December 18, 2014

Holiday Baking Day



A little tradition that some of my neighbors and I do every year is a baking day a couple of weeks before Christmas.  This year it was me, Melissa and Emily all crowded together in my kitchen surrounded by sugar and laughing our heads off.  Such a fun day. 

In case you're wondering what we do, here are the perimeters. 
  • We each plan to make three things
  • We usually have at least one and sometimes two "no bake" items that can be done on the stove top or just in a mixing bowl. 
  • We bring all of our own supplies, that includes trays, mixers, measuring cups and ingredients. 
  • If you're super on top of things you can even make the dough or whatever before arriving so there is less to do once you get there.  
  • Since the event was at my house I went ahead and baked my cookies before everyone else arrived so they could have the oven. 
  • I also provided some healthy snacks and some not so healthy snacks for us to eat while baking in hopes that we wouldn't fill up on only sugar.
  • At the end of the day we split all the things we made into thirds and share - then you end up with 9 items that you can either gift out, eat or freeze and save for your Christmas guests. 





Brigadeiro (Brazilian Truffle)
Recipe from AllRecipes.com

One of my new favorites.  I love for so many reasons but it only having three ingredients is a big one. Also, the texture is so very smooth and chocolaty.  This truffle never really gets hard even in the refrigerator. 




Peppermint Meltaways
Recipe from Taste of Home

This was the first time trying this cookie and I wasn't disappointed.  I love peppermint and the cookie itself really does melt in your mouth.  The candy on top is a must for me, I love the crunchy little peppermint bite. 


Buttery Caramel Sauce

I've made this before and the reason I made it again was because it's so delicious.  I can ALWAYS think of something to add caramel to.  I just doubled the recipe and sent my friends home with their own jars.  This makes a great gift to give away but don't forget to keep some for yourself!



Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix

These are advertised as addictive, and they are.  They seem so unassuming just sitting there in their little bowl.  Then you try one.  Then you can't stop. 



Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

This little goodie was made by Melissa.  I now you've probably seen or tasted them before but they are amazing.  The cookie portion is nice and chewy just like I like them and of course it doesn't hurt that you bite into a peanut butter cup too.  So darn good. 



Honeycomb

Seriously one of my new all time favorites.  I don't know how I've survived this long without having this before.  It sort of reminds me of peanut brittle without the peanuts.  Only the texture is slightly different because of all those air pockets.  It's crunchy but not break your teeth crunchy.  I need to make them myself ASAP. Thanks Emily for introducing me to these, and my dentist thanks you too. 



Swig Sugar Cookies

Emily made these yummies.  I love how they are so soft that they practically melt in your mouth. Oh and that sour cream frosting is devine.

(I'm lame and I forgot to get a close up picture of this one.)  It is pictured at the very top of the page though and this website below has excellent pictures.  Sorry!



December 16, 2014

Peppermint Meltaways


This is another one of the treats I made when my neighbors and I had a baking day recently.  This cookie is totally delicious and perfect for the holidays.  Its the kind of cookie that sort of just melts when you bite it (hence the name).  It's not chewy or cakey but it's not hard either, I'm just going to call it tender.  The peppermint extract is subtle but flavorful. The frosting on top is really good too.  I love the crushed candies on top because you get all the different textures in one bite. Smooth frosting with the peppermint background and the sweet crunch of those candies is just perfect. 

Santa would love these on Christmas Eve.  Just sayin. 
Peppermint Meltaways
Recipe from Taste of Home


Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
Frosting
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and confectioners sugar.
  3. Add the extract and combine. 
  4. In a small bowl, sift the flour and cornstarch together. 
  5. Add the flour mixture in with the other wet ingredients and mix together. 
  6. Place dough in a one inch ball and put on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will remain pale.  Only the bottoms will get slightly golden. Remove to wire racks to cool. 
  7. To prepare frosting, add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and cream it together with the confectioners sugar.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. 
  8. Place a dollop of frosting on each cookie and top with a sprinkling of crushed peppermints. 

December 11, 2014

Brigadeiro (Brazilian Truffle)


My daughter recently started taking some jiu jitsu classes, and because of that I got interested in Brazilian foods.  I'm weird like that.

Anyways, I discovered this amazing looking truffle with only three main ingredients and I immediately knew that I'd be making them, and soon.

My opportunity showed itself when my friends and I decided on a day to get together to do our annual "baking day".  We usually try to fit it in a week or two before Christmas.  We each make three things and then we split it all three ways.  So in the end we all walk away with 9 items that we can either gift out, share for Christmas or just sit in a corner and eat all by ourselves.  Of course I would NEVER do that last option.  I don't know why I even brought it up, really.  But if you were to do that, I would not judge you. At all.

So like I was saying.  I made these truffles not really knowing what to expect.  The mixture is pretty soft so I stuck it in the refrigerator to make them easier to roll into a ball.  They were still pretty sticky so I oiled up my hands and rolled them that way.  That worked but it was still pretty messy. You can roll them in just about anything but I just stuck to some good ol' fashioned chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) and they were DEVINE!  Really.  The concoction never really gets solid so I kept mine in the refrigerator and when I wanted something sweet I just grabbed one.  They do become much less messy after some refrigerator time and of course once they are rolled around in something.  Even after a couple of days in the refrigerator (in an airtight container) they were soft and delicious.  Wonderful chocolate flavor without being too powerful.  They are soft like biting into a soft fudge would be. It sort of pulls a little when you bite it.  Smoothness personified.  It only takes a few minutes to make the mixture and then a little time to let it cool down.  They are messy to roll but so worth it.  Just keep a little bowl of warm water nearby and that will help.

I LOVE them.  To be added to my list of favorites for sure.

Brigadeiro (Brazilian Truffle)
Recipe from AllRecipes.com


Ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. About 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until cool enough to handle. Form into balls and roll in your choice of toppings.
  2. Topping suggestions: Sweetened coconut flakes, chopped nuts, sprinkles, cocoa powder, crushed up candies like peppermints or toffee. 

December 8, 2014

Orange Bites


Happy Monday!  Well we're that much closer to the weekend right? I'm trying to look on the bright side.

My weekend was super busy, was yours? Tis the season after all.

This recipe comes from the most amazing cookbook.  I love it because it was recipes submitted by people all over America, then Cooks Country tested the recipe and made improvements if needed and then published the recipe and talked about the improvements if there were any.  This recipe was one where no improvements were needed.  It is one of the most unusual cookies I've ever made.

I'll try to describe the flavors but I'm not sure I'll be doing them justice.  They do have an orange flavor, however the dates add a sweetness and texture that is hard to explain.  Combine that with the sweetness of the butterscotch and the nuts it's almost like a fruitcake.  The texture isn't cakey or chewy…..it's moist and has chunks of complimentary flavors but it's heavy and dense. I know that wasn't a great description but you just have to make them and try them yourself.  They are super delicious.  Definitely unique.  I think it's a great holiday type cookie since it is sort of reminiscent of a fruit cake (in my opinion).

I'm so glad I tried this recipe.  I love to try new things, especially during the holiday season when a lot of people tend to stick to the same tried and true recipes.  This will shake things up just a tiny bit. :)

Orange Bites
Recipe from "From Our Grandmother' Kitchens" page 141


Ingredients
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted whole dates, chopped
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • confectioners' sugar for dusting
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 375º
  2. Place oven racks in the upper, middle and lower positions.
  3. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Bring dates, butter, brown sugar, orange juice and zest to a simmer in a sauce pan and cook until slightly thickened. Measure out 2 cups of this mixture and let cook about 5 minutes. Then remove to a large bowl to let cool to room temperature. About 30 minutes.
  5. Whisk eggs into cooled date mixture, one at a time.  Combine. 
  6. In another bowl add the flour, salt and baking soda. 
  7. Fold in the flour mixture into the date mixture until just combined. 
  8. Add the butterscotch chips and the nuts and combine.
  9. Drop by rounded Tbsp onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes.  The edges will begin to brown and firm up a little and the centers will soft and puffy. 
  10. Rotate cookie sheets halfway through the baking process. 
  11. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  12. Lightly dust with confectioners' sugar before serving. 

December 3, 2014

Cry Babies



OK, now that my tree is up it officially feels like Christmas is right around the corner.  And as usual I feel unprepared. My calendar is filling up fast and I'm trying not to get overwhelmed.  I know you are probably experiencing similar feelings.

One of the things that is coming up that I'm so excited for is baking day with some friends.  We do it every year and it's always such a good time.  I have such a long list of things I want to make that I knew it wouldn't really matter if I went ahead and made these early.  I was dying to taste them!

This cookie is full of flavor.  It's texture is cakey but it has the strong molasses flavor and the three little chocolate chips on top give it just a kick of sweetness.  They are already sweet of course but not overly so.  The color is dark and almost makes you think they are a chocolate cookie.  The make your house smell really good while they are baking.

My family loved this cookie.  I'm not a huge cakey cookie person but I enjoyed the flavor a lot.  Great with a big glass of milk (as my husband always says). Perfect for the holidays because of the nice spicy flavor from the molasses.  Perfect for your holiday table.

Cry Babies
Recipe from The State Hometown Cookbook Series, South Carolina Hometown Cookbook page 190
originally called Jack's Favorite Cry Babies.


Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 whole egg, beaten
  • chocolate chips
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat. Add the molasses, ginger, cinnamon and flour and mix.
  3. Use a small saucepan to heat the water to a boil and then add the baking soda. Pour into the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.
  4. Add the egg.
  5. Use a cookie scoop or two spoons to scoop a decent sized amount onto a greased cookie sheet. About the size of a golf ball.
  6. Place three chocolate chips in the center (pointy side up)
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until firm to the touch.

December 1, 2014

Hash Brown Casserole



This is one of a couple of dishes that I brought to my friends house for Thanksgiving.  I've made similar recipes in the past but decided to try a new recipe for this special dinner.  I was impressed by it.  Creamy sauce combined with the sharpness from the sour cream and sharp cheddar. The onion flavor was prominent but not overpowering.  The crispy topping was delish.  There wasn't anything about this recipe that I would change. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it fairly quickly and it can be a side, main dish and even breakfast. 

Next time I make it I'll update the picture I took.  Sorry!  Sometimes my stomach overpowers my common sense.  
Hash Brown Casserole
Recipe from allrecipes


Ingredients
  • 1 (2 pound) package frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (8 oz) container sour cream
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups corn flakes cereal, crushed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the corn flakes and the 1/4 cup of butter. Stir together. 
  3. Pour into a 3 quart casserole dish. 
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the corn flakes and the 1/4 of butter and then sprinkle over the top of the casserole. 
  5. Bake covered for 40 minutes. 

November 24, 2014

Apple and Yam (Sweet Potato) Casserole


I can't believe that Thanksgiving is almost here.  I am so unprepared.  As usual.

I always vow to stay out of all retail stores until the middle of January beginning the day after Thanksgiving.  The Internet is my friend.

That does not hold true for the grocery store though, there is no avoiding that.  Luckily I can sneak in when most others are at work and avoid most of the crowds.

This recipe is one of those that I love and appreciate. I love it because I love the combination of apples and sweet potatoes with the lovely syrup made with orange juice and spices. I appreciate it because the two main ingredients can be bought well in advance and they last a long time. Therefore avoiding the crowds just a little bit more.  But even if you have to run out into all that mess you won't regret it.  These flavors have become some of what I look forward to the most during the holidays.  The spices and sweetness of the apples and sweet potatoes with that little hint of orange juice in the background is a favorite of mine.

Apple and Yam Casserole
Recipe from Favorite Brand Name Old Fashioned Holiday Recipes page 102


Ingredients
  • 2 large yams or sweet potatoes
  • 2 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Precook the yams or sweet potatoes until they are tender, let cool. You can either cook in the oven at 400º for 50 minutes or by poking holes in them and using the microwave.
  2. In a small casserole dish, layer the apples and sweet potatoes.
  3. In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, ground cloves and orange juice. Heat over medium heat until thickened and then pour over the apples and yams. Sprinkle with nuts if using.
  4. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes.