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Friday, December 11, 2009

Peanut Butter Kisses

The holiday season always feels busy and rushed, but for some reason, this year more so for me. It shouldn't have been since me and the hubby were not travelling anywhere for the holidays and all wedding stuff was basically done except for the thank cards. Perhaps, it was that after 10 months of wedding planning, I simply lacked the energy to deal with all normal holiday rituals like baking. Although I read Bon Appetite, Cook's Illustrated and various food blogs, I still tend to gravitate towards simple comfort foods that remind me of my youth. Peanut Butter Kiss cookies fall into that "comfort" category for me. They were not a cookie that my mom made (she's not a huge fan of peanut butter) but they were a common choice by others in our neighborhood. I found this recipe on Cooks. As soon as I saw the directions were only 3 lines long, I was sold! The main issue I have heard from folks over the years on these cookies is the difficulty in keeping the Hershey Kiss on the top of the cookie while eating it....but big of a deal is that?

1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 egg
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine ingredients. Roll into balls, roll balls in sugar. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Top with chocolate Kiss immediately upon removal from oven.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Is the sweetest wedding cake your own?

Victor and I got married on November 1st. It sounds cliche, but as one that has gone through planning a wedding already knows, it's a lot of stress but is all worth it in the end. As a person with a food blog who has taken cake decorating classes in the past, one might think I would have had very specific ideas about what type of wedding cake we should serve. Ironically, I did not. There are so many choices out there, it is a bit overwhelming: traditional multi-tiered cake vs cupcakes, fondant vs buttercream, etc. The one thing that I did know is that I did not want our guests to take one forkful of cake and then leave the rest of the slice on the plate. In other words, I wanted it to taste good. As long as the cake tasted good, the decorations were secondary.
Our wedding took place at The William Penn Inn in Gwynedd, PA. Since we were planning the wedding from Los Angeles, we looked for a venue which offered a package deal. The William Penn Inn offered an amazing package which covered literally everything including the cake. They offered a few different flavors of cakes and fillings from which we could choose. After trying a few at the tasting, we selected vanilla genoise layered with a lemon filling, finished with European buttercream. They served each slice with fresh fruit coulis garnished with a crisp almond tuile and white chocolate curls. I really wish I had gotten a photograph of individual cake slices on the plate since it was a very nice presentation...but with all of the excitment, I didn't even think of it.....Anyway, all of the food was excellent (granted, I am biased...). Guests had the choice of Capon Marsala or Baked Fillet of Salmon for dinner. The wedding cake was served for desert. The cake was simultaneoulsy moist, light and refreshing.
Major props to my parents who went and checked out venues for us and ultimately steered us towards The William Penn Inn. It was an excellent choice. If you are in the Philly area and have never eaten at the William Penn Inn, definitely check it out...and don't forget to order desert!
BTW: Obviously, neither Victor or I took these photos since we are in one. These photos were taken by Austin Gorg.

Bite size chocolate frights!

I had such good luck with Martha Stewart's Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies, that trying some of her halloween cookie recipes seemed like a no brainer. I made these cute little chocolate bites to send to my brother for Halloween. You really must check out Martha's website...she's a genius. The majority of the stuff on her site is simple to do and uses basic ingredients but turns out looking so classy. Even her decorating ideas are basic but very chic...

This recipe can be found on Martha's site .

I have also included here for reference...again, Martha's recipe, not mine.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling and cutting out dough
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
Small candies or sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg. On low speed, mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half, and form into 2 disks, each about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap disks in plastic; chill until firm, at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days.
On a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, using a floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/2 inch thick. (If dough becomes too soft to work with, refrigerate for a few minutes.)
Using 2- to 3-inch Halloween cookie cutters, cut out shapes, dipping cutters in flour as necessary to prevent sticking; place on a baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart.
Bake until surface is dry to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes (if decorating, press candies into dough halfway through baking). Cool cookies 1 to 2 minutes on baking sheet; transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve, or store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Sables Au Citron

I was introduced to Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini food blog by my sister. She gave me a copy of Clotilde's cookbook "Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen" for Christmas a year or two back. Each month this year, Clotilde has provided her readers with a downloadable desktop calendar. For the month of October, the picture was of these Lemon Butter Cookies (here's the link to the October desktop calendar. So every morning when I logged onto my laptop at work, I saw these scrumptous cookies...I had to try making them of course! As luck would have it, the recipe was in the cookbook that I already owned! If you compare the picture above to the desktop calendar, you will see that my cookies and Clotilde's cookies don't look exactly alike and I am really not sure why that is...her glaze seems clear while mine is more opaque (I may not have beaten the lemon juice and confectioner's sugar long enough)...regardless, they tasted as good as they looked. They had a sweet/salty/tart combination that was really intriguing.

Sables Au Citron (Lemon Butter Cookies) from "Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen" by Clotilde Dusoulier

1 organic lemon (I don't believe I used an organic one..)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt (I would not recommend substituting in regular table me, it makes a difference)
7 tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg yolk
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Grate lemon to yeild a tablespoon of finely chopped lemon zest. Reserve the lemon for the glaze.

In large mixing bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, salt and lemon zest. Add butter and rub it into the dry ingredients using your fingertips or use a wire pastry blender. Add egg yolk, stir with a fork until blended and knead dough until it comes together and forms a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little ice water one teaspoon at a time and knead again. If too sticky, add flour, one tablespoon at a time.

Divide the dough into two and roll each half into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic and put in freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 35o degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one log of dough from freezer, unwrap and slice into 1/4 inch rounds with a sharp serrated knife, rotating the log by a quarter of turn after each slice so it keeps a round shape. Transfer onto baking sheet, leaving a 1/2 inch margin between them. Repeat with second log.

Bake for 12 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before glazing (about 1 hour).

Squeeze lemon to get 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Put confectioner's sugar in a bowl, add lemon juice and whisk until smooth and syrupy. Use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to glaze the cookies. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies from the Master

Martha Stewart's a household name for a reason: the woman knows her stuff! This recipe is from her website. It was super easy to make and the cookies came out so nice looking, that my dad thought they were store bought! One thing I have noticed about molasses cookie recipes in general is that I typically tend to already have all the ingredients on hand, they are easy to put together, and pretty hard to mess up.

I have put the recipe below so I don't lose it if the above link stops working or something...but make no mistake: This is Martha's recipe! Not mine...

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.
Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat.
Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The worst Snickerdoodle cookies ever!

The thought was that I would try making some of my favorite recipes with wheat flour in an attempt to make them more healthy. Well...apparently, it's not that cut and dry. I took my mom's never fail snickerdoodles and substituted in wheat flour for the normal all purpose flour. It may have even been wheat bread flour...who knows, I threw away the package....Anway, there are probably a thousand websites that discuss how to convert recipes to wheat flour. I didn't look at any of them. These were mildly edible and barely earned the monkier of "cookie"; cakey wheat blob covered in sugar would probably be a more accurate label. I will spare you the recipe...We tried to eat them because we felt too guilty throwing them away and too embarrassed to share them with anyone. Eventually, the blobs got moldy and we had to 86 them anyway. The picture of above is the last few left in the cookie jar right before they got dumped in the, these were bad!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

All things Philly in the Fall!

Victor and I are making it official in about 99 days from now (that's Nov 1 so you don't have to the math...)! As you probaby are already aware, the wedding is going to be in Philadelphia. If you have never been to Philly in the fall, you are in for a treat! The air will be turning a little crisp and the leaves on the trees will be turning all sorts of beautiful colors. Oh, and everyone will be talking about the Eagles everywhere you go all weekend long (just warning you). Anyhoo....I included the above photo showing the path along the Wissahickon Creek to get you in the mood...

So, it's going to be beautiful, that's a given, but what to do? Where to go? Since it will be Halloween weekend, are there any Halloween type events to be aware of? We have put together the below list to help you plan out your trip and make the most of your visit to the City of Brotherly Love.....

Halloween Stuff:
Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary
Ghost Tours
Spirit of 76 Ghost tour
Haunted Hayride (bit of a drive...)
** Note that if you are interested in the Halloween stuff, they could sell out (especially Terror Behind the Walls) for 10/30 and 10/31, so advance tickets are recommended.

Plymouth Meeting Mall
King of Prussia Mall
Lancaster/Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Olde City Historical Sites (Downtown Philly):
Independence Hall
Liberty Bell
National Consitution Center
Betsy Ross' House
Franklin Square
Washington Square
Penn's Landing

Notable Restaurants and Pubs near the historical attractions:
Cuba Libre
Serrano/ Tin Angel (live music upstairs)
The Plough & The Stars (Irish bar)
City Tavern (not sure about their food, but neat to see and grab a drink
Sassafras (great burgers and hummus):
Moshulu ($$$) (it's a restaurant on a boat!)
Buddakan ($$$) (trendy "modern asian" restaurant):

Rittenhouse Square Area (Downtown Philly):
Rittenhouse Square
Delancey Street,_Rittenhouse_Square/24.html
Mutter Museum (Museum of medical annomalies...)
Fitler Square

Notable Restaurants and Pubs in Rittenhouse Square area:
DiBruno Brothers
Dolce Carini
Audrey Claire

South Philly Area:
Italian Market (Rocky runs through the Italian market in the first Rocky movie)
South Street
The Royal Tavern
Mamma Maria's
Brauhaus Schmitz
**Geno's Steaks
**Pat's Steaks
**Jim's Steaks

** If you want to try a cheesesteak while in Philly, people will inevitably mention Geno's or Pat's which are the most famous and sit on opposite corners from each other...however, there are many good places to get a cheesesteak....Here's a great article about a man with a mission to find the best Philly Cheesesteak...1 man, 50 Cheesesteaks!

Art Museum/Fairmount/Boat House Row Area
Philadelphia Museum of Art (Rocky ran up the front steps in the first Rocky movie...the Rocky statue is now located at the bottom of the steps)
Rodin Museum
Eastern State Penitentiary (Terror Behind the Walls is a special Halloween event held annually at ESP, parts of Twelve Monkeys filmed here)
Schuykill River Park
Kelly Drive/ Boat House Row
Fairmount Park Water Works

Notable restaurants in the Art Museum/Fairmount area:
Jack's Firehouse (across from the prison)
Figs Restaurant
Bishop's Collar

Outside of the city/Nature stuff
Wissahickon Creek/Forbidden Drive (picture at top of post)
Valley Green Inn (restaurant along Forbidden Drive)
Bruno's (restaurant along Forbidden Drive, it's gotten some bad reviews but was good when I was there)
Valley Forge Park
Washington Memorial Chapel
Cabin Shop
Wharton Esherick's House

Good breakfast spot in Norristown area
Christine's Family Restaurant

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Ultimate Father's Day Cookie (aka, Oatmeal)

I like oatmeal cookies but I typically leave out the raisins because some people are just not into raisins. Each time I do this, if I send some to my dad, he says, "They're good but where are the raisins?"....So, with Father's Day coming up, I decided to make him some and include the raisins since that's how he likes them. But then Victor and I were at Border's and they had special edition of Cook's Illustrated which had an article called The Ultimate Oatmeal Cookie. Naturally, I had to buy it. There were 3 main points I took away from this article:
1. most folks ruin oatmeal cookies by putting in too many "add on" ingredients: chocolate chips, peanut butter, coconut, raisins, etc.
2. Raisins are too sweet to be put into a cookie which already has some chocolate chips added
3. Portion size is critical. Make the cookies fairly large to get a crisp out side/rim with a chewy center.

So, their recipe suggested using either dried sour cherries or cranberries as well as some nuts. They used peacans in their cookie, but I opted for hazelnuts (I had them leftover from the hazelnut biscotti...). They also recommended dividing the dough into 16 parts, each part being 1 cookie....I had doubled the recipe for myself and didn't feel like counting out 32 portions, so I just eyeballed it. My cookies were probably 2 inch balls before I flattened them. Luckily, we liked them since it ended up making a ton of cookies! Below is the recipe as I made it (but just the single recipe, not doubled...)

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Hazelnuts and Dried Cherries

1 1/4 unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup skinned and toasted hazelnuts, chopped (could use pecans or walnuts as well)
1 cup dried sour cherries, chopped (could use dried cranberries as well)
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
12 tablespoon (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Adjust oven racks to user and lower-middle positions. Heat over to 350 degrees. LIne 2 large baking sheets (18x12 inch) with parchment paper.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder , baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, hazelnuts, cherries and chocolate.
3. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (I used a hand mixer since that is all I have), beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla, and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture, and mix until just incorporated. Give dough a final stir with spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingrediants are evenly distributed.
4. Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms of hands into balls about 2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball into 1 inch thicknes. Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes, rotate them from front to back and top to bottom, and continue to bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone adn will appear raw, wet, and shiney in cracks), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Do not overbake.
5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack for 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

*Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I made this cake for a friend's birthday.   Victor suggested I make an iPod Touch cake but I really couldn't figure out how to pull that off, so I went with the iconic image from the Watchmen.  For those not familiar with Watchmen, one of the characters, The Comedian, wears a smiley face button.   The Comedian is killed in the opening sequence...pushed out a window actually and his smiley face button lands next to him and gets splattered with blood.  So, that image is the inspiration of this cake's design.    Included is a picture (bottom) of the smiley face before I added the blood splatter since I thought it turned out pretty cool and I was afraid I was going to mess up the splatter.  

It was a devil's food cake with buttercream icing.    
(* Post title translation for the non-Latin speaking, non-comic book loving crowd:  Who watches the watchmen?)

Just an eggs-cuse to eat cake!

Ahh, Easter rolls around again.  This year it came around a little too fast, leaving little time for me to create decorative sugar eggs, bunny cookies, or homemade peanut butter eggs.    Feeling a little low on Easter spirit, I whipped up these little egg cakes on Easter morning.     The eggs were vanilla cake with buttercream icing.  

Irish Soda Bread

This could possibly be the first recipe that I ever made by myself. We learned how to make Irish Soda Bread at Campfire Girls when I was like 9 or 10 yrs old and I still use the same recipe. I have introduced Victor to the joys of Soda Bread and now he too is a fan. Without further adeui...

2 cups flour
2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup raisins (optional)

Sift dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a knife until it resembles crumbs. Add buttermilk. Mix until moistened (work in raisins now if adding them). Turn onto flour cloth. Gently knead for 1 minute. Shape into a ball and then flatten into 7 inch circle, 1 1/2 inch high. Press a cross into the top of the dough with the back of a floured knife. Brush melted butter on top (optional).

Back at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden.

Enjoy plain, with butter or jam!

St. Patty's Day defeats

The reason I haven't really posted since February was because I lost my baking mojo around St. Patty's Day.   The next letter in my Cookies A-Z quest is I.   The timing was perfect: it was March and therefore all things Irish are all the rage.  I selected Irish Lace cookies.  Disaster.  I even made them twice.  The first time, the recipe I found on the web had the incorrect proportions of flour to oatmeal.   These "cookies" turned out be like tasteless flour patties with some random oats tossed in (Victor politely said they were "pretty good"...which was very sweet but not at all truthful).     The second time, I decided to use olive oil spray to coat my baking pan rather than butter it...resulting in the cookies completely breaking down into one giant cookie pan full of greasy oatmealish-brown sugary mess.       

After those less than stellar offerings, I decided to go with one of my old standard recipes that has treated me well in the past: simple cutout cookies.    In an effort to make they a little bit unique, I added mini chocolate chips.   For reasons that now seem obvious, the mini chips caused the cookies come out all lumpy and bumpy....The cookie pictured above is pretty much the only one that came looking like a shamrock. 

Super Easy Key Lime Soup!

Many people confuse condensed milk and evaporated milk...or maybe that is just what I tell myself since I seem to do it about once a year.  Anyway, I needed evaporate milk for something but ended up  buying a few cans of condensed milk instead.   So, I started looking around for some good condensed milk recipes and found this Easy Key Lime Pie recipe on   Who doesn't love Key Lime pie?  It's extremely refreshing!    While the recipe did live up to it's "easy" descriptor,  the "pie" (and I use that term lightly) really doesn't stay together at all.    It's super tasty, but a bit of droopy mess and a little hard to serve.  Next time, I might try mixing some Cool Whip into the pie mixture before pouring it into the crust....

Easy Key Lime Pie
1 graham cracker crust
1 - 14 oz can Carnation condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice (I used Whole Food organic lime juice)
2 cups Cool Whip (I love Cool Whip)

Mix milk and lime juice until combined.  Pour into pie crust.  Chill until set.   Top with Cool Whip when serving. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Shrimp and Crab Enchiladas for my favorite hot tamale!

I like a low key Valentine's Day.  Going out and dealing with the hustle and bustle of rest of the world is not my idea of a romantic evening.  Staying at home in my pajamas with my honey having a nice meal and watching romantic movie are more my speed.   This year, I made Shrimp and Crab Enchiladas with Key Lime pie for dessert (Victor loves Key Lime Pie).    These enchiladas are super easy to make and so far, I have not met anyone that doesn't like them. 

In regards to the shrimp, pre-cooked, frozen could certainly be used, but I generally like to get fresh raw shrimp and peel, devein and cook myself.   Although more work, I think they have a better flavor.  I like to cut the shrimp into smaller pieces as well.   I tend to use the canned crab meat.  The big crab legs a bit intimidating and expensive to me.   Finally,  I always skip the sour cream:  it seems to add unnecessary calories without adding much to overall flavor of the dish (I am not a big sour cream person)

Shrimp and Crab Enchiladas
1 pound of shrimp
1 - 6 oz can of crab meat (sometimes I use 2 cans)
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese
1 - 20 oz can of enchilada sauce, red or green  (I prefer the green but did use red this time since it was Valentine's Day)
1 - 8 oz container sour cream (optional)
1 bunch of green onions chopped (optional)
12 - 12 inch flour tortillas

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix crab, shrimp and cheese in a big bowl.  Set some cheese aside to sprinkle over the top of the enchiladas.
Lay tortillas on flat surface.  In the middle of each tortilla, place some of the crab/shrimp/cheese mixture.  Roll the tortillas to form enchiladas.  Arrange side by side in 9x13 baking dish. 
Pour enchilada sauce over all the enchiladas.  The sauce should cover the enchiladas completely. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the enchiladas.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for 15 more.  
Top enchiladas with sour cream (if you are going that route) and green onions to serve. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Breakfast musings, part 1

Me and breakfast go way back...One of my first jobs was at Lou's Deli in Andorra Shopping Center. I was the breakfast cook. Eggs sunnyside, over easy, over hard, poached, scrambled, omelettes, bacon, scrapple, pancakes, waffles, bagels and lox...I made 'em all and not necessarily with a smile 100% of the time (just ask my sister...). Breakfast cooking at a restaurant is not an easy task since most breakfast entrees cool off very quickly once removed from their heat source. So, if you have gone out to breakfast in a group of 3 or more and everyone had a good experience, leave a generous tip since it means the cook probably made all the food simultaneously and your server was really on top of picking the order getting it out to you.

There is a good article in the new issue (March 2009) of Esquire magazine called Esquire's All You Can Eat Breakfast. The article is broken up into two parts, the first being recipes you can make at home and the second being great places across America to get breakfast. Some interesting recipes included are eggs in tomato sauce as well as bacon and egg fried rice. In terms of the places recommended, I haven't eaten yet at any of them...although I am excited to check out many of them.

In addition to those listed in the article, for Philly, I would also recommend Christine's Family Restaurant (it's actually in Norristown) for their French Toast stuffed with ham and melted cheese. For LA, I would recommend the Lazy Daisy on Wilshire and Aroma on Sunset. The Lazy Daisy has some great egg plates, good potatos and always seems to have some fruit on the plate. Aroma has a crazy huge menu but my personal favorite is the Challah French Toast.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Finally, the letter H!

Drumroll please...I have finally, after about four months, gotten to the letter H in my Cookies A to Z quest.    For the letter H, we have Hazelnut Clove Biscotti.   In addition to never having made any hazelnut cookies, I have also never made biscotti, I must admit this was a bit exciting for me.  I am not sure if this is the case with most biscotti, but I found it interesting that the recipe contained no butter, so they are a good low fat option.    

Hazelnut Clove Biscotti (from Cookies: Over 600 Great Recipe from McRae Books)
1 1/4 cups whole hazelnuts
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees (170 C).   Spread hazelnuts on large baking sheet.  Toast for 7 minutes or until lightly golden.  Transfer to large cotton kitchen towel and rub them in the towel to remove the thin inner skins.  Discard the skins and coarsely chop.  

Butter/grease a cookie sheet (I used olive spray). 

Mix the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in medium bowl.   Beat eggs and egg yolk and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until very pale and thick.  Mix in the dry ingredients, hazelnuts, lemon zest and vanilla to form a smooth dough.   Divide dough in half. Form the dough into two 12 inches long logs (1 1/2 inches in diameter) and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes.  Cut diagonal into 1/2 inch slices and transfer to racks to cool completely. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Eat oats if you want to live

Oats are good for the heart, so why not some oatmeal cookies to celebrate Valentine's Day?  I can't remember where I got this Trailside Oatmeal Cookie recipe from.   I think someone gave it to my mom. However, my mom is not big on peanut butter, so she rarely made these. I on the other hand, love peanut butter, so these are perfect for me.    As noted below, the recipe actually calls for 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup chocolate chips, but I think that just results in too many disparate flavors.   It's a hearty, not overly sweet cookie...enjoy.

Trailside Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used natural, chunky)
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (I used fat free organic)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups of quick oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the recipe actually states 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup chocolate chips, but I like to go all chocolate)

Cream butter and peanut butter.  Add granulated sugar and brown sugar.  Beat until creamy.In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.  Add milk, eggs and vanilla to butter/sugar mixture.   Mix in flour mixture.  Stir in oats, stir in chocolate chips.    Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Little corny pleasures in life

The newscasters were predicting rain for Friday, so we planned another brunch potluck at the office.  One of my co-workers was making chili, so I volunteered to make some cornbread.   Of course, we made this plan on Thursday afternoon to do for Friday, so I had to hit the market to get some ingredients AND it was already raining.  For those of you that do not live in Southern California, the rain is big deal here.  The streets flood to the point that entire lanes are gone, cars stall everywhere from trying to drive through the flooded streets snarling traffic for hours and people get swallowed by huge sink holes (no lie).     So, although this cornbread recipe may seem simple, heroic efforts went into its creation! 

I have always used the Jiffy Cornbread Mix in the past, but after checking out some recipes online, I realized making cornbread from scratch wasn't that difficult.    I picked up some Alber's Yellow Corn Meal and made the recipe on the back of the box.   It was time I would like to experiment by adding some turkey sausage or jalapenos.   Also, I wonder how applesauce would have worked out instead of the oil.....

Alber's Corn Bread
1 cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk (I used organic fat free since that is all I ever have at home)
1/3 cup oil (although it called for vegetable oil, I used olive oil because I think it lends a lighter taste to recipes)
1 large egg, beaten

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees.  Grease 8 inch square baking pan (note: I doubled the recipe and used a 9x13 pan). 
Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder  and salt in medium bowl.  Combine milk, oil and egg in separate bowl and mix well.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir until just blended.  Pour into prepared pan.  
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve warm. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A hearty start to the day

I made this breakfast casserole for a pot luck breakfast we were having at the office. It turned out pretty good, so I made another one for me and Victor. It was super easy to make. I forgot to take a picture...sorry!

Breakfast Casserole

3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (I used fat free organic)
1 can of Cheddar Cheese soup (I used Campbell's)
2 cups frozen shredded hashbrowns
1 package of brown and serve turkey sausage (I used Banquet...also when I made it for the office I used 2 packages to make it more hearty)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the sausage in a skillet. When done, remove from heat and cut into bite size pieces. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk and cheddar cheese soup. Once mixed thoroughly, add frozen hash brown potatoes and cut up sausage. Pour mixture into suitable sized baking dish. I used a 9 inch glass pie dish. Bake for 1 hr or until center set.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Mexico Biscochos

Per the website that I got my recipe from (, these Biscochos are the New Mexico version of the traditional Mexican cookie. Victor's mom makes Biscochos every year at Christmas and had sent me her recipe last year....but I did not have on hand all of the ingredients that her recipe called for, so I went on the internet to find one that had the ingredients I already had in house.    The below recipe is the one from the website referenced with my own tweaks.  For one thing, I cut the recipe in half as it initially called for 6 cups of flour and lard.  I do not feel comfortable making stuff with lard or shortening these days, so I substituted butter....I also messed up with my adaptation and forgot to cut the OJ in half...but it worked out.   Traditional Biscochos are in the shapes of small hearts, diamonds, or squares.  I could not find mini-cutters in those shapes so I ended with a snow themed mini-cutters which worked out well.   The reason you want to use small cookie cutters for these is that the cookie is tossed in a cinnamon sugar  mixture when you remove it from the oven.   Anyway, here is my version....


3 cups of flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup butter 
1/4 cup orange juice (pineapple juice may also be used)

In large bowl mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, clove, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter, eggs and orange juice.

Add dry ingredients to wet.  Mix well.  Knead.  Dust flat surface with flour.  Roll out and cut out  desired shapes.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Toss with cinnamon-sugar mixture as you are removing the cookies from the baking sheet.  

Reverse chocolate chip

I had almost a full bag of white chocolate chips left over from the spider web cake.   On the back of the Toll House White Chips package was a recipe, so I decided to go with that with some minor tweaks.  Also, since most of the cookies I was going to make for Christmas were light in color, I thought the chocolate cookie would add a nice contrast in gift boxes, as presentation comes 2nd only to taste.   As most drop cookies are, this turned out to be a nice hearty cookie that traveled well (I shipped a few boxes of cookies across the country as gifts). 

Reverse Chocolate Chip
2 1/4 cup of flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter (room temp)
3/4 granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat butter, both sugars (granulated and brown) and vanilla with electric mixer until creamy.   Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in the white and semi-sweet chips.  Drop by the teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.   Bake 9-11 minutes.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back to the grind....

Happy New Year! Although it's been a while since I last posted, it doesn't mean I haven't been baking! As you can see from the pictures, there was much interest and applause for my creations! The holidays...hell, I don't need to be politically correct here...CHRISTMAS brings with it that annual tradition of baking cookies to give to friends and relatives. I have no idea where the tradition started but I am glad it exists! Christmas also brings with it the tradition of packing too many activities into your life at one time not allowing anytime for blogging about your baking...

The cookies my mom traditionally makes at Christmastime are:
Chocolate Chip
Almond Crescents
I have covered Chocolate Chip cookies to death already, but I will post Almond Crescents and her Snickerdoodle recipes in a few weeks.

As for myself, I really don't have a set list of cookies that I consistently make year after year for the holidays. I like to switch it up and experient...although my list doesn't really look that experimental does it? Here was my Christmas 2008's lineup:
Chocolate cookies with chocolate and white chips
Chocolate Chip
New Mexico Biscochos
Spritz cookies
Orange cutouts

I will be posting the recipes for each of these shortly...Also, I will be resuming my Cookies A through Z effort in 2009. I am STILL on the letter H (think "hazelnut"...) but it is going to happen and I am going to finish the whole alphabet this year. Other baking goals for this year include retrying the flourless chocolate cake and making more pies. Anyhoo....Happy New Year and happy baking!