Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another version of jambalaya

Cajun Jambalaya
Cooking Healthy Across America Copyright 2005

½ pound chopped ham, tasso, andouille sausage, or smoked sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ cups uncooked rice
1 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 bay leaf
½ pound cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
½ to 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Brown the ham or the sausage in a heavy 3-quart kettle, over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic. Cook and stir until the vegetables are lightly browned and wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the dry rice and stir for about 5 minutes, until the rice has some color. Add the chicken broth and stir to loosen any scrapings from the bottom of the pot. Add the seasoned salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low for 25 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Remove the bay leaf; fluff the rice. Stir in the chicken and hot sauce. I splashed some hot sauce on the top too.

Makes 8 servings. Per 1 ¾ cup serving: 320 cal, 12 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 45 mg chol, 520 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 21 g protein

Gosh, how many times have I made jambalaya? Several times but still probably not often enough. It's something that we all enjoy. Even my son asked for seconds. I really should put it on the menu more often.

Some recipes call for tomato but this one did not. It was still pretty good but I might prefer versions with a bit of tomato. I used up a couple of links of Polish sausage that I had in the freezer for the pork portion of this recipe. I love when I get rid of something out of the freezer.

I froze this since I made it Sunday and we weren't eating it until later in the week. It didn't suffer too much from the freezing.

I'll say it again, cooking ahead of time on the weekend has done wonders for my weekdays. I just have to figure out a way to make it take less time out of my weekend.

Question of the Day: Do you have anything in your freezer right now that is fully-cooked that you could pull out for dinner tonight if you had to? Something you would just need to heat and heat?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not a bad little pasta dish

Bow Ties with Chicken and Mushrooms
The Spaghetti Sauce Gourmet Copyright 2006

12 ounces bow-tie pasta I used Smart Taste rotini
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into 2-inch long strips I used chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound cremini or white mushrooms I sliced them, I'm not sure if I was supposed to or not
1 tablespoon preminced oil-packed garlic I used regular jarred garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup dry white wine or sherry I used sherry
1 ½ cups refrigerated or jarred alfredo sauce I used light alfredo sauce, an entire jar
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley I used some dried

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme to the pan. Cook until mushrooms begin to release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping the pan bottom, until liquid is almost gone, 3 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the Alfredo sauce and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Return the chicken to the pan and heat through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Drain the pasta mix with ½ cup of the sauce to moisten Divide among the pasta plates and spoon the sauce over the top. Scatter on the remaining parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

I had a bottle of light Alfredo sauce that bought on a whim thinking it would make a quick dinner. I also had mushrooms that I bought for another recipe that never got made. This seemed like a good recipe to make use of those ingredients. All of the other items I needed are staples.

I made this ahead of time so the pasta absorbed most of the sauce by the time I photographed it. The flavor was still there, it just wasn't as creamy as it should have been, as it was when it was fresh. I should have kept the pasta and sauce separate until we ate this but I had a million things going on in the kitchen on Sunday. Is it worth losing the creamy sauce to cook ahead? I'd have to say yes. As much as I felt put out doing all of that cooking on Sunday, it's been a dream to come home and just heat up dinner all week.

Well it's been snowing and sleeting so we'll be home today. Maybe I can catch up with life a bit. There's more than a day's worth of catching up to do though.

Question of the Day: Do you use other jarred pasta sauces besides your basic tomato sauces? I rarely do. Sometimes I use a white sauce for pizza. I was on a pesto kick a few years ago but I avoid that now as we avoid all nuts (I know, pine nuts are a seed but until my son is old enough to understand the nuances, we are a bit more strict in what we avoid).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Enjoying the fruits of another blogger's labor

Crock-Pot Pulled Pork
from Cassie's Ruminations

1 pork shoulder roast, 4-5 pounds
2 12-oz cans Barq’s Root Beer (Cassie suggest the spicier bite of Barq’s so I used her suggestion)
10 fl oz (a bit more than ½ a bottle) Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce This was Cassie's preference and I went right along with it
8 kaiser rolls
1 small jar pepperoncini, aka pickled peppers

Put the roast into a large crock-pot and pour the root beer over the top. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the roast to a large plate or bowl. Drain the liquid from the crock-pot, reserving about ½ cup. Pull the pork into pieces using two forks or your fingers. Return the meat to the crock-pot. Pour the barbecue sauce over the top and add the reserved ½ cup of cooking liquid. Stir to combine and cook for another ½-1 hour on low. Serve on toasted rolls (I didn't toast - too lazy) with extra barbecue sauce and pickled peppers, if desired.

(Cassie has the nutritional info if you want it but this isn't all that healthy. That's why I went light on the meat.)

Before getting to this recipe, let me just clarify that yesterday wasn't my swan song but it was just to let you know that I am going to stop making excuses and apologizing for not posting regularly anymore since it's most likely that I just won't be posting regularly anymore and the excuses and apologies are getting old. I'm still going to be posting as much as I can muster.

For the longest time I've tried to stick to the theme here, mainly posting cookbook recipes. Yes, I strayed every now and then, but I really did make a concentrated effort.

The problem with doing that however is that I was so busy trying to work in cookbook recipes that I didn't have time to make the recipes that I was coming across on the blogs that I enjoy reading - recipes that someone else has already done the legwork for me. I'm no longer going to hold back - when I see a recipe I want to make I'm going to make it and I'm probably going to tell you about it here.

You can see that I wasted no time in trying Cassie's recipe for pulled pork. She posted it on the 20th and I made it on the 25th (although we ended up having it for dinner on the 26th since my husband was recovering from a stomach bug on the 25th). I'm a huge fan of pulled pork. I often order it when I see it on a menu.

I've not had the best luck making it myself - until now. I believe the key is adding the barbecue sauce at the end and only using some of the cooking liquid. Other recipes often have the pork simmer in what is to become the sauce. The meat is shredded and placed back in the sauce but the cooking liquid tends to be quite diluted so you don't get that full flavor. Removing the pork from the cooking liquid, adding the thick barbecue sauce and just enough cooking liquid to round it out really makes this perfect. This recipe does depend on the quality of your barbecue sauce but there is no shortage of quality barbecue sauces out there. I highly recommend Sweet Baby Ray's (original version) for this. And you do need a fatty piece of pork for this. It just won't be the same with lean pork.

This was so much like I would expect to get in a restaurant. I loved it. My only regret was that Aunt Nancy's Coleslaw would have been perfect with this but as easy as it is to make (and I've already made it twice), I just didn't have any extra bit of time to make it.

I should have saved more of the cooking liquid since I needed to reheat this the next day and while it wasn't dry, it wasn't quite as saucy as it should have been (as it was the day that I made it). I thought about adding a splash of root beer but I didn't want to take a chance of messing up the flavor at that point.

I loved the pepperoncini on this too. They cut the sweetness of the pork. I think they also elevated this meal from something my husband would tolerate (he's not the big pork fan that I am) to something that he really enjoyed since he loves any sort of spicy pepper. My son ate his meat bunless and asked for seconds. He said it was like chili. He loves root beer and he saw me use it in this recipe so I think that helped pique his interest in this recipe too.

Cassie has many great recipes on her blog so be sure to check it out.

Question of the Day: What's your favorite commercial barbecue sauce? (I feel as if I've asked that before but I lose track of these questions. ) We like Sweet Baby Ray's and Jack Daniel's but I also don't mind Hunt's which is very inexpensive.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Has the cheese finally slipped off my cracker?

I keep thinking things are going to settle down but maybe I'm wrong. After the baby got sick Wednesday night, I got sick Friday night and my husband was sick on Sunday. I just keep falling further and further behind in life.

I've been trying to do most of my cooking for the week on Sunday which helps me a lot during the week but it doesn't do much for my Sundays. When I rush through all that cooking at once, it's hard to get pictures and post about it all.

I really love my blog but I'm not sure where it should fall in my list if priorities right now so bear with me while I figure this all out.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll be joining the ranks of those casual bloggers who only post every now and again. Maybe I have already become one of those and I just don't realize it?

Friday, January 23, 2009


This time it was the baby who caught the stomach bug. I just can't seem to get back into my 5 posts a week routine no matter how hard I try.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I broke all the rules but it still turned out

Amish Friendship Chocolate Bread
from the Ugly Binder, from

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chocolate pudding. Make a well in the center of this mixture. Add Amish friendship bread starter, vegetable oil, milk, eggs and vanilla extract; mix well. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Someone gave me some Amish Friendship Bread starter right before Christmas. I gave up on it since I was in the midst of so much holiday baking but I was given another batch at the beginning of the year and a second chance. I was dealing with preparation for my son's birthday party then and I almost gave up on the starter again. I fed it late the first time, then I fed it late the second time and I didn't use it right away. I ended up refrigerating it before finally using it (almost two weeks after I was supposed to) so I'm sure if it did what it was supposed to do (having never used the starter properly so I had nothing to compare it to). With baking soda, baking powder and eggs in this recipe, you don't really need the starter but it does add something (I'm just not sure what!)

I thought this was excellent. Very moist and delicious. It makes two loaves and my son ordered me to keep one loaf at home since 'it's so good Mommy'.

Is this actually Amish? Well, the same basic recipe is in an Amish cookbook that I own, The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook, so I think it might be although it surprises me to see the Amish using packaged pudding mix in their baking. Whether it's authentic or not, it's delicious and I can't wait to make more.

Question of the Day: Have you ever made or eaten Amish Friendship Bread? I know I'm late to this party since it's been around forever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Something healthy for a change

Bulgur Pilaf With Tomato and Zucchini
Good Carb, Better Carb Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves
2 small zucchini
14 1/2 ounces no-salt-added whole tomatoes , drained and coarsely chopped I used no-salt stewed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Rinse bulgur thoroughly in colander under cold water removing any debris.Set aside.
2. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.Add onion and garlic.Saute 3 minutes or until onion is tender.
3. Stir in zucchini and tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low.cook, covered 15 minutes or until zucchini is almost tender, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir chicken broth, bulgur, basil and pepper into veggie mixture.Bring to a boil over high heat.Recude heat to low.Cook, covered over low heat 15 minutes or until bulgur is tender and liquid is almost completely absorbed, stirring occasionally.Remove from heat, let stand covered for 10 minutes.

I promised some healthier recipes and even though I'm not exactly 100% on board the healthy eating train right now, I did manage to finally make this recipe which I planned to make some time ago but it kept getting pushed off. I'm glad I finally made it since it wasn't too difficult to make and it was actually quite good. It could have used a dash of salt but otherwise I had no problems with this. The bulgur was much tastier than I imagined it would be. It's chewy but in a good way. This could be the first time I've tried bulgur but it won't be the last.

I have to admit that I'm still floundering. I need sleep - uninterrupted sleep. The past couple of weekends I've tried to do most of my cooking for the week because I just don't have the time or energy to do it during the week. Hopefully things will turn around soon.

Question of the Day: Have you tried bulgur? Do you like it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Skip the gourmet mustard and make this

Sweet and Tangy Mustard
Gooseberry Patch Christmas All Through the House Copyright 2008

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. jar prepared mustard
2 T. prepared horseradish
2 T. Worcestershire sauce

Stir all ingredients together; spoon into an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 3 months.

Makes 3 cups.

I checked this book out of the library and I really like it. I'm not usually overly thrilled with Gooseberry Patch cookbooks but this is a big 'collectors' edition', with 8 1/2 x 11-inch pages and tons of content. Some recipes are Christmas-y but it's mostly the crafts that are Christmas oriented. The recipes can be used all year round. Much of the book is devoted to crafts which I enjoy looking at even though I've given up on the idea of being crafty, after many failed attempts.

I saw this recipe and I remembered that I had a can of sweetened condensed milk in the cupboard, leftover from Christmas baking. I enjoy dipping mustards but they're usually pretty pricey so I thought I'd try this and see how it measured up to the jarred versions.

I thought it was very good. It was reasonable to make too - probably under $2 for the milk, 79 cents for the mustard (store-brand yellow), and then pennies for the horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. You end up with a lot more mustard than you get in a jar that you would probably pay 2-3 times as much for. It may not be as fancy but basically these dipping mustards come down to two elements - sweet and hot whether it's fancy raspberry and wasabi or plain old sweetened condensed milk and horseradish.

This would be great for a party to served with inexpensive pretzels and crackers. You can also serve it with cheese or mini hotdogs, wrapped or unwrapped (we ate some of this with crescent roll-wrapped mini dogs) or broiled bits of smoked sausage or kielbasi.

Question of the Day: Will you be having or attending a Super Bowl party?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best cake. Ever. Really.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
from the Ugly Binder, from the internet

2 cups sifted cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup hot, strong coffee
Vanilla (wasn’t in the original recipe but I always add some)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans or a 11x7-inch pan.
Blend flour and salt together and set aside.
Melt chocolate and cool until tepid.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add sour cream and vanilla. Add flour mixture, then the melted chocolate.
Dissolve baking soda in hot coffee and then add to batter. It will be watery.
Divide batter between pans and bake until sides come away from the pan or about 30 minutes.
Cool in pans 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.

I found this cake on the internet a couple of years ago. This is only the second time I've made it. I was fearful it wouldn't be as good as I remembered. I was truly afraid to make it again and ruin a wonderful food memory but I had no need to fear. This is the cake I would order for dessert if I were headed to the electric chair. It's chocolatey, it's moist, it's tender. It's one of the best things I've ever eaten. I hate to use superlatives like this since everyone might not agree with me. People have their own ideas about the perfect cake but I love this cake too much not to profess my love for it openly.

I have to say though that I've only made this recipe one way. I made one and a half times the recipe and baked it in a disposable half-sheet pan. That's a very shallow pan. I baked the cake at 300-325 and it took about 45 minutes to bake. You don't want to overbake this of course (recipes always say that but, duh, of course you don't want to ever overbake anything).

I have not tried to make this into a layer cake. I did try cupcakes once but I overfilled the cups and cooked them too low and the tops all ran together and stuck to the top of the pan. The crumbs were delicious.

The nice thing about this cake is that the top is very flat and easy to decorate (although I would suggest doing a skim-coat first).

Question of the Day: What size/shape cakes do you usually bake for a birthday? I love the idea of layer cakes but I've found these shallow half-sheet pans to work best, even though they aren't the most attractive serving piece. I can cover them easily (they come with a plastic cover), the cake stays moist, and they require less frosting and decorating time. I bake them with a real half-sheet pan underneath (they aren't all that sturdy).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thanks Hilary

Almost Cake Mix Vanilla Cupcakes
from Nosh With Me

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Crisco shortening, room temperature
2 cups sugar, ground in the processor until fine (measure before processing) I used superfine sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract I used more
1/8 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract I didn't use this
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour (or combined together) I used all cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup warm half-and-half cream or full-fat milk (this is important, warm the milk!) I used half-and-half


1. Set oven to 375 degrees (will reduce oven temperature just before baking cupcakes).
2. Line 24 muffin pans with paper cupcake liners.
3. In an electric mixer, cream butter and shortening until fluffy.
4. Add in the eggs (one at a time) and the extracts and beat about 3-4 minutes on high speed (the mixture will seem to be a bit lumpy but will even out when you add in the sugar).
5. Add in the sugar; beat well (another 3 minutes) until sugar is COMPLETELY combined.
6. In a bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
7. Blend into the creamed ingredients, along with the warm milk until smooth (about 3 minutes).
8. Fill the prepared pans about two-thirds full.
9. IMMEDIATELY, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
10. Place the cupcakes in oven, and bake for about 20-24 minutes, or until the cupcakes test done.

Makes 24 cupcakes. (Hilary said she got about 30 which I can believe. I got 24 and a pie pan full of batter than I baked off in the toaster oven.)

I saw this recipe some time ago on Hilary's blog, Nosh With Me. I've made them before but I didn't blog about them because I try to stick to cookbook recipes. However, since recipes are slim around here these days and because I don't think anyone should miss this recipe, I'm telling you about them this time.

I have the worst luck with cupcakes. They're so easy to overbake. My older oven doesn't bake them very easily. They never turn out as cute as I want them to. I keep trying though.

This recipe is a winner, good enough that I don't feel the need to find another vanilla cupcake recipe. I did have some problems with them cooking evenly but that's because my oven is horrible, I used two different types of cupcake pans (silicone and metal) that gave two very different results, and I think I might have forgotten to turn down the oven to 350.

I still got a moist, great tasting cupcake, they just browned a little more on top than I would have liked (which I covered with frosting) and as usual, the liners looked horrible. The liners always look horrible. I could have doubled these liners (added another one after baking) but I didn't have extra. I've never had luck doubling cupcake liners since the ones I usually buy sort of fan out but these were straighter and doubling would have worked, had I had access to more of the liners.

I usually can't manage to pipe on the frosting using a piping bag but with my new Pampered Chef decorator, it was so fast and easy. I bought that months ago but this is the first time I used it. It worked great. Hopefully the frosting and sprinkles took everyone's eyes off of the yucky liners.

Question of the Day: Did you ever have any character cakes for your birthday? I never did that I can remember. It was always standard Carvel ice cream cakes. For my sister's 16th birthday, she had a Carvel Cake with John Travolta on it (Grease was the rage at the time) but that's the closest thing to a character cake our house ever saw.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm alive

Aunt Nancy's Coleslaw
Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives Copyright 2008

1 (8-ounce) can chunk unsweetened pineapple, in juices, strained
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1½ pounds green cabbage, shredded
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the pineapple and carrots into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
2. Stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and celery seeds in a large bowl.
3. Add the cabbage and the pineapple-carrot mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. This slaw is best if made several hours or the day before so the flavors can come together. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sorry that I've been MIA but it was a crazy week. My son caught a nasty stomach bug, my computer was sick, I had to postpone my son's birthday party due to bad weather. I'm just ready to relax and get back into my regular groove now.

This was one of the few new recipes I've made lately. I wasn't going to blog about another coleslaw recipe, after making several of them here, but this one was so good I couldn't possibly not share it with you. The flavors were so nicely balanced. It was sweet of course but I like my coleslaw sweet. I will without a doubt be making this recipe again.

I love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I expected the book to be similar to the Deen Bros. Roadtrip book, which didn't include the recipes of the businesses they visited, but it included recipes 'inspired by' their travels. The Deen Bros. book has good recipes but some were more loosely inspired than others. The recipes in Guy's book are pretty close to the recipes I've seen on the show. I'm sure they're not exact and there aren't as many as I would like but I love that they did try to give a close approximation of the restaurant recipes.

Well I'm back but not quite 100% yet. I was busy with my son's party all weekend since we moved it to Sunday so I still haven't had the recuperation time that I need to get back into the swing of things but I'm getting there.

Question of the Day: How are you?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Nothing to post today

I'm suffering from severe sleep deprivation. I am too old to be getting up every couple of hours all through the night. We must have hit a growth spurt last week but I think it's over. It will take me a few days to recover though. I was too tired to work on a post last night.

My busy holiday season really doesn't end until after my son's birthday this weekend. Then, things should be back to normal around here.

On a side note, I finally tossed the last of the Christmas cookies. My son burst into tears when I told him what I did!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Soup night is back

Souper Spaghetti
Better Homes and Gardens Anyone Can Cook Copyright 2007

1 pound lean ground beef I used a little more
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green sweet pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 14-1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2-1/2 cups water
1 13- to 15-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash crushed red pepper
2 ounces spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook meat, onion, sweet pepper, celery, carrot, and garlic over medium heat until vegetables are tender and meat is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Drain excess fat.

Add undrained tomatoes, the water, spaghetti sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Bring mixture to boiling. Add broken spaghetti. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until spaghetti is tender. Serve immediately.

Now that I'm easing my way back into cooking regularly, I reintroduced Sunday night soup. This recipe had the basics that my guys like, meat and pasta, but the addition of spaghetti sauce really revved up the flavor. I would have liked it to have a little more pasta but it would need more liquid to handle any more pasta. It was quite thick as it was.

It was similar to American Meatball Soup but this was much easier and faster to make since it doesn't require making tiny meatballs. I used my mini-food chopper and had this made in less time than a trip to the McDonald's drive-thru.

I was going to use frozen ground beef but I was in the grocery store just before making this and decided to pick up a pound of fresh ground beef, so I wouldn't have to deal with the frozen meat that I had forgotten to take out of the freezer. Why don't they sell ground beef in one-pound packages? They had one pile of .80 pound packages and the rest were well over a pound, almost reaching 1.5 pounds. Most recipes call for one pound of ground beef so I guess they figure customers will pick up the larger package (which I did and I really didn't need to do for this recipe - I should have gone with the .80 pound package of meat).

I heard a rumor than my main grocery store might be closing. I hope not but it would save me some driving. They can't compete with the other major chain, a small independent store, and, the real trouble, Wal-Mart. I haven't heard anything official yet. That chain is touting price 'freezes' right now. Mighty nice of them to freeze prices after all the prices have been raised LOL.

Question of the Day: Do you use any sort of chopping device, besides a knife? I do enjoy using a knife but it's so much easier to toss things in the mini-chopper and I can get the veggies more finely chopped, so the guys can't avoid them.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A tale of two cookies

Mocha Cookies
From Red Dirt Mummy

150g butter, softened I forget, I think that was about 2/3 cup
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon hot water
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
20 dark chocolate Melts

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (about 350 degrees F). Grease and line two oven trays with baking paper.
2. Beat butter, sugar, egg yolk and combined coffee and water in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl; stir in sifted flour and cocoa in two batches, Knead dough on floured surface until smooth.
3. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place 5cm apart on trays, flatten slightly. Press 1 chocolate Melt into centre of each cookie; bake about 12 minutes (mine took closer to 15-20 minutes). Cool cookies on tray.

These Mocha Cookies come from Red Dirt Mummy. Oddly enough, she doesn't care for coffee flavored sweets yet she liked these yet I love coffee and coffee flavored sweets and I didn't care for these. The problem was not the recipe but the espresso powder that I used which was too strong (and not very good actually) and I shouldn't have used as much or used that particular powder at all. I loved the texture, the look and the ease of these cookies and I'm going to try the recipe again someday.

So I put that recipe aside since I didn't have a different coffee powder on hand and I decided to use the rest of the melts in place of the chocolate filling in this recipe:

Chocolate Thumbprints
Martha Stewart’s Cookies Copyright 2008

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrupI used candy melts instead of the chocolate filling

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1 stick butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium high.
2. Roll dough by teaspoonfuls into balls, and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. I stuck the melts in at this point. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb into tops of cookies to make indentations. Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
3. Combine chocolate, 4 tablespoons butter, and corn syrup in a small heat-proof bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. When cookies are cool, fill the thumbprints with the chocolate mixture.

While these cookies were sort of pretty, they were difficult to work with (the dough is very dry) and they didn't thrill me. I'm not a huge shortbread fan. I might have liked them better with the chocolate filling since I used to love Stella D'oro Swiss Fudge Cookies.

Okay that's it for the holiday posts. This year I made:

Mocha Cookies
Chocolate Thumbprints
Welsh Cookies
Sugar Cookies
Elfin Bites
Gingerbread Men
Five Minute Fudge
(with mini marshmallows)
Chocolate Dipped Caramels
Oreo Truffles
Peppermint Bark
Rum Balls
Chocolate Chip Brownies
Spritz Trees
Raspberry and Apricot Kisses (my favorite this year - I LOVE these cookies)

I felt as if I could have kept on baking and baking if I hadn't run out of time. I think holiday baking might be a form of escapism for me around the holidays. I was very pleased with everything besides these two recipes I posted today. If I had tested the mocha cookies ahead of time, I would have been adjusted the recipe and been pleased with those as well. It's really not the best idea to be trying new recipes when I was in the middle of so much baking and in a time crunch.

I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hopefully things will be a bit lighter around here while we recover from the holiday excesses.