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="http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/circuitsnacks">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 (http://www.hersheys.com/recipes). 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 www.kraftfoods.com. 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.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Ultimate Cookie

Bowl of M&MsA few friends have complained that I don't have enough cookie recipes posted on this blog. Maybe the name "Ultimate Cookie" is a bit lofty, but whenever I bake these cookies they seem to disappear pretty quickly. I'll let you decide what they should be named:

Ultimate Cookie
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar (plus additional for shaping cookies)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup cooking oil
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. soda
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup M&M's plain candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in egg and oil until well combined. Stir in remaining ingredients, except M&M's until well mixed. Gently stir in M&M candies.

Form into one-inch balls and place, 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass dipped in granulated sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown and middle of cookie is no longer moist. You want the cookie to be chewy/soft in the middle but not doughy. Allow to cool on the pans for 2 minutes before removing to cooling rack.