Friday, December 31, 2010

Baked Berry Brie

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2/3 C berry preserves
8 oz round brie wheel
¼ C chopped hazelnuts or pecans
1 egg
1 Tbls water

Thaw puff pastry; unfold on a lightly floured surface and roll gently to seal any cracks. Spoon preserves onto center; place cheese on top of preserves. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. (I'm allergic, so I skip this step...but I'll leave it in the recipe for the rest of you.) Fold pastry to cover cheese; trim excess pastry and press to seal seams.

Whisk egg and water in a small bowl. Brush pastry seams with egg mixture. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. (I line mine with parchment, some cheese and berry juice always seems to seep out no matter how well I seal the seams; the parchment saves me from needing to scrub my cookie sheets.) If desired, cut pastry scraps into decorative shapes and arrange on top. Brush with egg mixture.

Bake 25 minutes (or until golden brown) at 400°. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with crackers and/or sliced fruit (apple and pear are delicious).

Raspberry Sorbet

I got an ice cream maker for Christmas. :) Here's my first creation...right out of the recipe book that came with it. I hope to get more creative in the future, but I figured I'd start simple.

2 c water
1½ C sugar
pinch salt
4 C raspberries

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Add salt and raspberries. Using an immersion blender, blend mixture until smooth. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove seeds, using a spatula to aid the purée through the strainer. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours (or overnight).

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and mix about 20 minutes until thickened. Sorbet should be soft and creamy. For a firmer consistency, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. (Mine definitely needed extra time in the freezer! Then...delicious!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

¼ C warm water
1 pkg yeast
¼ C + ½ tsp sugar
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
¼ C shortening
¾ C milk, slightly warmed
1 egg

butter, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, nuts...

In a small bowl or glass, mix yeast and ½ teaspoon sugar with warm water and set aside.

In a large bowl, cut shortening into flour, salt and remaining sugar. Add warm milk, egg and yeast mixture. Up to ½ C more flour can be added, but dough should be sticky, just handle-able. Knead 5 mintutes. Form ball; let rise, covered, 1 to 1½ hours. Punch down. Roll out to oblong (about 15x9"). Spread with butter; sprinkle generously with sugar (I use brown), cinnamon, nuts, raisins, etc. as desired. Roll into a long log, pinching ends together. Cut into 12 rolls. Place in greased pans. Let rise until double (about an hour). Bake at 375°, 25-30 minutes.

Butter alone or a simple powdered sugar icing is all these really need, but they're especially tasty with a cream cheese icing. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Meringues...or, as my family sometimes calls them: Styrofoam cookies.

½ tsp peppermint extract
2 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
¾ C sugar
1 C chocolate chips
(the mini ones are great in this recipe)

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add cream of tarter and sugar. Gently fold in peppermint (and food coloring if desired). Add chocolate chips. Cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil. Drop meringue by spoonfuls onto covered cookie sheets.

Preheat oven to 350°. Put cookies in oven and TURN OVEN OFF. "Bake" cookies 6 hours (or just leave them in overnight). Gently remove cookies from aluminum foil.

Cream Wafers

(makes about 100 cookies)
1 C butter, softened
1/3 C heavy cream
2 C flour

Thoroughly mix butter, cream and flour. Roll out thinly. Cut in tiny rounds using a cookie cutter or mini-biscuit round. Put a thin layer of sugar on a plate or shallow dish. Turn (flip) wafer rounds in sugar, pressing gently on both sides. Place on ungreased cookie sheeets; prick with a fork. Bake 7-9 minutes at 375°. Cool completely.

Buttercream Filling:
½ C butter, softened
1½ C powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla

Mix butter, egg yolks and vanilla until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Spread buttercream filling on a wafer, top with a second wafer...

Decorating the top really adds to the visual appeal (red and green 'holly' for festive Christmas cookie plates; pastels or brights for showers or other holidays, etc). But they're so light and creamy and buttery they'll be a favorite even served without any embellishments!

This recipe uses egg yolks. I often make meringues or divinity with the egg whites. :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Black & Whites --or-- Chocolate Crinkles

½ C butter, melted
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 C white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 C chocolate chips
½ C powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350° Stir chocolate into melted butter until melted and smooth. Mix in the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Gradually blend in flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Roll the chilled dough into 1 inch balls; roll each ball in powdered sugar. Place cookies 2" apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes, until tops are cracked. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Punch

1 C sugar
1 C lime juice
½ tsp mint extract
1 C rum
48 oz cranberry juice
(or cran-raspberry, cran-apple, cran-grape...)

Combine all ingredients, stirring well until sugar is completely dissolved. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs, cranberries, or lime slices.

For a non-alcoholic, sparkling alternative, skip the rum and add gingerale instead.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cranberry Blondies

½ C butter, softened
½ C sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
11/3 C flour
½ C dried cranberries
½ C coarsely chopped white chocolate
½-1 C fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combined flour, soda, powder and salt.

Stir dry ingredients into creamed sugar & egg mixture. Gently blend in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. Spread mixture evenly in 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with fresh cranberries and gently press them in halfway using a rubber spatula.

Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool in pan at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into squares or bars for serving.

Makes 12 roughly 3” squares, or 24  3” x 1½” bars (or 48 1½" bite-sized squares...pictured).

Sunday, December 12, 2010


½ pound butter
1 C brown sugar
optional: 1 C nuts or chocolate chips

Melt butter in a saucepan; stir in brown sugar. Heat to 300° on a candy thermometer, stirring constantly. Pour immediately into a 9x9" pan. Cool completely.

To serve, invert the pan...the toffee will fall out. 'Whack' it to crack it into bite sized chunks. :)

Optional: Before pouring in the hot toffee, throw a cup of chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips into the bottom of the pan; pour the hot toffee over them -- do not stir.

Chewy Molasses Cookies

¾ C shortening
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
¼ C molasses
2 tsp soda
2¼ C flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
sugar for dipping

Mix shortening, sugar, egg and molasses until smooth and creamy. Add dry ingredients all at once. Chill dough. Roll into balls. Dip in sugar. Place 3" apart on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes at 375°.

Makes about 4 dozen small 1½" cookies.

As an alternative...skip dipping the cookies in sugar, top them with a vanilla and powdered sugar icing and colored sugar sprinkles.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


These photos are from past years; I'm not sure if I'll make one this year. They're scanned, and the color isn't great, but here are a couple of my gingerbread house creations. ...and a shot of my nephew Tate and I enthusiastically preparing to devour one. :)

1/3 C shortening
1 C brown sugar
1½ C dark molasses
6 C flour*
2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp each: allspice, ginger, cloves, cinnamon

Mix shortening, brown sugar, molasses and 2/3 C cold water until thoroughly combined. Combine flour, soda, salt and spices; stir into molasses mixture until well combined. Chill dough 1 hour. Roll and cut into desired shapes. Bake 15 minutes at 350°.

* For gingerbread houses (or gingerbread men), add another cup of flour. The firmer cookies are easier to build with. :)

Sweet Spiced Nuts

1 egg white
2 Tbls cold water
1½ C nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds,
pecans...or a mixture)
½ C sguar
1½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg

Beat egg white and water until very frothy. Stir nuts into egg mixture to coat, then drain briefly in a colander. Mix sugar and spices in a plastic bag. Add nuts and shake to coat.

Spread coatead nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place nuts under broiler on high for 2-3 minutes until mixture is bubbly. Remove from oven briefly; stir. Return to oven, under broiler, for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven; stir to separate. Cool. Store in air tight containers.


Spread coated nuts in a single layer on a microwave safe plate; microwave on HIGH 1½ minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Stir. Microwave another 1½ minutes. Stir to separate; cool.

I have nut allergies, so I use all peanuts. This is an easy recipe to play around with different spice combinations. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate Fudge

3 C sugar
¾ C butter
2/3 C evaporated milk
½ tsp salt
12 oz chocolate chips
7 oz marshmallow cream
(or equivalent of mini-marshmallows)
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: 1 C chopped nuts

Combine sugar, butter, evaporated milk and salt in a saucepan. Bring just to a rolling boil; remove from heat. Immediately stir in chocolate chips and marshmallows until completely combined and melted. Add vanilla and nuts, if desired, stirring until well blended. Pour immediately into container(s) lightly coated with non-stick spray. Cool. Cut into squares to serve.

For "rocky road fudge", add an additional cup of mini-marshmallows just before pouring into containers to cool; fold them gently into the fudge, just to combine -- but not to melt and mix them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Russian Tea Cookies

1 C butter, softened
½ C powdered sugar
additional for rolling/dusting
1 tsp vanilla
2½ C flour
¼ tsp salt
optional: finely chopped nuts

Cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, salt and nuts (if desired). Chill dough. Roll into 1" balls. Bake 10-12 minutes at 400°.

While still warm (not hot), roll in additional powdered sugar. Cool. Roll again in powdered sugar.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peppermint Bon Bons

This is another recipe that makes a BUNCH -- at least 5-6 dozen or more, depending on the size of your bon bons. Still, with Christmas get togethers with family, church groups, faculty, friends...they generally disappear in a hurry!

8 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ C butter, softened
2 tsp peppermint extract
6+ C powdered sugar
18-24 oz chocolate chips
2 Tbls paraffin
optional: food coloring

Mix the cream cheese, butter and peppermint until smooth and creamy. Add food coloring at this point if desired; a pale green can look festive and minty. Add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until mixture is firm and beginning to form a ball and pull away from the bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Note: Suit your personal preference: adding more powdered sugar creates a firmer consistency; you may even be able to skip the refrigeration. But I like soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth centers to my bon-bons...which means slightly less powdered sugar and it really needs to be refrigerated or it melts-in-your-hands when you try to roll it into balls!

Roll into bite sized balls. Return to refrigerator for 1 hour.

Melt chocolate chips and paraffin in a double boiler. Using one or two forks, dip peppermint balls in chocolate and place on wax paper or aluminum foil to cool and harden. Store in covered container(s) in the refrigerator. Remove from frig an hour before serving for softer bon-bons.

Variations: Substitute a different extract for any variety of is a favorite of my sister's, but feel free to get creative! If you have anyone who is allergic to chocolate, or (gasp!) doesn't like it...simply roll the bon-bons in colored sugar or other festive 'sprinkles' (like you'd buy to decorate a cake/cupcakes).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peanut Butter Bon Bons

This is a big recipe...makes 12 dozen or more. Peanut butter bon bons are a favorite with my family and friends, and are even remembered by some of the faculty at work and friends from church from our annual Christmas I end up making more than one batch, even of this big recipe, throughout the holidays. You might cut it in 1/2 the first time...all the rolling and dipping does take TIME.

1 C butter, softened
1 18oz jar peanut butter
(creamy or crunchy)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4-5 C powdered sugar
24 oz chocolate chips
2 Tbls parafin

Directions: Mix butter and peanut butter until creamy; stir in vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until mixture is still soft (not crumbly) but managable -- you'll need to roll it into balls. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Note: Every brand of peanut butter is different -- moister/creamier or dryer. You can simply add more powdered sugar, for a firmer consistency, and even skip the refrigeration. But I like soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth centers to my bon-bons...which means slightly less powdered sugar and it really needs to be refrigerated or it melts-in-your-hands when you try to roll it into balls!

Roll into bite sized balls. Return to refrigerator for 1 hour.

Melt chocolate chips and parafin in a double boiler. Using one or two forks, dip peanut butter balls in chocolate and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or aluminum foil to cool and harden (in the frig). Store in covered container(s) in the refrigerator. Remove from frig an hour before serving for softer bon-bons.

Variation: I have sometimes used creamy peanut butter and added a cup or two of crisped rice cereal for a lighter crunch. It's delicious, but after a day or two the crisped rice absorbs some of the moisture from the peanut butter mixture and gets a little chewy instead of light and crispy. It's usually not a problem (these go fast around my family!), but something to keep in mind.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Just to prepare any of you who may check in regularly... It's entirely possible that for the next month my recipe posts will consist predominantly, if not entirely, of cookies and candies and Christmas treats. I do continue to cook and eat regular food of course, but much of my cooking and baking (and any time consuming kitchen creations) may focus significantly on holiday sweets.


African Yam-Peanut Stew

This is another recipe I make routinely for my World Literature classes. We're just starting our Africa unit, reading Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart -- in which their primary cash crop is yams.

3 cloves garlic
1 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 C peanut butter (chunky or creamy)
2 tsp cumin
1½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
3 lbs (4-5 medium) sweet potatoes
15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
16 oz canned or frozen cut green beans

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1 - 1½" chunks.

In blender (or food processor with knife blade) blend garlic, cilantro, tomatoes with their juice, peanut butter, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt until smooth.

Pour peanut butter mixture into 4½ to 6 quart slow cooker; stir in 1-2 cups water or broth. Add sweet potato chunks and chickpeas; stir to combine. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours, or on high setting 4-5 hours...or until potatoes are tender.

10 minutes before serving, cook/heat green beans. Gently stir beans into stew.
Serve. Garnish with chopped peanuts if desired.

Monday, November 22, 2010


lemon juice
sugar (??)
optional: cinnamon

Almost seems too simple for a recipe, but here's what I do:

Peel, core and slice/dice the apples. If I'm making a large quantity, I spinkle the apple slices with a little lemon juice as I go...keeps them from browning.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauce pan (or 2 tablespoons in a larger stock pot if you're making a lot at once). Add sliced apples, and just a splash of lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until apples begin to mush. If you want really smooth applesauce, use a ricer or an immersion blender. (I like my applesauce kind of chunky.)

Taste test! :) If you like, add sugar. It depends on the variety of apple, but I often use a little sugar, and when I do I always use brown. If you like, add cinnamon. Sugar and cinnamon - as much or as little as you like, to taste.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sausage & Spinach over Polenta

1¾ C chicken broth
1¾ C water
1¼ C cornmeal
¾ C shredded mozzarella (3 oz)
12 oz fully cooked sausage
(turkey, pork, anykind...)
1 tsp oil
1 medium onion, cut in thin wedges
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cornstarch
10 oz. spinach, coarsely chopped

For polenta...
In a large saucepan, heat 1¼ C chicken broth and 1¾ C water just until boiling. Slowly stir in cornmeal, ¼ C at a time. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat to very low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often. Stir in ½ C shredded mozzarella. Spread evenly in a casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare sausage and spinach...
Bias cut sausage into ¼" thick slices. Heat oil in a large skilled; add sausage, onion, garlic and cayenne. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender and sausage is heated through.

In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and remaining chicken broth. Add to skillet mixture; cook and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and add spinach, a little at a time, stirring constantly until all is wilted. Serve over polenta.

I like garlic, but I could do with a little less in this recipe; let the other flavors come through a bit more. 2-3 cloves, or 4 small cloves...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quick and Easy Skillet Lasagne

I don't know if this should really qualify as lasagne! But if you're craving the flavor and don't have the time, try this...

1½ lb ground beef (or turkey, etc.)
28 oz jar of marinara sauce
2 C cooked rotini pasta
1 1/3 C French's French Fried Onions
1 C ricotta cheese
1 C shredded mozzarella

Brown meat in a large skilled; drain away grease. Stir in sauce, pasta and ½ of the french fried onions. Heat to boiling, stirring often. Spoon ricotta cheese over meat mixture; top with mozzarella and remaining onions. Cover; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beef Adobo Salpicao with crisped shallots

Apparently...salpicao is a popular Manila bar snack. Served as an appetizer.

1 C thinly sliced shallots
¼ C each canola oil and olive oil
1½ lbs top sirloin steak
(I used elk)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
3/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls coconut vinegar*
(or 4 tsp cider vinegar)

Cut steak into 3/4" chunks.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook shallots in oils, stirring often, until deep golden (7-8 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to papper towels. Discard all but 2 Tbls oil.

Increase heat to high. Add beef to frying pan; cook until browned on underside (1-2 minutes). Stir in garlic and bay leaf. Turn meat; when second side is browned, stir in pepper, soy and vinegar. Boil until reduced by half (1-2 minutes). Spoon meat into a bowl and top with shallots.

* You can get coconut vinegar in the Asian section of well stocked grocery stores, but I just used the cider vinegar; I don't really like coconut and don't see myself using the coconut vinegar much.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Balsamic Glazed Onions

I do like onions (or I certainly wouldn't have tried this recipe which includes them as not just an ingredient but pretty much the ingredient!), but it's really the balsamic glaze that sold me on it! It's not difficult, but the trimming and peeling of the onions does take time...and I only made a half recipe.

4-5 lbs small onions
(cipollini onions, white pearl onions,
red pearl onions, shallots...)
1 head garlic, separated into cloves (optional)
3 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls fresh thyme leaves
plus sprigs for garnish
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp coarse ground sea salt
½ C balsamic vinegar
1 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch green onions
3 Tbls butter

Working in batches, add onions to a pot of boiling water; simmer 1 minute, then transfer to a colander wtih a slotted spoon and immediately rinse with cold water. Repeat with garlic.

Using a small, sharp knife, trim tips and root ends and peel onions and garlic on a cutting board; slit larger onions lengthwise (do not cut completely apart), holding your thumb against the pointy tip to keep the core from squirting out. Put onions and garlic in a bowl and drizzle with 1 Tbls oil. Stir in thyme leaves, pepper and salt, mixing to coat.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbls oil over medium-high heat. Sautée onions and garlic, stirrign often, until most are partly browned. Add vinegar and broth; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until onions are tender and some begin to fall apart (10-20 minutes).

Trim green onions and cut into 2" lengths. Add green onions and butter to onion and garlic mixture in skillet. Stir until well combined. Using a slotted spoon, transfer onions to a serving bowl; cover. Boil sauce over high heat until syrupy and reduced to about ¾ cup (about 4 minutes). Stir gently into onion mixture. Serve, garnished with extra sprigs of thyme.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bumble's Ginger Roulade

Bumble...that would be Bumble Ogilvy-Wedderburn, a Scottish cook. The recipe is from the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. I made a double batch recently to take to a shower for a friend. If there's leftovers, I'll try the freezing and broiling option. :)

6 Tbls butter
2/3 C treacle or mild molasses
¼ C sugar
scant ½ C water
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
1 C chilled heavy cream
1/3 C chopped crystalized ginger
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°

Line a 15x10" pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat both the pan and the parchment with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt butter with molasses, sugar and water over medium heat in a small saucepan. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and ground ginger in a large bowl. Whisk in butter mixturea and egg yolk until smooth. Beat egg white in a medium bowl until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold into batter gently, but thoroughly.

Pour into baking pan, spreading evenly. Bake until top is golden and firm to touch (18-22 minutes). Cool cake pan 5 minutes, then cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and cool completely, about 1 hour.

Dust cake generously with powdered sugar, then cover with a sheet of parchment, then with a baking rack or cookie sheet. Invert cake and peel off parchment that is now on 'top'.

Beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then spread evenly over top of cake, leaving ½" border. Sprinkle crystallized ginger over the cream. Roll cake, starting from a short side, to make a 10" log, removing parchment as you go. Gently transfer log to a serving plate; dust with additional powdered sugar if desired. Slice, and serve.

Alternate serving suggestion: If desired, slices of roulade can be frozen (up to 1 week), then lightly sprinkled with turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw) and broiled 5-6 inches from heat for about 3 minutes until golden. Do NOT thaw first. The sugar won't melt completely, resulting in a crunchy texture along with bites of cake and cream that are both hot and cold at once.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken and two-pepper Calzones

1 lb pizza dough
(purchased or prepared)
8 Tbls tomato sauce
1 red pepper, roasted and chopped
1 green pepper, roasted and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 C shredded mozzarella
1 tsp oregano

Preheat oven to 450°.

Divide pizza dough into 4 pieces (I used my own homemade dough, recipe is posted). Stretch each piece into a 7" circle. In the center of each, spread 2 Tbls tomato sauce and sprinke with oregano and salt. Top with chopped peppers, onions, and shredded chicken, spreading evenly to within ½" of the edges of dough. Top with mozzarella. Fold circles over to make half-moons; firmly press edges to seal.

Bake 15 minutes or until top crusts are lightly browned.

Obviously, you could come up with endless combinations of what to use as fillings for the calzones...try different meats and veggies as well as different cheeses and sauces for endless variety! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ice Cream Cake

I'm not sure if this even 'qualifies' as a recipe (the only thing 'homemade' about it is the cookie crust and fudge sauce at the very bottom!)...but my nephew requested an ice cream cake--with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream--for his birthday. When it's your birthday, you get what you ask for - at least where dessert is concerned! :)

store bought ice cream
store bought (gasp!) frosting
(I would usually make my own, but I had a lot going on this weekend!)
cookie crust
(see Peanut Butter Pie for recipe)
fudge sauce
(see Myrtle's Hot Fudge Sauce)

Slightly soften the ice cream, and spoon it into a cake pan (or two if you want to make a double layered 'cake'). Put it in the freezer for a couple hours.

Meanwhile, make a cookie crust the same size as the pans the ice cream is in (or a graham cracker crust if it would go better with whatever flavor of ice cream you choose). Make hot fudge sauce and let it cool, or use a jar of store bought fudge ice cream topping (or another flavor that compliments your ice cream choice). Spread a layer of fudge sauce on the cookie crust and put it in the freezer.

When everything is frozen very firm, dip the pan of ice cream briefly in hot water, then invert it onto the fudge covered cookie crust. If you're making a double layered 'cake', spread another layer of fudge sauce on the bottom layer, then dip the second pan of ice cream briefly in hot water, and invert it on top. Return to the freezer until everything is very firm (about half an hour).

Frost (and decorate, if desired) the cake -- just like you would a regular cake, but work quickly so the edges of ice cream don't melt which makes it runny and slippery and it's very difficult to spread frosting on that!

Return it all to the freezer until ready to serve. Feel free to drizzle with extra fudge sauce (or any other ice cream sauce...find one that compliments whatever flavor of ice cream you choose).

Peanut Butter Pie

My mom is a chocolate-peanut-butter enthusiast...and in my family, she's in good company! It was her birthday last Friday. There are lots of similar variations of this recipe...

1½ C chocolate cookie crumbs
1/3 C melted butter
¼ C sugar

1 lg pkg instant vanilla pudding
2½ C milk
1 C creamy peanut butter
1 C whipping cream
¼ C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 C fudge sauce
(purchased or use Myrtle's hot fudge sauce)

Mix cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9" pie plate or springform pan. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Whip the cream, with sugar and vanilla, until soft peaks form.

Pour 1 cup of fudge sauce into crust and spread evenly. Top with about ½ of the whipped cream. Place in freezer briefly while you mix the peanut butter filling...

Mix milk and peanut butter until smooth. Add vanilla pudding mix and whisk vigorously. Place in frig for 5-10 minutes.

Retrieve pie shell and peanut butter filling from freezer and frig. Stir peanut butter filling and gently pour into pie shell, spreading evenly. Return to frig until ready to serve.

To serve, drizzle slices with remaining fudge sauce.
If desired, garnish with chopped peanuts and/or chocolate chunks, whipped cream...

Scotch Shortbread

So simple, and oh so delicious!

½ C powdered sugar
1 C softened butter
2 C flour
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Roll or press, cut into wedges or bars, etc.*
Bake 20 minutes at 315°.

* I don't have a shortbread mold, but I do have a 2" thistle stamp, so I roll mine into balls, then stamp them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thai Peanut Soup

1/3 C finely chopped onion
1/3 C finely chopped celery
2 Tbls finely chopped sweet red pepper
1 Tbls butter
3 Tbls flour
1 tsp lemon zest or
1 Tbls very finely chopped
lemongrass (white portion only)
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 3/4 C chicken broth
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1/2 C smooth peanut butter
2 Tbls brown sugar
1 Tbls soy sauce

Optional garnishes: chopped peanuts, chopped cilantro, julienned sweet red pepper

In a medium saucepan cook--stirring occasionally--finely chopped onion, celery, and sweet red pepper in butter 4 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Stir in flour lemon zest/lemongrass, and ground red pepper.

Add chicken broth and cocounut milk all at once. Cook and stir until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly. Add peanut butter, brown sugar and soy; stir until well blended and heated through.

Serve hot; garnish with peanuts, cilantro, and/or sweet red pepper

This made a very thick soup. Delicious, but next time I think I'd increase the broth.

Pear-Ginger Crisp

2 1/2 lb firm pears
juice of one lemon
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C sweet marsala (or port or fruit juice)
1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 C golden raisins
1/2 tsp vanilla
dash salt
2 Tbls butter

'Crisp' topping (streusel)
2/3 C flour
3 Tbls sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 Tbls butter

Make crisp topping: Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed a baking sheet with parchment. Mix dry ingredients. Cut butter into small chunks. Add butter; mix on low speed until crumbly. Spread on baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until streusel is golden at edges; stir. Bake an additional 3-5 minutes until golden all over. Remove from oven and let cool.

Increase oven temp to 375°.

Peel and core pears; cut into 1" chunks. Gently mix in large bowl with lemon juice. Coat a shallow baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

Combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a 3-4 quart pan. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar begins to brown (4-7 minutes). Swirling pan occasionally, boil 1-2 minutes more until sugar is golden brown. Remove from heat, let cool 30 seconds. Gently stir in pears; sugar will thicken. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring occasionally until sugar melts again, 2-3 minutes.

Add marsala, ginger, raisins, vanilla and salt. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until pears are just tender, 8-10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to baking dish. Add butter to pan and cook until melted. Spoon over pears. Scatter streusel over pears.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until fruit is bubbling. Let cool about 10 minutes. Server warm with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zesty Mashed Potatoes

8 lg baking potatoes
½ C sour cream
8 oz cream cheese @ room temperature
½ C butter @ room temperature
½ milk
1-2 cloves minced garlic
salt & pepper
optional: 1 C shredded cheddar cheese

Peel and cube potatoes; cook, drain.
Coat a 9x13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Beat potatoes until smooth. Add sour cream, cream cheese, milk, garlic, salt & pepper. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Pour into baking dish.

Optional: Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese. (Or use a different cheese of your choice.)

Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes at 400°.

Rosemary Turkey with Mushrooms

1 lb turkey breast
½ C chicken broth
1 Tbls cornstarch
salt & pepper
2 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh rosemary
(or ¼ tsp dried rosemary, crushed)
8 oz button mushrooms
¼ C chopped onion
fresh rosemary garnish

Cut turkey breasts into tenderloin slices, removing all visible fat. Rinse turkey and pat dry.

In a bowl, combine broth, cornstarch, salt and pepper.

Coat a skillet with non-stick cooking spray; place over medium-high heat. Add turkey to hot skillet; cook 2 minutes each side, until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat and remove turkey from skillet (keep warm).

Add vinegar and rosemary to skillet, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan. Return pan to heat; add mushrooms and onion. Cook, over medium heat, stirring constantly until mushrooms are tender (5 minutes).

Add broth mixture. Cook until thickened (3 minutes). Cook 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Serve mushroom sauce over turkey. Garnish, if desired, with fresh rosemary.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Polenta with Spicy Baked Shrimp & Tomatoes

1 24 oz pkg polenta
(or about 4 C prepared polenta)
2 lb shrimp
4 Tbls olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
¼-½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbls lemon juice
¼ C vermouth (or red wine)
1 C chopped onion
1 26-28 oz can plum tomatoes
2 Tbls fresh basil (or ½ Tbls dried)
2 Tbls fresh parsley (or ½ Tbls dried)
1 Tbls fresh oregano (or ¼ Tbls dried)
1 Tbls fresh thyme (or ¼ Tbls dried)
salt & pepper
8 oz crumbled feta

Coat 9x13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread polenta on bottom of baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add shrimp, 3 cloves minced garlic, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Cook until shrimp just begin to turn pink. Remove from pan. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add garlic. Deglaze the pan with the vermouth. Add tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir shrimp in and gently spread over polenta. Top with crumbled feta. Bake 30 minutes at 375°.

Spicy Shrimp and Tomato mixture is also delicious over pasta. :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Apple-Cranberry Spiced Tart

2 Granny Smith apples
1½ C dried cranberries
1 C chopped dates
½ C dry white wine (or apple juice)
¼ C honey
¼ tsp ground allspice
¾ tsp ground cloves
1 C butter, room temperature
1 C brown sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbls molasses
2½ C flour
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
raw sugar

Peel, core and dice apples.

In a 2-3 quart pan over medium heat, combine apples, cranberries, dates, wine, honey, allspice, ¼ teaspoon cloves and ¼ cup water. Stir often until apples are soft and liquid has evaporated (10-12 minutes).

In a bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until well blended. Add egg yolks and molasses; beat until well combined. Add flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt and remaining ½ teaspoon cloves. Mix until incorporated into a stiff dough.

Roll one third of the dough out ¼ inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut into festive shapes. Divide remaining dough into six pieces to make six 4" tartlets, or in half to make two 8-9" tarts. Press dough over bottom and up sides of tart pans. (I used a springform pan -- I have only the one small tart pan. I'm sure a simple cake pan would work too, though it isn't as impressive for serving.)

Spoon fruit mixture into tart shells, spreading level. Top each tart with festive cookie shapes. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Set tartlets on a baking sheet.

Bake at 400° until pastry is lightly browned (20-25 minutes for tartlets, about 30 minutes for larger tarts - longer if it's thicker!). Cool 1 hour; remove pan rims.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicken with Spicy Fruit

1¼ C pineapple juice
½ C pineapple
¼ C dried cranberries
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp crushed pepper flakes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ C strawberry jelly
1 tsp cornstarch
2 green onions, chopped

In a large skillet, combine pineapple juice, pineapple, cranberries, garlic and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Add chicken. (I had chicken tenders, rather than breasts.) Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove chicken (keep warm).

Bring liquid to a boil and cook 5-7 minutes until reduced to 3/4 cup. Combine jelly and cornstarch; add to skillet. Boil and stir for 1 minute until thickened. Spoon over chicken; garnish with green onions.

Corn Fritters & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1¾ cup fresh corn kernels
¼ cup milk
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 C ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 C flour
¼ C cornmeal
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
4 tbsp oil

In a food processor, purée ¾ cup of the corn kernels and milk until smooth; add scallions and pulse until finely chopped. Add ricotta, eggs, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and pepper; pulse until combined. Transfer batter to a bowl; stir in the remaining 1 cup corn kernels.

Heat oven to 225°; place a large baking sheet in oven. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Drop corn batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into the hot skillet. Cook 2 1/2 minutes per side, until puffed and golden. Transfer to oven to keep warm while making remaining corn cakes.

Serve warm, with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (or Avacado Sauce*)

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
1 lg roasted red bell pepper, (either fresh or from a jar), peeled and seeded
1 slice white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1 Tbls mayonnaise
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Purée bell pepper, bread, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving. Serve with corn fritters. I didn't have any bread, so I substituted bread crumbs; worked fine. :)

The original recipe also had an avacado sauce option. I don't do avacados, so I never saved that part of it. Improvise...avacado, lime juice, mayonnaise, salt & pepper...a guacamole type thing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Roasted Halibut with Garlic Sauce

Recipe says 'halibut' but I'm sure it'd taste good over cod, or salmon... And, just by way of a warning, I love this sauce, but, WOW! -- fish and garlic! The house does smell of it!

1½-2 lbs halibut fillet (1½" thick)
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbls olive oil
1/3 C mayonnaise
salt & pepper
lemon wedges (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 450° with rack in middle.

Place fish in a greased shallow baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Force garlic through a garlic press and into a bowl; whisk in oil and a dash of salt. Whisk in mayonnaise. Spread over fish.

Bake, uncovered, until fish is just cooked through (10-15 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges.

Honey-Glazed Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole

4-5 sweet potatoes/yams
3 apples*
1 Tbls lemon juice
¼ C butter
1/3 C honey
¼ C apple juice
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp coarse ground salt

* Go tart or sweet to suit your taste. I love using honeycrisps, but granny smiths add a tart zing too.

Heat oven to 400°.
Roast potatoes on a baking sheet 45 minutes, until firm-tender; cool.
Remove potato skins, cut potatoes into ¼" thick slices. Peel, halve, and core apples; cut apples into ¼" thick slices.

Toss apples in a bowl with lemon juice.

Grease a casserole dish using some of the butter (or coat with non-stick cooking spray). In a small saucepan (or microwave safe bowl), combine honey, remaining butter, juice, allspice, and salt. Heat and stir until butter is melted and combined.

Heat oven to 375°.
Place potato and apple slices in casserole dish, in alternating rows or layers (see photo); drizzle honey mixture over the rows, or use it between layers. Bake 40 minutes, or until apples are tender. Using a bulb baster (or spoon) baste wtih honey mixture from bottom of casserole several times during baking.

Turn on broiler. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat source until edges of apples are golden (2-3 minutes). Mine got a little extra toasted! ...still tasted great!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Fudge (or Truffles)

I like pumpkin fudge; not often, but about once a year, in the fall it sounds good. We used to make it at a fudge shop where I worked during college.

1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
½ C butter
1 C pumpkin purée
18 oz white chocolate*
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
graham cracker crumbs (for rolling truffles)

In saucepan combine sugars, evaporated milk, butter and pumpkin purée. Bring to a roiling boil over medium-high heat; boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; immediately add chocolate and spices, stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Fold in vanilla. Pour into lightly greased 9x13 pan. Let cool (or chill in frig) until set.

To make truffles...scoop and roll into 1" balls. Chill again, if needed; roll in graham cracker crumbs.

* White "baking morsels" are easy to come by in any grocery store. White "chocolate" isn't as available. Check the label and look for cocoa butter. I find it - in 'chip' form at Trader Joe's, but only off and on.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls

(recipe makes 2 dozen)

1½ C warm milk
2½ tsp yeast
2 Tbls brown sugar
1 Tbls salt
1 egg
¾ C canned pumpkin (or puréed squash)
5 Tbls shortening
4-5 C flour
2 Tbls butter, melted
2 tsp poppy and/or sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine milk, yeast, sugar, and salt; let stand 5 minutes.

Add egg and beat well to combine. Add pumpkin and shortening, mixing until shortening is in small pieces. Add 1½ C flour and mix well. Gradually mix in more flour, a little at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (you may not use all 5 cups of flour). Knead 2 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (1 - 1½ hours).

Butter (or coat with non-stick cooking spray) a large baking sheet. Punch down dough; knead until dough is smooth and supple (7 minutes). Divide dough into 4 equal balls, then divide each ball into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a round; place rounds on baking sheet so they barely touch. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with poppy/sesame seeds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°.
Remove plastic wrap; bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool, pull apart to serve.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spiced Gingersnap Truffles

In my opinion, you can hardly go wrong with chocolate! Having said that, I'm not as impressed with this recipe as with the milk-chocolate spiced truffle recipe I've posted previously. This one's a bit simpler and quicker, but just not the same richness. The use of gingersnap cookies (which I had on hand from the Sweet & Tangy Chuck Roast) is what got my attention and made me want to try these truffles. The crunchie gingersnap crumbs do go soft quickly, so don't roll truffles until the day you plan to serve them. Rolling them in cookie crumbs, however, was a good reminder: no matter what the base truffle recipe, don't be afraid to get creative with what you dip or roll them in! :)

2 C semi-sweet chocolate pieces*
¼ tsp each: ground cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg
¼ tsp vanilla
½ C heavy whipping cream
1 C crushed gingersnaps, divided

In a medium microwave safe bowl combine chocolate pieces, spices, and vanilla.
Place whipping crean in a small microwave safe bowl; microwave until boiling (or place cream in a asmall saucepan and bring just to boiling).

Pour cream over chocolate mixture; let stand 3-5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. If needed, return to microwave for 10 seconds at a time until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Stir in ½ C crushed gingersnaps. Cover; refrigerate 2 hours or until firm, but soft enough to scoop and form into balls. Scoop and roll into balls. If needed, return to frig until firm again.

Place remaining crushed gingersnaps in a small bowl; roll truffles in crushed gingersnaps (or...roll in cocoa powder). Return to refrigerator untill firm.

Store, covered, in frig for up to a week. (Mine rarely last that long!) :)

* I didn't use chocolate chips - I keep "real" chocolate on hand! :) Chips will work--and as I said before, you can hardly go wrong with chocolate!--but the quality you put in is the quality you get out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beef-Ale Stew with Green-Onion Buttermilk Dumplings

Makes about 8 servings. I halved the recipe when I made it. The stew takes about 4 hours (only about an hour of active involvement); the dumplings about 40 minutes.

4 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1½" pieces
2 C plus 3 Tbls flour
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 Tbls vegetable oil
2 12 oz bottle ale
(or substitute beef broth)
2 large onions, thinly sliced
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
2 C baby carrots
(or equivalent, cut & sliced)
½ C thinly sliced green onion
(green part only)
½ tsp baking soda
4½ Tbls cold butter, cut in small pieces
3/4 C buttermilk
1 egg

In a large bowl, toss beef with 3 Tbls flour, 1 tsp salt, and the pepper. In a large pot over medium heat, heat 1 Tbls vegetable oil; add enough beef to form a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Brown the meat on all sides (about 7 minutes total). Transfer beef to a large bowl. Continue in batches until all beef is browned.

Add 1 bottle ale to pot, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour ale over beef and return empty pot to medium-high heat.

Add remaining 1 Tbls oil, onions, and 2 Tsp salt. Cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have a hint of gold color (about 20 minutes).

Remove lid, raise heat to medium high; stir in 3 Tbls flour and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, reserved beef and ale, remaining bottle of ale, and carrots. Bring to a boil. Cover and lowere heat to a gentle simmerl. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender (about 3 hours).

When I made this, the stew was very thick. Next time, I'll use more liquid whether it's ale, beef broth or a combination.

About 40 minutes before serving, make dumplings:
(this recipe makes plenty of dumplings)

In a medium bowl, stir together 2 C flour, green onions, 3/4 tsp salt, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender (or your fingers) work cold butter pieces into flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal with some pea-sized pieces.

Make a well in the center. In the well, carefully whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Gently fold in dry ingredients until just combined (it'll still be fairly lumpy). If needed, add more buttermilk, 1 Tbls at a time.

Gently form dough into 12-15 equal balls and drop into stew. Cover pot and cook 20 to 30 minutes, or until dumplings are fluffy and cooked through. Remove from heat; let sit 15 minutes before serving. Stew will thicken as it cools.