Monday, December 14, 2009

Hazelnut Kiss Cookies

Another cookie I associate with Christmas are peanut-butter kiss cookies. The dough would be spiked with peanut butter, then a Kiss would be placed in the center after they had baked. The recipe I decided to use this year was a bit different. First off, chocolate hazelnut spread is used instead of peanut butter. And once you shape the cookies they're rolled in sprinkles for a little extra color and sweetness. The cookies are also baked for a few minutes with the Kiss so it melts slightly.

I asked Dennis for his impressions (after he ate two right before dinner), and he said his recommendation is to eat them warm when the Kiss is slightly melted. All in all, they look very festive and I think they'd be enjoyed at any holiday get-together.

Hazelnut Kiss Cookies
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (like Nutella)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles
  • 1 (9-ounce) package of chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped (I used dark chocolate, of course)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, place the chocolate hazelnut spread, butter, and both sugars. Using a hand mixer, cream the ingredients together, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and blend until incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into walnut-sized balls. Rolls the balls in the orange sprinkles or orange sugar, pressing to adhere. Place the cookies on a heavy cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. Quickly place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Makes around 36 cookies.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brown Edge Cookies

I've always associated Christmas with Christmas cookies. My Mom and I used to make batches of all different kinds of cookies, a tradition I continued when I went to college and once I moved out on my own.

This recipe is by far the most requested. It's not hard to see why everyone loves them - how can you go wrong with a cookie that basically consists of sugar and butter?

When I made them this time I used pure cane sugar which made them a bit crunchier. So if you're looking for that extra crunch, that would be fine. Otherwise plain old sugar is what we traditionally used. To top the cookies you can throw some red and green sprinkles on top, leave them plain, or cut maraschino cherries into quarters and put them on top before placing in the oven. It doesn't really matter how you decorate them - I guarantee people will love them!

Great-Grandma's Brown Edge Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 beaten eggs

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream butter and gradually add sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla.
Drop very small portions from teaspoon onto buttered sheet 2 inches apart.
Spread with knife dipped in water. Bake 8-12 minutes (until the edges brown).
Cool less than 1 minute and remove to cooling trays.

Make about 5 dozen.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

M&M Bars

In case you couldn't tell, let me just state for the record that we love M&Ms. Any recipe that calls for M&Ms usually goes to the top of the recipe pile. This recipe for M&M bars is one of our tried and true. I made up a batch for Thanksgiving since the recipe makes enough that we could take some to my parent's house while still saving some for ourselves.

The nice thing about M&M treats is that they're easy to customize for the different holidays. Throw in some red and green M&Ms and you have an instant Christmas treat. Okay, so Christmas isn't for another month but what can I say? The Christmas spirit just makes everything taste better.

M&M Bars (adapted from King Arthur's Cooking Companion)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups M&M's (we used dark M&Ms)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly spray a 10 X 15" jelly roll pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, stirring until evenly distributed. Allow to cool slightly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well after each one. Mix in vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture and when combined add in the M&M's. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 24-26 minutes, until they are shiny and golden brown on top. Try not to overbake these or they will be dry. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

The closest I came to eating gingerbread growing up was when my Mom and I would attempt to make a gingerbread house at Christmastime. Our houses never quite stayed together and had a look about them as if a really strong storm had just blown through. And since the houses themselves weren't very attractive I never felt an urge to nibble on the actual gingerbread.

Now I've finally branched out beyond gingerbread houses and realized that if you combine gingerbread with chocolate the results are pretty delicious. I make a chocolate gingerbread cookie for Christmas that Dennis specifically requests so I'm sure it'll be making a return appearance this year. But for a regular weekend treat I wanted something less labor intensive. This recipe is easy and got two thumbs up from Dennis and my co-workers. We topped it with ice cream because really, what isn't better with ice cream? But it's definitely just as good on its own.

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars (from Everyday Food)


* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
* 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

Makes 16 servings.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

I'm the biggest wuss when it comes to cold weather. I'll just hunker down on the couch under a big blanket and refuse to move for hours. Yes, I do appreciate the irony of the fact that I went to school in Syracuse.

The one thing the cold weather has going for it is the food it brings with it. Soups, stews and chili are some of my favorite things to eat. Not to mention all the great fall flavors, including pumpkin. I love pumpkin. Though in all honesty, pumpkin really doesn't have much of a flavor. So I guess what I really love is all the spices you can add to pumpkin to make something comforting that warms you up on a chilly fall day.

The pumpkin muffins here are easy to make and great to freeze and then defrost for when you need a quick breakfast. These are also a bit healthier than traditional muffins since they swap out most of the oil for applesauce, and also use whole wheat flour. For me, these muffins almost make the cold weather bearable.

Pumpkin Muffins (from Cooking Light)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice (I also throw in some nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, you can put about a tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of milk and just wait about ten minutes for it to turn sour)
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, granulated sugar, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine pumpkin and the next 4 ingredients (through applesauce) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool muffins in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chocolate Malted M&M Cookies

For last week's Sunday treat I did a spin on Dennis's favorite, M&M bars. These cookies have plenty of M&M's (I use dark chocolate M&Ms since we both prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate), along with some chocolate malt powder. The chocolate malt powder gives them a little zing, incorporating just a bit of extra chocolate flavor. We both think that a little more malt flavor would have been even better, so I'll try upping that next time and see what happens.

The original recipe calls for using 2 different kinds of shortening but I used 8 tablespoons shortening and 8 tablespoons butter. Next time I might use all shortening, just to see what the difference is.

Dennis's comment on the cookies was that they had a nice contrast between the crunch of the M&Ms and that the softness of the actual cookies. He's also been eating them for a week straight so I think that's the biggest endorsement!

Chocolate Malted M&M Cookies (from Culinary in the Desert)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons shortening
8 tablespoons butter flavored shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate malt powder
2 cups M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortenings together - add sugars and beat until combined.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing until combined after each. Mix in vanilla. Add the malt powder and slowly mix until combined. Add the flour gradually and mix just until combined. Stir in M&Ms. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until golden and almost set in the center, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to completely cool.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whole Wheat Rolls

So this weekend gave us our first Nor'easter of the season. I didn't even know you could have those in mid-October but the temperature hasn't climbed above 40 for the past few days and the sun has also been in hiding. Weather like this usually causes me to curl up on the couch and stay there for hours at a time, so I decided to at least be productive and whip up a batch of one of my favorite (healthy) treats, whole wheat rolls.

My mom got this recipe from a co-workers years ago and it quickly worked its way into regular rotation. These rolls are great for breakfast with some jam on top, or for lunch with a bowl of soup. They're not too dense as some whole wheat baked goods tend to be, and they're easy to make. You just need to set some time aside as the dough has to rise. I like to put the dough in an oven with the pilot light on. That provides a bit of heat to get the yeast going, and keeps it away from drafts.

Whole Wheat Rolls

1 1/4 cup scalded milk
2 1/2 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup butter
2 packages yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 3/4 cup white flour
1 1/2 cup wheat flour

Scald milk - i.e. put the heat on low until little bubbles form in the milk. You don't want it to boil. Then cool the milk to lukewarm and stir in the sugar, butter and salt. In a small bowl sprinkle the yeast into warm water and stir until dissolved. Stir into the lukewarm mixture and add flour.

Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let the dough rise until the size has doubled. Punch down the dough and put it into a muffin tin. Let the dough rise until a size you like.

Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

When I was growing up one of our neighbors would always make Irish Soda Bread around St. Patrick's Day. That was the only kind I ever ate so that spoiled me for Irish soda bread. It was moist, studded with raisins, and absolutely delicious.

A few months ago I baked a version that didn't quite taste the way I remembered. To be honest it really didn't taste like Irish soda bread, more like white bread with raisins. So we tried again with a recipe I found online that uses a cast iron skillet to bake the bread in. This time the bread turned out great, nice and moist with just the touch of sweetness that Irish soda bread should have. The original recipe calls for caraway seeds but those were never in the Irish soda bread I grew up with so I left them out. Feel free to throw some in if that's your thing. I personally would rather just add more raisins...

Skillet Irish Soda Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen/NY Times)
Yield: 1 10-inch loaf.

Butter for greasing pan plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups raisins or currants

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and line with parchment or waxed paper.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the raisins.
3. Pour batter into skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soba Salad With Spinach, Edamame and Miso Dressing

I was looking for something quick and easy tonight. Not to mention something meatless. I think we're still recovering from Dinosaur BBQ this weekend where we ate our weight in wings, ribs and brisket.

I came across this recipe in the NY Times from Mark Bittman and it seemed to fit my criteria. I did need to pick up some things (anyone know what I can use a whole jar of miso for?), but once we started putting it together it took no more than 15 minutes. Perfect for a weeknight meal, and it tasted good too. The soba noodles had a bite to them, and the dressing had a nice Asian flavor, not too sweet like most dressings. And using chopsticks to eat it definitely makes dinner a little more fun, but then again I'm easily amused.

Soba Salad With Spinach, Edamame and Miso Dressing

Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 to 4 ounces soba noodles
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups edamame (frozen are fine)
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons white or light miso
1 tablespoon mirin or 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1 10-ounce package fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup chopped scallion
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Drop in the noodles and carrot and cook until tender, 2 to 4 minutes; add the edamame for about 15 to 30 seconds just to warm, then drain everything in a colander. Set aside.

2. In a large salad bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, miso and mirin or sugar. Add spinach, noodles, carrot, edamame, scallion, and toss; then taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with grated ginger at the table.

Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thai Beef with Chiles and Basil Over Coconut Rice

Up until a few months ago I had been a vegetarian. Well, actually a pescatarian once I gave into the siren song of sushi. That expanded my horizons for the time being, but eventually I find myself wanting more. Namely the chance to experience restaurants like Dinosaur BBQ and Momofuku without gazing longingly at everyone else's plates. So I finally started eating meat again and was surprised to find how much I like it. Ribs are one of my new favorite foods and I forgot how amazing a piece of bacon can be. Surprisingly the meat I'm least enamored with is chicken. Is it just me or is chicken sort of boring? It's good for a quick weeknight meal, but I've never had a chicken that wowed me. But I digress...

Before Dennis and I kick back and start our Labor Day weekend, I thought I'd make a recipe from Everyday Food that caught my eye. The recipe says it takes about 25 minutes, though it took me closer to 30-35 minutes. Still not too bad for a weeknight meal. We both thought it came out quite tasty, though I think next time I wouldn't seed the peppers quite so much. It could've used some extra spice. And maybe something crunchy for a nice contrast, like some crushed peanuts on top.

Thai Beef with Chiles and Basil over Coconut Rice (from Everyday Food)

1 1/4 cup jasmine rice
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
2 TB plus 1 tsp fish sauce
2 TB plus 1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 TB vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 long hot peppers or red jalapenos, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
Lime wedges for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk and 3/4 cup water and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes. (My rice overflowed once it started boiling so just keep an eye on it. Also, it was done in 15 minutes.)
When rice is almost done, combine fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Heat a skillet or wok over high. Add oil and heat; add garlic and half the chiles. Cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Add beef and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon until completely browned, about 4 minutes. Add soy mixture and cook for 30 seconds. Add basil and remaining chiles and stir to combine. Serve beef over coconut rice and with lime wedges.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brownie Cookies

Dennis requested something chocolatey so I thought these cookies looked good. Not as thick as a brownie, and perfect to make an ice cream sandwich out of. The recipe says it makes 34 cookies but I guess I was more liberal with my heaping tablespoons since I got closer to 26 cookies. Dennis gave them two thumbs up and it's nice to make something brownie-like that doesn't come from a box.
Also, the recipe says to use parchment paper on the cookie sheets but we used Silpat baking mats instead. If you don't have them, get them! They're so easy to clean and the cookies come right off.

Brownie Cookies (from Everyday Food)

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted, then let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined. With mixer on low, alternately beat in chocolate and flour mixture; mix just until combined (do not overmix).

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cookie comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes.

Transfer to wire racks to cool.