Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Intensely chocolate

Rich and Dark Fudge Tassies
from the Ugly Binder, from the back of a Hershey's Special Dark Kisses package

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Hershey’s Cocoa or Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa I used regular Hershey's Cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
Additional granulated sugar
Fudge Filling
60 Hershey’s Kisses Brand Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolates, unwrapped I used regular kisses
Fudge Filling:
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa or Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa I used regular Hershey's Cocoa
¼ cup sugar
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Beat butter, 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Combine flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour or until firm enough to handle.
2. Shape dough into 60 balls (about 1-inch each); roll in granulated sugar. I forgot to do that. Press each ball onto bottom and up sides of ungreased small muffin cup (1 ¾-inch in diameter). If balls start to become too soft to press and mold easily, refrigerate several minutes; then continue.
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare Fudge Filling. Evenly fill muffin cups with mixture. .
4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownie cup is firm and filling is puffed slightly. Place sheet of wax paper under cooling rack. Cook in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully remove each tassie from pan to cooling rack; sprinkle with powdered sugar. I didn't sprinkle. Place chocolate in center of each tassie. Cool completely.

Makes 60 tassies.

Fudge Filling: Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Stir in cocoa and sugar. Add sweetened condensed milk, cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

I'm always on the lookout for things to make in my mini-muffin pans. This recipe caught my eye and I loved it but I think I'd actually skip the kisses if I made these again. I thought they were a bit overkill. These were quite intensely chocolate even without using the dark cocoa and dark chocolate kisses.

I had some trouble getting some of them out of the pan. Most of them came out so I wouldn't blame the recipe. I think I made my tassies too big.

I can't get back into my normal rhythm. My appetite has been weird since I was sick. Well, I'm still sick. My sore throat and cough came back for an encore. I'm on vacation and I'm never on vacation the last week of the year. Everything is 'off'. I can't wait for things to get back to normal.

Question of the Day: Do you own a mini-muffin pan? How many?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Easing back into blogging

This Christmas went off about as smoothly as any. It wasn't perfect - I never got around to sending out any cards this year and I spent way too much money - but overall I'd rate it as one of the least stressful and one of the most satisfying and enjoyable Christmases that I can remember. Considering all the illnesses that ran through our household in December, that was a major accomplishment.

I almost didn't bake this year but in the end I pulled it off. I didn't put as much effort into it as I usually do. I decided just to make whatever I could reasonably make in that last week before Christmas. I had a clean slate this year. I didn't feel any pressure to make the same recipes I always make yet I wasn't intending to fiddle with new recipes. In the end I made a combination of old and new and everything went over really well this year.

Well, some recipes were 'sort of new'. I didn't have the time or energy to tackle my chocolate-covered caramels this year so instead, I made the caramel and I dipped pretzel rods in it, then covered them with chocolate and sprinkles. I also topped some Lorna Doones with the caramel and then dipped them in chocolate and sprinkles, making a Twix-like candy. I didn't even use a candy thermometer since I've made the recipe often enough to have a feel for what the caramel needed to look like. The topping and dipping was easier than letting the caramel set and cutting it (which always leaves me with blisters on my hands) and then dipping all those small caramels. I don't know if I'll every make them again since this was more fun and I can think of more things I'd like to dip in the caramel next year.

So there you go. After my little break you're only getting one non-recipe and one bad picture but at least I've dipped my toes back in the blogging pool.

Question of the Day: Did you have a nice holiday?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Something had to give this holiday season and it seems that it was blogging. I did end up doing a bit of baking afterall so I'll have recipes to share with you next week when I can finally relax. That's if I manage to get pictures of everthing before it goes out the door.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An old recipe with some new tricks

Candy-Cane Twists
Better Homes And Garders Special Interest Publications Christmas Cookies 1992

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Powdered-Sugar Frosting

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water and vanilla over part of the flour mixture. Gently toss with a fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat with remaining water, a tablespoon at a time, till all is moistened. Form into a ball. Cover and chill 30 minutes or till easy to handle.

Divide dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll two of the quarters into 12x4 inch rectangles. Spread each rectangle with jam. Roll remaining quarters of dough into 12x4-inch rectangles. Carefully place a plain rectangle over each rectangle spread with jam. Trim edges even. Cut each rectangle into twenty-four 4x1/2-inch strips. Twist each strip twice.

Shape each strip into a cane on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for 10 to 12 minutes or till edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Cool on wire rack. Place Powdered-Sugar Frosting in decorating bag fitted with writing tip. Pipe frosting on light portions of each cane.

Makes 48

Powdered-Sugar Frosting: Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and enough hot water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to make of frosting consistency.

I started Christmas baking (on my own) in 1991. I can date that event by my oldest Better Homes and Gardens annual Christmas Cookie magazine. That is what started the madness. I didn't even own a hand mixer that year. I had a wooden spoon and that was all that I needed.

This recipe came out in the 1992 edition of the BH&G Christmas cookie magazine, and was added to my line-up my second year of baking. I made it for several years but it was a major pain-in-the-behind to be honest. I wasn't talented with pastry dough. It was hard to cut the strips right. The jam would melt onto the cookie sheet. I had to use a little baggie to pipe on the frosting and I would always end up with a hand full of frosting.

But I loved the final result. They were cute and delicious and they were sort of my signature cookie for a while. My boss, who was also a good friend to me, even asked me to come to her home and show her how to make them. I was happy and honored to be invited to spend time with her family but I remember not being thrilled about having to make these cookies since they always vexed me so much.

Eventually, I was baking for more people and I just couldn't make enough of these for everyone so I retired this recipe.

I decided to revisit it this year since I now know a few more tricks.

First of all, I made the dough in a flash in the food processor. I rolled it out between parchment paper. I used my Pampered Chef pizza cutter to cut the dough into strips. I baked some on parchment paper and some on silpat (both work well). I even used a bit of Wilson cookie frosting to easily frost these but then decided the vanilla taste was a bit strong for these so I pulled out a small Pampered Chef decorating bottle and easily finished the job with the simple powdered sugar frosting.

These isn't the easiest recipe in the world but I didn't struggle with it nearly as much as I used to. I guess I have learned something over the years.

And no, I wouldn't really hang these on a Christmas tree - I was just trying to liven up the photographs a bit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My absence

Sorry I've been MIA but I was down for the count with all kinds of nastiness (sinuses, probably strep throat, etc). I have absolutely no tastebuds right now so cooking anything new woul be a waste. I'm constantly hungry yet nothing appeals to me.

I really can't see doing any holiday baking if my tastebuds don't come back soon.

I did successfully revisit an old favorite recipe on Saturday, before I took a turn for the worse. Hopefully I will get a chance to post about that soon.

I hope you are all having a healthier holiday season than we are (both kids have been sick too).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Another ground chicken burger from Rachael Ray

BBQ Chicken Burgers Topped with Honey Slaw
Rachael Ray's Book of 10 Copyright 2009

2 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
1 medium red onion, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
1 tablespoon hot sauce, eyeball it
2 pounds ground chicken
2 tablespoons grill seasoning (recommended: McCormick brand) a palm full
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons honey, eyeball it
1 lemon, juiced
3 rounded tablespoons sweet pickle relish
4 cups shredded cabbage mix
Salt and pepper
8 cornmeal Keiser rolls, split

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add chopped onions, garlic and tomato paste and sweat them for 5 minutes to soften and sweeten. Sprinkle in sugar and remove from heat. Cool in a bowl, 5 minutes. Add tomato paste mixture, Worcestershire, hot sauce to bowl and combine. Add chicken to the bowl then grill seasoning and combine the burgers well to evenly distribute the flavors and form 4 patties. Wash up.

Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, a turn of the pan, in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook patties 6 minutes on each side.

Combine the honey, lemon juice, and remaining extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl. Add relish, cabbage mix and sliced onions and season with salt and pepper. Toss the slaw to coat and reserve.

Serve burgers on bun bottoms topped with slaw and bun tops.

While this didn't wow me as much as some of the other burger recipes I've tried from Rachael Ray, it was not a disappointment. Some of her other burgers just happened to blow me away. While I wasn't crazy about the slaw on it's own, I enjoyed it as the burger topping. It was a bit heavy on that distinctive sweet relish taste otherwise and I prefer vinegar to lemon juice in a slaw. I added a bit of sugar to it. My husband ate a bowl of it on its own.

The burgers were highly seasoned. They were nicely balanced with the bun and slaw but if you were skipping the bun, you might want to lessen the amount of grill seasoning because it makes them especially salty and peppery. I liked it but some people might not. You definitely don't need any other condiments on this burger.

As usual, I could easily find this RR recipe online but the proportions weren't the same. Her book recipes rarely match her online recipes exactly (and these recipes are from either Food Network or her official site). It makes me wonder which versions I should be following.

I will add these to my list of ground chicken recipes. RR is one of my best sources of ground chicken recipes.

I started getting sick on Sunday and fought it with about $20 worth of cold-preventatives - Zinc, Vitamin C (not at the same time) and Sambucol. I felt back to normal yesterday. Today I woke up feeling like I got hit with a truck. Oh well, I really think it would have been something much worse if not for that stuff.

Question of the Day: How do you treat a cold?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Why am I always the last to know?

I just saw that today is National Brownie Day. Why am I always caught unprepared for these important occasions?

Well I may not have a fresh batch of brownies to show you but I've made plenty of brownies during my blogging career. Let's recap.

Brownie Buttons:

Brownies from King Arthur:

Chocolate Chip Brownies (I've made these many, many times. I've added sprinkles and Christmas Kissables to the top for the holidays):

Chocolate Mint Brownies:

Chocomallow Brownies:

Fudge Brownies:

Fudge Frosted Brownies:

Glazed Chocolate Chip Brownies (my son's favorite brownies):

Rick Katz’s Brownies for Julia:

Sweet Potato Brownies:

Very Chocolate Brownies:

I think you can see two things here. One, I really like brownies and two, I can't take a good picture of a brownie to save my life.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Some recipes from Domino Sugar

I was contacted by Domino sugar and offered a gift card to buy ingredients in order to make something from the Domino website. I took a quick gander and decided that wouldn't be a problem at all. They have lots of great recipes on there now but gosh, I bet their site will just grow and grow. I mean, they have such few limits with sugar as their product.

I have to admit that I will often buy store-brand baking ingredients but when I do my holiday baking, I usually reach for brand names and for sugars that means Domino. If I'm going to the trouble of baking all those treats for my friends and family, I want to use the best ingredients. Is there any difference between Domino sugar and other brands? Well, I've never come across lumps in my Domino sugar - I can't say that for the store brands. That's just my own personal experience.

So what did I make? Well, strangely enough, even though I usually follow recipes as closely as possible, I played around a little bit here.

I combined the design idea of Peanut Butter Reindeer Cupcakes with the recipe for Chocolate Sugar Cookies and made Reindeer Cookies. Since my son can't eat M&Ms (due to his peanut allergy) I used Sixlets for the eyes and nose. Sixlets aren't as sturdy in the oven as M&Ms and melted quite a bit but I think they're still cute.

They were so cute, I couldn't settle on just one picture.

I don't like to make cute cookies just for the sake of being cute. These were also delicious. I wasn't sure if the pretzels would work here but it tastes like eating chocolate-covered pretzels when you eat that part of the cookie. I'd also like to note that I rolled the cookie dough out between sheets of parchment paper which is one of the most awesome baking tricks I've ever learned and I like to pass it along whenever I can.

I also made some Drop Sugar Cookies. I was intrigued by the combination of oil and butter and the use of cream of tartar instead of baking powder or baking soda. I added some green food coloring to the cookies - I usually do that with any sugar cookie at Christmas. These had a nice crispy texture around the outside with a soft, chewiness in the center. I liked them with just the sugar on top but alternatively, these could be frosted.

But the very first thing I made was this Peppermint Swirl Fudge Cake. I opted to top it with vanilla candy coating instead of the chocolate glaze, just because. I used chopped up candy canes and candy cane kisses on the top. I added a bit of green food coloring to intensify the green in the peppermint cake batter. I just wish I had something green on the top too - next time I'll get the candy canes that have both green and red.

I love how we spend the holidays now but someday I hope I get a chance to host my own Christmas gathering so I could put a gorgeous cake like this out for my guests.

It wasn't just pretty, it tasted great too. The cream cheese gave it a nice texture. It wasn't too minty like I've found some peppermint-flavored recipes to be - the level of mint was just right for my taste.

Although, I'm not a Tweeter myself, some of you might be interested in one of Domino's programs to fight hunger. Basically for each time that #NoKidHungry is mentioned in a tweet, Domino®/C&H® Sugar will donate $1 to the Share Our Strength® organization. They're going to donate up to a maximum of $10,000.

I'm excited to do even more holiday baking now. Thanks to Domino for getting me started.

Question of the Day: What plans do you have for holiday baking this year?

Friday, December 04, 2009

I'm all out of sorts

Pollo Guisado
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Copyright 2008

2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
3 tomatoes, diced I used canned tomatoes
2 ounces canned chipotle sauce I used chipotle powder
1/4 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/4 tablespoon salt
1 cup water water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced

Boil the chicken for 25 minutes or until cooked. Set aside.

In a blender combine the tomatoes, chipotle sauce, garlic, cumin, pepper, salt and add water and blend for a few seconds.

In a saucepan add the vegetable oil and onions and cook for 3 minutes or until the onions turn golden.

Add the chipotle mixture and the chicken to the saucepan with the onions and cook over medium heat 15 minutes.

I was pretty loosey-goosey with this recipe. I only had about a pound of chicken so I eyeballed everything else. It was good, not a showstopper but maybe it would have been if I followed the recipe to the letter. I'm sure these tacos would have been better if I had better, fresher taco shells.

So I decided to make pizza dough last night for the first time in I don't know how long. We've been getting take-out or I've been cheating using Pillsbury pizza crust (hey, I like it) but I thought it was time to tighten our purse strings and go back to making the dough from scratch.

I followed a recipe I had written down, that I used to use almost every week but I ended up adding a lot of flour and it still wasn't enough - I ended up with a sticky mess. I have no idea what went wrong. Maybe my scale was off. Hopefully it will be edible. I can't believe that I lost my touch.

The wheels are in motion for my son's 6th birthday, 2 weeks after Christmas. That is a crappy time to have to plan a birthday party. Not only am I juggling Christmas planning with birthday planning, I have the added stress of worrying about the weather since it's January and it snows a lot in January AND I have no idea how many kids will come. In preschool, I had a general idea but this is an entire different group of kids. I can't wait until the second week of January when I can relax!

Question of the Day: Do prefer soft tacos or hard tacos?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More chicken thighs

Smoky Paprika Chicken Thighs
Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes Volume 2 Copyright 2006

1 tablespoon smoked paprika or paprika
1 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 pounds chicken thighs, skinned I used boneless, skinless thighs, cut-up into smaller pieces
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 8-ounce carton light dairy sour cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch

In a small bowl stir together paprika, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over chicken thighs; rub in with your fingers. Place chicken in a 4 ½- to 5 ½-quart slow cooker.

In another small bowl whisk together the tomato paste and chicken broth. Pour over chicken.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or in high-heat setting for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, reserving cooking juices in slow cooker. Cover chicken with foil to keep warm.

If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. For sauce, in a small bowl stir together sour cream and cornstarch; whisk into cooking juices in slow cooker until smooth. Cover and cook about 15 minutes more or until slightly thickened. Spoon sauce over chicken.

Per serving: 164 cal, 6g fat, 90mg chol, 439 mg sodium, 5g carbs, 0g fiber, 21g pro

I had some smoked paprika so this recipe caught my eye. It wasn't the prettiest recipe but it had good flavor. I chose to serve it over orzo even though I really craved spaetzle. There just wasn't time to make spaetzle.

I will add this to my round-up of boneless, skinless chicken thigh recipes.

It's that time of year where I fall apart. I always get overwhelmed by the holidays no matter how much I try not to. Some things just don't help - the alternator on my 2-year old car died Friday. So don't be surprised if posting is a bit sporadic but I have to prioritize.

Question of the Day: Are you ready for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A blast from my past

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches
Taste of Home Annual Recipes 2000 Copyright 1999

1/2 cup canola oil you definitely do not need that much oil but I would use 1-2 tablespoons
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/2 pounds)
4 hard rolls or croissants
1 cup finely shredded lettuce
8 tomato slices
4 green pepper rings I skipped this
1/4 cup mayonnaise, optional

In a blender, combine the first six ingredients; cover and process until smooth. I just mixed it together. Reserve 1/4 cup. Pour remaining sauce into a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken; seal and refrigerate overnight.

Drain and discard marinade from chicken. Broil chicken 4 in. from the heat for 5 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 170°. I used my Griddler.

On bottom half of each roll or croissant, layer lettuce, tomatoes, chicken and green pepper. Drizzle with reserved sauce; spread with mayonnaise if desired. Replace tops.

Yield: 4 servings

I can remember when a grilled chicken sandwich was something exciting to see on a menu. Thanks to Susan Powter, the 80s were all about avoiding fat and before the grilled chicken sandwich started appearing on menus, we mainly had burgers, hot dogs and breaded fried chicken to eat on buns. I remember when a place in the food court at the Gallery in Philly started serving a grilled chicken sandwich and I was so happy even though it was actually quite boring when I think about it now.

Eventually everyone was serving grilled chicken sandwiches and eventually they just fell off my radar all together, I got so bored with them. I still made grilled chicken breast but with our attention turned from fat to carbs, I didn't turn them into sandwiches anymore. I guess I was feeling nostalgic last week and I was also looking for a quick sandwich idea for dinner so I went retro and put the grilled chicken on buns.

The marinade gave the chicken great flavor - much better than I used to get at the food court. It was a nice change from burgers.

Question of the Day: Did you get caught up in the fat-free craze?