Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peanut Blossoms

The Mission: Christmas Cookie Recipe #6
These are always a huge hit. My friends and family beg me to make these every year. The tradition started with my Gramma and she taught me how to make them years and years ago. I can remember when I was so young that the only thing I was allowed to do was unwrap all the hershey kisses.

The Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I use butter flavored)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 48 chocolate kisses - unwrapped
  • extra granulated sugar for rolling

The Instructions:

Cream the shortening, sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, peanut butter, and milk in a mixing bowl. Add the baking soda and salt mixing until blended. Stir in the flour and mix until dough forms - it will be a little bit thick. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded tablespoon for each. Roll balls into granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 375*F oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute - then top each cookie with a hershey kiss, pressing down firmly so the cookie cracks around the edges. Let cool completely before storing.

The Results:
MMMMMM. The peanut butter. The chocolate. It's delicious. They turned out perfectly! I doubled the recipe this time since there never seems to be enough to go around. I love to eat them fresh, when the hershey kiss is still kinda soft and melty. It's divine.

The Reviews:
It's hard to understand what people are saying when their mouths are stuffed full of cookies, but judging from the looks on everyone's faces and the emphatic head-nodding and thumbs-up gestures, I'd say they were a hit yet again!


The Mission: Christmas Cookie Recipe #5
I usually don't make snickerdoodles at Christmas time, but I'm not sure why. I love them, they taste good, and they seem to be fairly popular. So this year I dug out my Gramma's recipe and went to work.

The Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar - divided
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 large eggs
The Instructions:
In a mixing bowl cream butter shortening, eggs, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar. Add baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Beat until combined, making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the flour. Cover and chill dough for an hour or so or until easy to handle. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Roll the dough into 1" balls and then roll balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until coated. Place 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 375*F oven for 10-11 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

The Results:
They turned out really well. I doubled the recipe so I could have more of the cinammony sugary goodness. In my oven it only took 10 minutes for them to be done. I found that it's easier to get all of the dough balled and rolled in the cinnamon-sugar mixture before baking. That's my time-saving advice.

The Reviews:
My friends who tried them said that they were even better than the sugar cookies (which for them is saying something). My husband loved them. Apparently he's never had them before. He was a bit skeptical at first, but once he had one, I think he ate a dozen. Now he's begging me to make more!

Sugar Cookies

The Mission: Christmas Cookie Recipe #4
Mmmm. Sugar cookies. Yum. Now - I'm incredibly lazy and didn't make the cut-outs. These are just round cookies. But to spruce them up for Christmas time, I roll them in red or green sugar. It makes them much more festive!

The Ingredients:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter (use real butter - not margarine)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 and 2/3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda

The Instructions:

Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs. Add the vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until blended. Gradually add in the flour and mix well. I find that chilling the dough for a little while makes assembling the balls a little bit easier. I also recommend having a cookie scoop. Scoop out dough by rounded tablespoon and roll into a ball with your hands. Then roll that ball into sugar - I use colored sugar.... it's more fun. Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart. Bake in a preheated 375*F oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

The Result:
Yummy! (I think I overuse the word 'yummy,' but I don't care.) They turned out very nicely and I found a new method to the madness. I will clean my kitchen counter until it's completely sanitary. Then I will scoop out all the cookie dough straight onto the counter. Then I'll roll each scoop into a ball and roll into the colored sugar. Once they're coated in sugar, the balls won't stick to the plate where I'll put them until they're ready to go in the oven. It saved a ton of time, and a ton of mess! Not to mention you're never caught with sugar dough all over your hands when the timer goes off on a batch of cookies!

The Reviews:
The guys loved them. The husband was thrilled that I didn't change recipes, so I kept him happy. All in all - an excellent choice for Christmas Cookie give-aways. They were devoured at our friends' Christmas party and I got compliments all night. Hooray!

Buttermilk Pancakes

The Mission:
Use up the rest of the buttermilk that was needed for the coffee cake recipe. The easiest thing I could think of was to just make pancakes. Everyone likes pancakes, right? So I got out my trusty Red-Checkered Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and proceded to gather the rest of the ingredients. Thankfully they were all things I have stocked at all times! So as the husband slept in on this beautiful Saturday morning, I was in the kitchen making pancakes and preparing to bake a few more cookies.

The Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk

The Instructions:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with a fork until blended, then create a well in the middle of the mixture. Set aside. In a separate bowl, gently beat eggs, then beat in the buttermilk. Pour into the well in the flour mixture and beat well. I've found that the more air you beat into the batter, the fluffier the pancakes will be. Pour batter onto a hot griddle or pan. I have found that each pan requires a different temperature. I usually start out with a medium heat and then adjust from there. I typically use a large ladle and make each pancake about 1/4 cup worth of batter. My Mom actually makes her batter in the blender - less drips when pouring onto the griddle! When the pancakes look dry around the edges, flip them over to cook on the other side. Pancakes are done when the batter is no longer runny and each side is a beautiful golden brown.

The Result:

As usal, the first batch came out all weird and burnt. I always seem to have trouble getting the temperature adjusted correctly. Hey - I never claimed to be a good cook, just an enthusiastic one! But once I got the temperature and the timing down, the subsequent batches turned out delicious and properly golden brown.

The Reviews:
I thought they were tasty. Buttermilk tends to make a "heavier" pancake, and I prefer mine light and fluffy. I probably won't make them again unless I have some buttermilk to use up. The husband liked them, though. He refused to get out of bed and eat them on Saturday, but I packed them for his breakfast (he eats it at work) on Monday and Tuesday and he seemed happy. I can only hope he ate them himself instead of donating them to a coworker or the trashcan!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jumbo Raisin Cookies

The Mission: Cookie Recipe #3!

This is Dad's favorite recipe. He adores them. He loves them. He craves them! Gramma has been making these for a very long time and the recipe has been handed down to me. It's Christmas tradition that I make these cookies for Dad every year. I also make them for Father's Day :) It's a very easy present to make. And there's no chance that the Husband will steal any of the cookies - because they contain coconut.... and the Husband is allergic.

The Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 and 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shortening (I use butter flavored)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 cups flour - sifted

The Instructions:

What you'll want to do first is boil the raisins so they'll have sufficient time to cool. I'll usually do this the night before and then just stick them in the fridge. ** Cream shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in mixer. Add the cooled raisin mixture (do not drain). Beat in the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix in the sifted flour until blended. Add the chocolate chips and coconut. Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet, placing them 2" apart. Bake in a preheated 375*F oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. - Chilling the dough makes it easier.

**Once - many many years ago - Mom and I made these and skipped the cooling step. What could it hurt? Well - it was hot and melted the chocolate chips. Oops. We apparently weren't thinking very clearly. So - do not skip the cooling step! It's important :) Also - do not double this recipe. It's already doubled, and if you try and double it again, it won't fit in the mixing bowl. Yes - I do know this from experience.

The Result: They turned out delicious as always. Since these cookies stay extremely moist, I cut out wax paper to put between each layer as I put the cooled cookies in Dad's special tin. I highly recommend doing this - if you don't, the cookies will stick together and you'll end up with a big glob instead of pretty individual cookies.

The Reviews:
Dad is happy. Mission accomplished. I even took some left overs (the ones that didn't fit into Dad's special tin) to a party. Everyone who thought that they sounded good tried one and liked them. A lot of people don't care for coconut in their cookies - so they're not terribly popular. But everyone who likes coconut raves about them :) HOORAY!

Dad's Special Tin:
My family has a thing about the M&M guys. It all started with a gift set of M&M mugs. A yellow, a red, a blue, and a green. Dad liked the red guy. The blue one was playing a saxaphone, so it went to my sister. Mom got the green girl M&M since, well, Mom's a girl. So I got stuck with yellow. Who is portrayed as a happy-go-lucky character, but not the brightest bulb in the box. Oh well.


So it's 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and I don't know what to cook for dinner. I don't even know what groceries are in the house that I could use for dinner. All in all - I wasn't doing so well with my meal planning and my grocery list this weekend. Oh well. So I was contemplating being bad and just ordering pizza when my husband called me from the grocery store, asking if I'd mind making lasagna tonight - he'd pick up everything we'd need, and what else did I want, since he couldn't find the grocery list. YAY! So I'm feeling pretty thrilled with my marriage right now, and I didn't have to agonize over dinner. Hooray.

Though I do tend to be a lasagna snob - my Gramma makes the best lasagna in the entire world and it's her recipe that I usually use - I figured that there wouldn't be any harm in making a lasagna from jar sauce and other "I don't have time" ingredients. So this is what I threw together....

The Ingredients:
12 to 15 lasanga noodles - cooked and drained.
1 lb ground beef - browned and drained of fat.
3 lbs (48 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb (16 oz) riccota cheese
2 cups grated mozarella cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese
3 Tbps parsely flakes
1 cup grated mozarella cheese (to be added on top, not mixed with eggs etc)

The Instructions:
Pour a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9'' x 13'' baking dish. Mix the rest of the sauce and the browned ground beef together. In a separate bowl, mix the riccota cheese, the mozarella cheese, the eggs, and the parsely. In the baking dish, cover the sauce with 4-5 lasagna noodles. Then spread half of the cheese mixture on the noodles. Follow with half of the sauce mixture. Then put 4-5 more noodles on, then the remaining cheese mixture, the remaining sauce mixture, and another layer of noodles. Top with the 1 cup of grated mozarella cheese. Then sprinkle liberally with parmesean cheese. And of course - when your husband looks at the lasagna and asks why you didn't put cheddar cheese on it, sprinkle top with lots of grated cheese to make him happy. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350*F oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes to help the lasagna set up. Enjoy!

The results:
yummy. Not the same as Gramma's and not as good, but definately a very tasty dinner for a cold Sunday evening. Both my husband and Friend Mark thought it was delicious and both men stuffed themselves full of my lasagna. Dinner was saved. The end.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

The Mission: Christmas Cookies #2

It has begun. The annual Christmas Cookie Baking! I'm spending the next week pumpking out dozens of deliciousness to share for the holidays. First up were chocolate chip cookies, but since I'd already blogged about those, I didn't bother including the recipe here :)

  • Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins (for plumper raisins, soak in warm water overnight)
Cream together the butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add in the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix well. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl since the spices tend to puff up onto the sides. You don't want to miss out on any of the yummy, spicy flavor! Next add the flour. Your dough will become stiffer at this point, so you might want to increase the power of the mixer. Next add in the rolled oats. I usually use the old-fashioned kind instead of the instant. Mix everything well, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Dump in the raisins (making sure you drain them if you had them soaking). Scoop dough by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving about 1.5'' between cookies. Bake each batch for 8-10 minutes in a preheated 375*F oven. Let cool on pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cook completely.

The Result:
Yummy as always. My husband and Friend Mark taste tested the cookies stright out of the oven and were thrilled. It was difficult to keep them out of the cookies after that. I had to allot them a few for eating right away for fear they'd riot in my kitchen! The remaining cookies are safe in their tins awaiting distribution for the holidays.

Pear Coffee Cake with Ginger Pecan Crunch Topping

The Mission: Ingredient Challenge #2 - Pears

The Recipe:
Pear Coffee Cake with Crunchy Pecan Ginger Topping. Though it's a mouthful of a title, I still think it will turn out well. After all, it is a yummy coffee cake including ginger. I figured it'd be a nice, spicy addition to a breakfast menu. And it meets the requirements by including pears :)

The ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups chopped ripe pears
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

The Instructions:
Mix together flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, and oil. Set aside 1 cup of mixture for topping. Add 2 cups chopped ripe pear to the rest of the above mixture. Add egg, buttermilk, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well. Spread in greased 9''x 13'' pan. Topping: add ginger and pecans to the reserved mixture and blend well. Sprinkle over top of batter. Bake at 350*F for 40 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

The Result:

Delicious! Even though I figured out after putting it in the oven that I forgot to add the salt. Oops. But I didn't notice it in the final product, so oh well. I also wasn't sure whether or not to peel the skin off the pears. So I didn't. I took the lazy way out and hoped for the best. Success! I couldn't detect any skin at all in the cake once baked. Hooray.

The Reviews:

Dad - "yum!" Mom - "delicious!" Husband - "I don't eat pears." (so he didn't try any. Wuss.) Friend Mark - "Oh my God." All in all - it was a big hit. My coworker also enjoyed the piece I set aside for her. I'll be back with more reviews. Mom took the remaining cake to work so her coworkers could pass judgement.

Update: Mom's coworker's thought it was good, but no rave reviews.