Thursday, December 30, 2010

Creating a bit of magic in your oven

927380I don't think garlic is a carbohydrate, but I'm not sure and right now I'm feeling too lazy to grab my Atkins book to find out. All I know is that it is really an essential ingredient in your Carb Diva kitchen.

Honestly, is there a more versatile herb than garlic? Garlic can be grown in multiple climate zones and in the smallest of garden plots. Fresh garlic provides the pungent bite in so many cuisines—Italian pesto,  Greek pasta, Asian stir fries, French cassoulet, South American chimichurri. But when slowly roasted, the crisp heat of fresh garlic transforms to a creamy sweetness. The result is amazing, but is achievable by anyone—even a novice cook.  Here is how to make the magic happen in your kitchen.

Preheat  your oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove any loose papery skin from the garlic but leave the head of garlic intact. Cut about one-half inch off the top of the head of garlic--enough to expose the interior of the garlic cloves. Place the garlic head in the ovenproof dish, cut-side up. Drizzle the oil over the garlic. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until garlic feels soft (pierce with tip of sharp knife to test).

Set aside until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the garlic cloves from the bottom to release the roasted garlic pulp, which should now be sweet, creamy, and golden brown in color. The resulting roasted garlic pulp can be spread on bread, mixed with softened butter, stirred into dips, or added to sauces. The only limit is your imagination.

Cooks Note: A good head of garlic should be plump and firm, with no visible mildew, spoilage, or shriveling and very little if any sprouting (the green sprouts can be bitter).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Photo: Ellen Silverman
Styling: Toni Brogan
 One week before Christmas my next-door neighbor left to visit her children and grandchildren in the Midwest. And, since she knew she would not return until the end of January, she emptied her frig--and blessed me with produce, condiments, and dairy products. Things that wouldn't keep for two months. I've use all of them except............the buttermilk. What to do with that?

I know that pancakes, biscuits, and cake are all easy answers to the question, but I wanted something a bit different. So, I asked my best friend "Bing" to find a solution for me. This is what Bing and I came up with:

Walnut Bread
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
6 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
20.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 cups), divided
9 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 2 cups)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cooking spray

1. Place oats in a food processor; pulse 8 times or until coarsely chopped. Combine chopped oats and 1 cup boiling water in a medium bowl; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Add buttermilk to oat mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in honey and oil. Add the oat mixture to yeast mixture; mix with dough hook attachment until combined. Weigh or lightly spoon 13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) and whole-wheat pastry flour in dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours with salt. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture. Mix dough at medium speed 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding remaining all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to sides of bowl. Add walnuts; mix at medium speed just until combined.

3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. Punch dough down; divide in half. Divide each half into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), shape each portion into a 14-inch rope. Place 3 ropes lengthwise on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray (do not stretch). Pinch ends together at one end to seal. Braid ropes, and pinch loose ends together to seal. Repeat procedure with remaining dough to form another braid. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

6. Spritz top and sides of loaves lightly with water from a spray bottle. Bake on center rack of oven at 400° for 28 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Where are we going?

What should I do in the New Year? What do you my readers (both of you) want?

I don't envision myself as another Julie Powell--besides, at my age I'd more likely be portrayed by Meryl Streep than Amy Adams. But I'd like to think that my blog can provide at least as much if not more than the original Julie/Julia project. Real content with explanations and (sometimes) funny stories, or at least "relatable" stories -- and without the language!

When I began this blog a few months ago I hoped I could earn a little money--not millions, or even thousands, but at least a few extra dollars each day/week/month to give to my church. Sofar it hasn't happened. AdSense won't even cut a check until I reach the $10.00 mark.

I'm sure there is probably more that I can do to promote my blog and make it more "marketable". I plant to enroll in a blogging class at my local community college. Maybe there I'll gain tips on marketing and applying widgets to my page to attract a wider audience.

In the meantime...what can I do to make you love me more (and want to share me with all of your friends)? What do you like? What do you hate? What do you want more of?

Please let me know.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Taking a moment away from the decadence!

OK, I wasn't going to post today. After all, it's CHRISTMAS! But the brunch was finished long ago, the gifts unwrapped, a few already used, and the rest tucked away in their appropriate places within the house. Husband is out in the garage doing whatever husbands do out there, the kitties are sleeping, one daughter is visiting friends, and the other is watching the Disney Christmas Parade.

So, I have a bit of time on my hands until the next meal (late dinner) is due on the table.

I made a potato casserole for today's brunch, and even my non-potato-loving daughter liked it. So, why don't I share it with you? It takes only minutes to put together, doesn't cost much, and feeds a BUNCH of people.

Cheesy Potato Casserole
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bag (1 lb 14 oz) frozen shredded potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup*
1 cup low-fat or non-fat sour cream
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup french fried onions (i.e. Durkee) (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together potatoes, soup, sour cream, cheese, and reserved sauted onions. Pour into a well-greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Top with french fried onions.

Bake for 70 minutes.

*instead of cream of mushroom, you could substitute cream of chicken, celery, or onion.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Free photo - red brown decoration available in our free stock photosTomorrow is Christmas Day. I know I should be baking that "one more batch of cookies", but I'm using my time in the kitchen today to prepare for our traditional Christmas Brunch. When my daughters were young, I know they were not happy about going to church before the presents had been opened, but I theorized that it would be even harder (and more cruel) to rip them away from their toys.

We don't focus on a traditional dinner of turkey, or ham or goose. Instead, I prepare brunch dishes that can be assembled ahead of time and then placed in the oven as soon as we return home. While the gifts under the tree are being sorted out into piles, our feast is warming. Then we pile our plates, sit by the fireplace, and take turns opening our gifts. There's no need to hurry. We spend a relaxed late morning/early afternoon opening gifts, laughing, eating, and sharing time with each other.

Homemade cinnamon rolls have always been a favorite, as well as apple crisp. This year I decided to try something new. Why not combine the two?

Cinnamon Spiral Rolls
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 or 4 Granny Smith apples, shredded (enough to make 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the ingredients for the syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil for 5 minutes and then remove from heat. Set aside.

Prepare the dough by combining all of the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk and mix just until all of the flour is moistened. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and kneed 8 to 10 times. Pat or roll into a 10x12-inch rectangle.

Peel, core, and grate the apples. They will release a lot of moisture, so squeeze them to remove as much excess juice as possible. Spread evenly on the dough rectangle. Combine the 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over the apples. Roll up, jelly-roll style, from one long end. Cut into 12 equal slices and place in a well-greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

Pour the sugar syrup over the rolls. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the tops of the rolls begin to brown and the syrup is bubbly. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving. Can be made one day ahead and then reheated in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Makes 12 rolls.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gone, but not forgotten

Recipe to follow!

1/3 cup vegetable margarine, softened 
1/3 cup shortening 
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
 Replacer for 1 egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour 
1/2 cup candied ginger
1 cup almonds...I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I rediscovered the cookie jar in the back of the pantry. I don't know how it got there. My heart breaks thinking of the lonely days (weeks?) it might have spent back there feeling unappreciated, neglected, and alone.

And yes, there were cookies within. Oatmeal cookies with pumpkin kisses. The kisses still look wonderful, but the cookie part is horribly stale. The kisses can be snapped off and are "as good as new", but what about the oatmeal cookie that was left behind?

I can't and won't throw them away. Years ago I was lucky enough to get a recipe from my local bakery--Recycled Cookies. (This was long before recyling was in vogue). Please keep this recipe in mind when you have cookies, cake, or (at New Years?) fruitcake that seems past it's prime.

Recycled Cookies
1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3 cups rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
2 - 2 1/2 cups crumbled cookies, cake, or fruitcake

Cream together shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt, soda, and cookie/cake/fruitcake crumbs.

At this point you will need to add some liquid to moisten. If you have used chocolate cookie crumbs/cake add milk or coffee. Otherwise, use orange or apple juice. You want to add just enough to moisten but not end up with a sticky/gluey mass.

Form the dough into a roll 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm. Slice 1/4 inch thick and bake on lightly greased baking sheet at 375 degrees F for about 8 minutes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A gift from my kitchen

Today I"m taking a break from cookie-baking to prepare a gift for my next-door neighbors. Donn and Trish have been dear friends for two decades. Both in their 80's, Donn is an artist and retired private school teacher. Trish is an avid gardener and has taught me so very much over the years. They built their Cape Cod style home some 50 years ago; over the years they have filled it with antique furniture from their many trips to the British Isles.

Their home is always warm and inviting--especially during the holidays--in part due to the massive fireplace in their dining room, but mostly because of the warmth and love they show to everyone they know. To help with their entertaining this Christmas season, I've decided to bake an English toffee cheesecake for them.

The recipe I selected is from the website but I've made a few adjustments:

Christmas Cheesecake with English Toffee Filling
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 5 ounces graham crackers)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup English toffee bits (such as Skor)
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

     NOTE: In lieu of toasted almonds and toffee bits, I omitted the 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, increased the amount of graham cracker crumbs to 2 cups, and added 1/2 cup granola, whirled in the blender to pulverize.

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Skor or Heath bars), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 16-ounce container sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Assorted candies (such as gumdrops and holiday M&M’s)

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; stir until moist clumps form. Press mixture over bottom and 1 inch up sides of 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Bake crust until just set, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For filling:
Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in both extracts. Pour half of mixture into prepared crust; sprinkle with toffee pieces. Pour remaining mixture over. Bake until edges are puffed but center is barely set, about 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare topping:
Mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Pour topping over hot cheesecake. Bake cake until topping is just set, about 5 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 10 minutes. Run knife between cake and pan sides. Chill cake uncovered overnight.

Remove pan sides and place cake on platter. Garnish top with candies.
     NOTE: I didn't decorate the top with red and green Christmas candies. I thought their presence would detract from the toffee flavor. I also feared that the red and green artificial color would bleed onto the top of the cheesecake. Instead, I placed candied pecan halves on the top of the cheesecake, encircling the outside edge, and then drizzled dark chocolate and carmel sauce decoratively over the top. Bon App├ętit
December 2000

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's a cookie, it's candy, it's a's addictive

Fudge Brownie Tartlets
Photo "Better Homes and Gardens" 
 Tassies (or little cups) are part cookie, part confection and total satisfaction. Rich, buttery pastry is pressed into tiny muffin cups, and then filled with a sweet batter--usually chocolate, pecan, or lemon. My favorite is a fudge brownie tassie. I found these at the Better Homes and Gardens website:

1/2  cup  butter, softened
1  3-ounce package  cream cheese, softened
1  cup  all-purpose flour
1/2  cup  semisweet chocolate pieces
2  tablespoons  butter
1/3  cup  sugar
1    egg, beaten
1  teaspoon  vanilla
    Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts (filberts), almonds, or walnut pieces (optional)
    Chocolate Butter Frosting (below)


1. For pastry, in a medium bowl, combine the 1/2 cup butter and the cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.
2. Shape dough into 24 balls. Press each ball evenly onto the bottom and up the side of an ungreased 1-3/4-inch muffin cup.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. For filling, in a small saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and the 2 tablespoons butter; heat and stir over low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, egg, and vanilla. If desired, place a macadamia nut, hazelnut (filbert), almond, or walnut piece and about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the chocolate mixture into each dough-lined muffin cup.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and filling is puffed. Cool tartlets in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of each muffin cup to remove tartlets from pans. Transfer tartlets to wire racks and cool.
5. Pipe or spoon Chocolate Butter Frosting onto tartlets. If desired, top with additional nuts. Makes 24 tartlets.

Chocolate Butter Frosting: In a large bowl, beat 1/4 cup butter, softened, with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Beat in 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Gradually add 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in 2 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Gradually beat in 2-1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar. Beat in enough additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach piping consistency.

To make ahead: Prepare as directed through step 4. Place cooled tartlets in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (Or place cooled tartlets in a freezer container; cover. Freeze for up to 3 months.) To serve, thaw tartlets, if frozen. Continue as directed in step 5.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a wonderful slice!

photo from

OK, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Years (and years) ago, when I first met my husband (to be) he loved York Peppermint Patties. He loved them so much that, every afternoon, at breaktime, he'd run down to the cafeteria and buy a York. Every day!

Now, even as the reigning Carbdiva, I know that everything is best in moderation. The peppermint patties are no longer a daily part of his diet, but once in a while I'll bake a pan of these brownies for him -- for old time's sake.

York Sensational Brownies
1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Hershey's cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
24 small (1 1/2 inch) York Peppermint Patties, unwrapped

 Heat oven to 350°F.(325°F. for glass baking dish). Remove wrappers from peppermint patties. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs; beat until well blended. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; blend well. Reserve 2 cups batter. Spread remaining batter in prepared pan. Arrange peppermint patties about 1/2 inch apart in single layer over batter. Spread reserved 2 cups batter over patties.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack; cut into squares. About 36 brownies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Even better than milk's favorite cookie!!

Photo by New Nana at

Milk's favorite cookie? Oreo's of course (or at least that's what the folks at Nabisco would like us to believe). I found today's recipe at another favorite website --

Oreo Cookie Balls
1 pkg regular size Oreo cookies, crushed
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 pkg white almond bark
1 pkg chocolate almond bark

Using a mixer, blend crushed Oreos and cream cheese together. Roll into walnut-sized balls. Chill for one hour.

Melt approximately 3/4 pkg of white almond bark.

Stick a toothpick in one of the Oreo balls and dip it in the melted white almond bark. Allow to harden on waxed paper (this takes about 15 minutes). While waiting, melt 1/4 package of chocolate almond bark. When Oreo balls are no longer sticky to the touch, decorate with drizzles of chocolate almond bark.

You can use the remaining 3/4 pkg chocolate almond bark to coat Oreo cookie balls and the remaining 1/4 pkg of white almond bark to drizzle.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More pretzels!!!

256713I've noticed that candy-coated pretzels are showing up at many of the local coffee stands--they look amazingly decadent, enrobed in chocolate (white, milk, dark, or all of the above), and covered in sprinkles or crushed candy canes. And....they're EXPENSIVE!

Why? I think these would be soooo easy to make and a great activitiy for the little people in your life. So gather your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews or the kids next door and see how creative you can be.

One bag of pretzel rods, twists, or other shape of your choosing
1 pkg almond bark (white, milk, or dark "chocolate")
Assorted toppings (finely chopped nuts, crushed candy, sprinkles, coconut--use your imagination)

Take the pretzels out of their bag, shake off the excess salt, and set them aside. Prepare several baking sheets by lining them with waxed paper.

Melt almond bark in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally. (Yes, I know that the instructions on the back of the product say that you can melt the almond bark in the microwave, but half of the time I end up burning it. A bowl over simmering water takes a bit longer, but it's well worth it in my humble opinion).

Once the almond bark is melted and smooth, it's time to get the kids ready to do their part. If you are working with very young children you will probably want to be in charge of dipping the pretzels into the almond bark. Dip one pretzel at a time, shake off the excess, and lay it down on a waxed paper covered baking sheet. Now, its time for the kids to take whatever topping they want and toss it on the pretzel. They need to work quickly as the almond bark sets up quickly.

The "finished products" can be further decorated with a drizzle of melted chocolate piped on from the snipped corner of a zip-lock sandwich bag.

Have fun, and if you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pretzels + Chocolate = Yummy!!

It's time to get the children (or grandchildren) involved in making goodies for Christmas. So I'm going to present several ideas that can be done with little ones with just a little supervision and help from mom or dad.

This one was posted by Barbara Shelby on the website

Photo courtesy of
Hugs and Kisses Holiday Pretzels

3 bags checkerboard, windowpane, or round pretzels
1 (large pound size) bag M&Ms plain chocolate candies (use red and green)
3 (13 ounce) bags Hershey's Hugs chocolates
3 (13 ounce) bags Hershey's chocolate kisses

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Open the bags of pretzels and place them on a parchment or waxed paper-lined cookie sheets in a single layer. DO ONLY ONE TYPE OF CANDY PER SHEET because the Hugs melt faster than the kisses.

Unwrap Hugs or Kisses, place one on each pretzel, repeat for an entire cookie sheet.
Place cookie sheets in the preheated oven, bake 4 MINUTES FOR THE SHEET OF pretzels and HUGS, 5-6 minutes for the pretzels and KISSES. Remove from oven and immediately put a M&M on top of each pretzel/chocolate, pressing down gently. Place cookie sheet in freezer or refrigerator until the chocolate is reset.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What was I thinking??!!

373352Thirty days of cookies? Really? I must have been having a senior moment. Only a little over a week into this challenge and I'm beginning to wonder if I can truly pull if off. First, I'm not sure I can be that creative. And secondly, I doubt my kitty will allow me to continue working in the kitchen without making something that contains cheese. (If you know my cat, you'll understand that comment).

I have not tried this cookie recipe yet. I copied it from the December 2004 issue of Bon Appetit. It sounded good then, and it still sounds good today. Maybe I'll give it a try today.

White Chocolate and Peppermint Cookie Brittle
A giant cookie is topped with coarsely crushed peppermint candies and melted white chocolate, then broken into irregular pieces.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped into 1/3-inch pieces, divided
3/4 cup coarsely crushed red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies (about 6 ounces), divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk melted butter, both sugars, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just blended. Stir in 1 cup chopped white chocolate and 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy.

Transfer dough to prepared sheet. Press dough into 14x8-inch rectangle, about 3/8 inch thick. Bake cookie until top is firm and dark golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on sheet 10 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.

Stir remaining white chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Using small spoon, drizzle about half of melted chocolate in thin lines over cooled cookie. Sprinkle remaining crushed peppermint candies over chocolate. Drizzle remaining white chocolate over top. Let stand until white chocolate sets, about 1 hour. Break cookie into irregular 2- to 3-inch pieces.

(Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Under my thumb

I love chocolate. I am an unabashed chocoholic. If given a choice between a savory, juicy Porterhouse steak or Lindt dark chocolate with a hint of chili pepper, I’d choose the Lindt. If either a sweet, succulent lobster tail with drawn butter, or a Ghirardelli 70 percent cacao, there’s no need for a bib. If it were George Clooney on a deserted island or a Fran‘s dark chocolate/sea salt caramel, well I’m afraid I’d have to break someone’s heart.

When a want something a bit more indulgent than a chocolate bar to satisfy my craving, I often bake cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are OK in a pinch, but I prefer something a bit more intense. Brownies are comforting (I prefer the chewy kind). And then there are chocolate crackle cookies. Sinfully dark and dense, moist on the inside and covered in a crisp coating of powdered sugar.

Today I was wondering if there was some way to make them even more enchanting? What about turning a chocolate crackle cookie into a thumbprint cookie, and then filling the indentation with chocolate hazelnut spread?

Here’s what is happening in my kitchen today:

Chocolate Crackle Thumbprints with Chocolate/Hazelnut Filling
½ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
¼ tsp. Salt
Confectioners sugar for rolling cookies
About ½ cup Chocolate/hazelnut spread (such as Nutella)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, and salt and gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and chill for at least one hour or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Form dough into 1-inch balls (this recipe makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies). Roll in confectioners sugar to cover. Place cookies 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet.

Using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make a ½-inch indentation in the
center of each ball. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Fill the indentations with about ½ tsp of chocolate/hazelnut spread.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Allow me to detour ever so slightly....


Thirty cookies in 30 days. I know that's what I promised. But I have a recipe for peanut butter fudge that is so wonderful, so delicious. and so easy I hope you'll forgive me for posting this recipe today. Just think of it as a no-bake cookie:

Peanut Butter Fudge
1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter (for this I prefer creamy)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups confectioner's sugar

Melt butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Place confectioner's sugar in a large mixing bowl. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the confectioner's sugar and beat until mixture is smooth; pour into 8x8-inch pan. Chill until firm and cut into squares.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Does a triple-layer cookie count as THREE recipes?

In the house in which I grew up, there was almost always something baking in the oven. If my mom was in the kitchen, it would be bread or pies, and if my oldest sister was wearing an apron, we knew a cake or cookies were on the way.

Graham crackers are a good starting point for building up a circuit-- use them like circuit boards or perfboard.

Part of the <a href="">circuitry snacks</a> project: E...In my bookshelf is a recipe book that was used a lot in that kitchen--a 1959 compilation entitled "Pillbury's Best 1000 Recipes--Best of the Bake-Off Collection." One of my favorites from that book was an oddly named "By Cracky Bar", by Junior 2nd Place winner Yvonne M. Whyte of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

These are three-layer cookies--the bottom is a cakey brownie, the middle layer is graham crackers, and the top layer is reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie. Who could ask for anything more?

By Cracky Bars
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate, melted
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
9 double graham crackers
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream together butter and sugar; stir in egg until blended. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add milk and vanilla alternately with the dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Blend thoroughly after each addition.

Place one-third of batter in a second bowl. Add melted unsweetened chocolate and 3/4 cup walnuts to this batter. Spread in well-greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Arrange graham crackers over batter in pan.

Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips to remaining batter. Drop by spoonfuls over graham crackers and spread to cover.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Can horizontal stripes make you (look) fat?

Hershey's Kitchens
For several years I have made these brownies at Christmas for my family and friends. The recipe is from the Hershey kitchens website ( If you love moist fudgey brownies, if you love dark chocolate, if you love chocolate and mint, you will love these brownies.

Fudgey Mint Cheesecake Bars
1 package (4 oz) Hershey's unsweetened chocolate baking bar, broken into pieces
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
green food color (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Melt chocolate with 1/2 cup butter. Combine chocolate mixture with sugar, 3 eggs, vanilla, and flour in large bowl, beating until well blended. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cornstarch in medium bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk, then remaining 1 egg, peppermint extract and food color, if desired.  Pour mixture over hot brownie layer. Bake 30 minutes or until set.

Spread chocolate glaze over top. Cool. Refrigerate until set. Cut into bars. Store covered in refrigerator. Makes 24 to 36 bars.

Chocolate Glaze: Combine 1 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips or Hershey's Semi-Sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup whipping cream in small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Makes about 2/3 cup glaze.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Shortbread + Raspberry = Heaven

White Chocolate-Raspberry Slices
Photo by Quentin Bacon,
as published by Sunset Magazine

Day No. 2 of cookie baking. I first found this recipe in a 2002 advertisement by Challenge Butter. It has since appeared on several websites, most recently at Sunset. Several reader comments complained that the dough is dry and crumbly, but I have found that it just takes patience. This is a shortbread dough, and using your stand mixer at low speed I guarantee that the dough will come together--the resulting cookie is flavorful and beautiful.

White Chocolate Raspberry Slices
about 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (I prefer almond extract)
about 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup raspberry jam
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped

In a large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup butter, sugar, and vanilla or almond extract until smooth. Stir in 1 1/4 cups flour, then beat until dough comes together.

Divide dough into thirds. On a floured surface, with the palms of your hands, roll each portion into a 9-inch long rope about 1-inch thick. Place ropes 3 inches apart on a buttered 12 x 15-inch baking sheet. Press your finger into the dough to make 1/2-inch wide indentations at 1-inch intervals along each rope. Spoon 1/4 tsp. jam into each indentation.
Bake ropes in a 350 degree F. preheated oven until edges are lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet.

Place white chocolate in a plastic sandwich bag, pushing to one corner; secure bag just above chocolate with a twist-tie or knot. Immerse corner of bag in a cup of hot water until chocolate is melted. Dry bag, then, with scissors, cut off tip of the corner. Squeeze bag to drizzle white chocolate decoratively across ropes. Chill until chocolate is firm to touch, about 1 hour, then cut each rope diagonally into 12 slices.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Happy Tummy" cookies

Frosted Ginger Cookies
Photo from Sunset, by Leigh Beisch,
 food styling by Karen Shinto,
prop styling by Sara Slavin

Christmas is fast approaching. Although it comes at the same time every year, I'm feeling a bit unprepared--caught offguard by how quickly spring, summer, and the year have gone by. There's shopping, decorating, and some sewing to do. But one thing that I always look forward to is the Christmas baking. My goal is 30 different cookies in 30 days. Can I do it?

One of my favorites is a soft, ginger cookie created by Nancy Bolton-Rawles of Eagle Point, Oregon. Her recipe was published by Sunset in their December 2006 edition. I think you will agree with me that it is worth making, over and over again.

Frosted Ginger Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
3 tablespoons molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp each salt, ground cloves, and freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup granulated sugar with buter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.

Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.

Meanwhile, make glaze: Combine powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon water and stir until smooth, then stir in lemon juice. Drizzle glaze over cookies.

Makes 40 cookies

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pumpkin Pie Bars recipe
Photo by Kraft

This is the beginning of Thanksgiving Week. In our house Thanksgiving preparations take much more than one day. In fact, the big event (roasting the turkey) happens on Wednesday, but I'll tell you about that later. Right now I'm making pumpkin pie bars--a recipe I found at It's easier than baking a pumpkin pie, but still has all of the wonderful creamy/spicy flavors you want in a pumpkin dessert.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

What You Need

1-1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup  granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup  cold butter or margarine
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 cup  chopped PLANTERS Pecans
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
3   eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 Tbsp.  pumpkin pie spice

Make It

HEAT oven to 350°F.

LINE 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides; grease foil. Mix flour, 1/4 granulated sugar and brown sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts.

RESERVE 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 15 min. Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, pumpkin and spice with mixer until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

BAKE 25 min.; cool 10 min. Use foil to transfer dessert from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


We had a cookout on Sunday, because that was the only day everyone was able to come. This is some of the corn we had. I'm sitting here at my laptop wondering how to introduce this topic. I love my brother, and I love polenta. My brother loves me, and he loves sauerkraut. I don't think he would understand my affinity for soft, silky, creamy polenta. But maybe, just maybe after seeing this post, he might be willing to give it a try.

So, what is polenta? In the South it's called grits--coarsely ground corn is cooked in water to the consistency of mush and served as a breakfast cereal, or cooled, cut into slabs, and fried. Polenta is the Italian version of grits. Polenta uses a finer grind of corn; it can be simply simmered in water and, if desired, cooled, cut into slabs, and sauted.

But polenta can be elevated to something much more heavenly--cooked slowly in a combination of broth and milk and then, in the final moments before serving, enhanced with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a handful of grated Italian cheese. Polenta can be topped with a marinara sauce, a meaty spaghetti sauce, or as we had it this evening, with a sauce of sauted wild mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and sherry. Here is how to cook a memorable polenta--soft, creamy, comforting, and maybe even better than sauerkraut (LOL!).

Italian Polenta
1 1/2 cups non-fat milk
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup polenta
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary (optional)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pour milk and broth into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly add the polenta to the liquid, stirring constantly (think about how you cook cream of wheat or oatmeal). Turn heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring constantly for about 20 minutes, or until mixture is very thick and creamy. Remove from heat, add rosemary and cheese, stir, and serve.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kiss Cookies

Oatmeal Kiss Cookies Recipe
Photo by "Taste of Home"

The people at my church love God, coffee, and each other (probably in that order) and never seem to lack for a reason to socialize. We did that yesterday after church. It's impossible to drink coffee without "something to bite" as my mother would say. In fact, in our congregation I believe it's the 11th Commandment. (Garrison Keillor would feel right at home.)

I knew we were expecting 200 people and volunteered to bring half of the cookies. I needed a recipe that would make LOTS of cookies and wouldn't require an extra trip to the grocery store. There were 2 bags of pumpkin-flavored candy kisses in my pantry (how did that happen?!) so I used the Taste of Home recipe for "Oatmeal Kiss Cookies" by Anna Mary Knier. (NOTE: I doubled the recipe shown below)

Oatmeal Kiss Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup chopped nuts
72 milk chocolate kisses (I used pumpkin)

In large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in oats and nuts. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a kiss in the center of each cookie. Remove to wire racks. Yield: 6 dozen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Souffled Gnocchi (or angel pillows enrobed with cheese!)

697430I'm in the mood for something decadent today, and in my world decadent means cheese. Lots of gooey, golden, bubbling cheese. A macaroni casserole would certainly fit the bill, but I want to try something a bit more daring.

A few weeks ago I prepared mashed potato gnocchi. Gnocchi made with potatoes is tender yet chewy and can be used in so many ways--topped with fresh herbs and melted butter, sauted with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, covered with alfredo, marinara, or meat sauce. But that still isn't good enough. No, I want something different still--something light and fluffy. So I reached into the depths of my card file and found...

Souffled Gnocchi

3 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semolina (3 oz; sometimes labeled "semolina flour"*)
3 large eggs
7 tablespoons finely grated

4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Bring milk with salt to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Add semolina in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 12 minutes (mixture will be very stiff).

Remove from heat and stir in eggs 1 at a time, then stir in 6 tablespoons cheese and 3 tablespoons butter. Spread gnocchi mixture into a 1/2-inch-thick slab on an oiled baking sheet using a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then chill, uncovered, until cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Cut out rounds from gnocchi mixture with 2-inch cookie cutter dipped in cool water and gently transfer rounds (they will be very soft), slightly overlapping, to buttered baking dish. Chill gnocchi, uncovered, 1 hour.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and brush over gnocchi, then sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cheese.

Bake in upper third of oven 10 minutes, then switch dish to lower third of oven and continue to bake until gnocchi are slightly puffed and lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Easy-to-do Date Bars

177617My daughters attended a small parochial school--so small that there was no hot lunch program. There wasn't even a lunchroom. So every day they took a sack lunch--sandwich, fresh fruit, and a cookie. I did my best to keep the cookie jar filled with homemade goodies. And sometimes they were even healthy!

Date Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

  • 1 8-oz package pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 dgrees F.

Combine 1 1/4 cups flour with remaining crust ingredients; mix until crumbly. Pat half of mixture onto bottom of prepared baking pan.

Combine dates, sugar, and water in medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and walnuts. Spread date mixture on top of crust.

Stir remaining flour into reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle crumb mixture over filling. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. Makes 2 dozen.