family. One of those books was America's Test Kitchen's Family Baking Book. The thing that I really like about this book is that it tells you the best way to bake, mix, roll, etc, and then they tell you why it is the best way. Their job is to experiment and find out what the best way to make the perfect baked good is and then share it with their readers. Isn't that awesome? I think it is. I feel like I am learning something and therefore my baking is productive somehow :-)

The first recipe that I chose to make from this book was a Rustic Plum Cake. It struck me because it is not your average, run-of-the-mill cake. It is a sweet almond cake with cooked plums on top. It is just sweet enough, but not too sweet. We brought it over to share with some friends for dessert. We each had 2 pieces and it was gone within a half hour. Let me tell you something: I NEVER eat two pieces of cake. Okay. This cake is good. Do you get it? It would be great with some vanilla ice cream too. Something to remember for the future, I guess.

Rustic Plum Cake

*Recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book Page 324

Makes one 9-inch round cake

3 Tablespoons Brandy (see note below)
2 Tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
1 Lb Italian plums, halved and pitted
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Slivered almonds
3/4 Cup All purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened
1 Large Egg, room temperature
1 Large Egg Yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

*1 Tablespoon of water can be substituted for the brandy

Cook the brandy and jam together in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until it becomes a thick syrup. This should take 2 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and place plums, skin side up, in the syrup. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook until the plums have released their juices and the syrup is thickened. This should take about 5 minutes. Let the plums cool in the skillet while you prepare the cake batter.

Adjust an oven rack to the center of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.

Place the granulated sugar and the almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles course sand. Add egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and almond extracts and process until smooth.

Scrape the batter into your springform pan. Stir the plums around in the skillet to coat them with syrup. Spoon the plums over the batter, skin side down. I added a little of the jam mixture along with the plums, but the original recipe does not say to do this. I just felt it added a little more flavor to the top of the cake. Bake the cake 40-50 minutes,rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Let the cake cool completely in the pan, about 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan and transfer the cake to a serving platter. Beware, the cake will be sticky and difficult to remove from the spring form bottom, so be gentle with it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Birthday Cake

My Birthday was on Saturday. To celebrate we went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants-Mana in Wicker Park-We had a nice, filling but light dinner and then came home for a decadent birthday cake. I of course picked a light dinner place on purpose because dessert is always way more important in my book.

A few months ago, I saw that Smitten Kitchen had posted a recipe for Espresso Chiffon Cake with Fudge Frosting . I immediately e-mailed the link to Tim and told him that I wanted this cake for my birthday. I was of course expecting that I would be making the cake, as I am the baker in the family. But, Tim offered to make it for me. He spent a good portion of his Saturday in a hot kitchen making this cake. He did a great job. This cake is rich with obvious flavors of dark rum, dark coffee, and sweet chocolate. How can you go wrong? Be prepared though, this cake is rich and very, very sweet. We had 6 people over for dessert on Saturday, and only half of the cake disappeared. You have to eat a small piece and savor every bite, otherwise it will just be overwhelming.
I do highly recommend this cake, and I will be making this in the future for sure!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Peanut Butter for a Good Cause?

Tim and I are city dwellers and as a result we are constantly seeing people who are poor and hungry. It is impossible to ignore, and it is wrong to turn a blind eye to these people. I always feel helpless when I am sitting at a stop light and a man is walking from car to car begging for change. I never have any readily available money in my car, and honestly, I don't feel like my giving him a spare 15 cents is going to do him a whole lot of good. But, I do have a deep desire to do something that will help them, if even temporarily. Since I have a job that requires me to be driving for a good part of the work day, I think that I see this type of thing more regularly than a lot of other people do. What I have decided to do is pack a few peanut butter sandwiches in my car every day. This way, I have something handy to grab and hand to the person on the other side of my car door. I hope that these sandwiches will be a blessing to these people, and that they will satisfy their hunger for a time. I will use whole wheat bread so that the sandwiches will be a good source of protein and fiber. I am wondering how others of you have responded to these types of situations, and if you have any other ideas on how I should respond. I hope you will tell me if you have had any creative ideas in helping others in need. I hope to make this a long term commitment. I know it is small, but at least it is something.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Brown Sugar and Bacon Waffles

Tim's favorite type of food in the world is breakfast food. He has actually requested that we do breakfast for dinner once a week. He LOVES breakfast! I knew ahead of time that we would be having breakfast for dinner last night, and was not in the mood for plain old pancakes or waffles. I started to think of what I could add to make the batter a little more exciting and the usual suspects of fresh fruit or chocolate chips just weren't doing much for me at that point. We had some turkey bacon in the fridge and I thought "why not put it in the batter instead of eating it on the side?" I ran this idea by Tim. He seemed a bit unsure, but up to the experiment. He is used to me getting random food combination ideas throughout the day, this is just how my brain works. This turned out to be really delicious. We have some work to do on translating our pancake batter to waffle batter, but everything else was perfect. For my pancakes I use a from-scratch mixture that you make ahead in bulk. This is easy because it is not any more work than using out-of-the-box mixtures, but tastes so so so SO much better. This is something Tim learned when he married me. He had never experience real pancakes before. He thought the boxed stuff was good and had no desire to try anything else, and then I fed him real pancakes and he knew he could never go back. If you are one of these people who normally eat pancakes that come from a pre-made mixture, please stop doing that. You are settling for sub-par pancakes. I will put the recipe that I use below in this post, I hope you will try it.

In order to transform your plain pancakes or waffles into Bacon and Brown Sugar goodness, do this:

Cook and crumble about 1/3 Cup of bacon. Turkey or Pork Bacon will work for this. Add this to your batter.

Add about 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar, some cinnamon, and a tablespoon of maple syrup to the batter. If you have real maple syrup, that is preferred, but you can use the fake stuff too. We did. We are cheap. Stir this up and carry on like you normally would.

Delicious. Not too sweet. Sweet enough, for sure. Add some butter, maybe some syrup if you prefer some extra sweetness, and dig in.

Basic Pancake Mix:
*Taken from: More-With-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre

for 2 lbs of pancake mix:

combine in a large bowl:
6 C flour
1 tablespoon Salt
6 tablespoons Baking Powder
6 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
2 C Powdered Milk

Mix well and store in an airtight container. When you are ready to use it, combine in large bowl:

1 egg (beaten first)
1 C Water
2 tablespoons Oil
1.5 C Pancake Mix

This will serve 3-4 people.

I replaced 1/6 of the white flour with soy flour to add some protein. Another option is to substitute 1/3 of the white flour with buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, or rye flour along with cornmeal.

Almond Cream Croissants

I got the idea for this recipe from a Tasty Kitchen subscriber named Onesassy.
I did make her Nutella Croissants and those were a huge hit. I was making a large number of these though and I wanted to add some variety. I had some cream cheese in my fridge and figured I could use that as a base for my other filling. We love almond extract in this family, so that was my first thought. I added about a teaspoon and a half of almond extract, along with about 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar to 4 ounces of softened cream cheese. It turned out great. It was very simple, and the flavor of the cream cheese still came through with a perfect after taste of almond. Yum! I will continue to experiment with flavors, but the Nutella and the Almond Cream are both keepers.

For the Croissants:

Use refrigerated croissant rolls, such as Pillsbury. If you are really ambitous make your own, but what is nice about these is how quick and easy they are. Each tube has 8 croissants in it.

Unroll the croissants and separate them into individual pieces. Add a tablespoon of filling to each and roll up like you normally would do. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 13-15 minutes-until just golden brown on top.
One container of Nutella was enough for 16 rolls and the 4 ounces of cream cheese was enough for 16 rolls. I used less than a tablespoon per roll of the cream cheese filling in order to make it go as far as I did, but eyeball it. This is not an exact science, there is definitely creative freedom allowed here.

Here are some pictures to highten your interest even more:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blueberry Boy Bait

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen's Blog. I immediately bookmarked it, and then, like I do with most recipes that I excitedly bookmark, I forgot about it for a while. This past weekend however I needed desserts for 2 separate occasions, and this fresh, unique cake popped into my mind. I was completely confident that it would be delicious, so I made two and used the same kind of cake for both events. I am glad that I made this decision because simply doubling this recipe was way less work than making two completely separate desserts, and it was delicious, so Tim and I did not mind eating it Saturday night and then again on Sunday afternoon. I used frozen blueberries because the ones at our local fruit market were not great this week. The frozen-ness did not affect the cake in any way. It was still perfect.

Blueberry Boy Bait

What you will need:

2 Cups plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter, Softened
3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 Cup Whole Milk-I used nonfat powdered milk (mixed with water), because that is all I had and it did not seem to make a difference. The consistency seemed perfect to me.
1 Cup Blueberries
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a 13x9 cake pan.

Mix 2 Cups of flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside. In a mixer bowl combine butter, 1/2 Cup granulated sugar and all of the brown sugar. Cream until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add one third of th flour mixture, mix, then half of the milk, mix, then another third of the flour mixture, mix, the rest of the milk, mix, and the rest of the flour mixture, mix. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 C of the blueberries with the remaining teaspoon of flour, and gently fold these, by hand, into the batter. Pour batter into your prepared pan.

For the topping scatter the remaining half cup of blueberries on top of the batter. Mix 1/4 Cup of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture on top of the berries. Bake 40-50 minutes (smitten kitchen says 45-50, but 45 was too long in my oven and I ended up with burnt edges. If your oven runs hot, try 40 minutes, and then check with a toothpick or clean knife) until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If you desire a little extra decadence, serve with french vanilla ice cream. yum!

These are the burnt ends that I cut off of the cake. They are still tasty, they just look ugly, so I cut them off and snacked on them myself :-)