Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pecan Powder Puffs

Pecan Powder Puffs.....say that three times fast!

Trying to decide what I would make for Christmas dessert to bring to my parents' house, I was flipping through some of my cookbooks. While going through my "Baking from My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan, I came across the recipe for Pecan Powder Puffs. Upon reading this I realized it was pretty darn close to sounding like my husband's grandmother's "pecan puffs" that she made often at the holidays.

I had full intentions of making these for Christmas but time got away from me and the dough sat in the refirgerator for 2 days (which is ok per the recipe) before I made them the day after Christmas. All in all, this recipe is a keeper. My husband said they were pretty close to his grandmother's (not that I expected it could compete). I have to say they are pretty tasty and just the right size to pop in your mouth for a quick treat. Next time though, I hope to get this recipe baked in time for its intended destination. Oh well, it's not like my husband is complaining about having extra goodies in the house!

Pecan Powder Puffs
(from "Baking from My Home to Yours")

1 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup minus 1 tablespooon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar, sifted, for rolling

Put pecans and 1 tablespoon of sugar in food processor and process in very short pulses until the nuts are pulverized. Scrape the nuts into a bowl, add the flour, salt, and cinnamon (if you're using it), and whisk to combine.

Put the butter in the processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth and creamy. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the vanilla and process for 30 seconds or so to blend. Pour in the pecan and flour mixture and, using short pulses, process only until it is worked into the dough. You want to process the dough as little as possible - the less you work the dough, the lighter and more appealing crumbly the cookies will be. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto plastic wrap, gather it together and form it into a ball. Wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or, for up to 2 days.

Getting ready to bake: Center rack in oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Remove dough from fridge. Using a small spoon break off marble-size pieces, then roll each piece of dough between your palms to form a smooth ball and place them on baking sheets; there's no need to leave much space between balls.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and almost firm. Gently transfer them to a rack to cool to room temperature.

Just before serving, roll cookies in confectioner's sugar and toss them gently from hand to hand to shake off excess sugar.

Friday, December 26, 2008

White Chip Caramel Bars

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners we were heading to my parents' house on both occassions. Being a little "baked out" from all of my cookie adventures the past couple of weeks, I decided to find a bar cookie option to bring to their house for dessert. I always find bar cookies are a nice, easy to way to have a cookie but cut down on the prep time!

These were a hit with everyone. I really enjoyed them myself, very easy, delicious, moist, etc. I'll definitely be making these again! I apologize there's no picture, I thought I had taken one but apparently it completely slipped my mind during all of the holiday excitement.

White Chip-Caramel Bars

2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup white vanilla baking chips
1/2 cup white vanilla baking chips, melted

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with shortening or cooking spray.

In large bowl, beat brown sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour and baking powder until well blended. Stir in walnuts and 1 cup baking chips. Spread in pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Drizzle with melted chips. Let stand until set. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Basil Chicken

So the week of any holiday, I usually take the easy way out with dinner. Let's face it, you are going to stuff your face with food, desserts, and those leftovers, for at least a few days so why go all crazy making special dinners in that same week.

Lo and behold though, yesterday morning I was in disbelief, I didn't have anything to really offer for dinner and takeout was not an option. I had already used my grilled cheese & soup dinner night on Monday night. What was I going to do? All of my meat was frozen.

Crockpot to the rescue! Nothing like pulling out a hunk of frozen chicken breasts all stuck together at 10am and knowing that they'll be all cooked and ready by 5:30 without the annoying unthawing process. This recipe comes from my friend Pam who I have "met" on my local knot board. It was so easy and I had everything in the house of course. I added about 1/4 of white wine to this recipe and let it cook. I served the chicken and "gravy" over white rice, yummy!

Basil Chicken

4 skinless chicken breast, whole
1/2 Teaspoon black pepper
1/2 Teaspoon dried basil
1 Can cream of celery soup
1/2 sliced green bell pepper
¼ cup white wine (optional)

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. Sprinkle with pepper and basil. Spread soup (and wine if you are using) on top of chicken. Arrange slices of green pepper on top of soup. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours.

And since it is Christmas Eve....a Merry Christmas to all!!!!! Have a safe & happy holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quick Gnocchi

My husband and I love gnocchi. More often than not when we actually do go out to dinner, and if it is to an Italian place, gnocchi is what I order. Mostly because it's not something I'd ever make myself - until now at least!

I've actually had this recipe bookmarked for ages and stumbled upon it while I was going through my recipe file on Since I had everything in the house, this seemed like a perfect warm-you-up-from-the-inside dinner for our snowy, snowy weekend. And yes, I proudly admit I keep instant mashed potatoes on hand in my house - they are always good in a pinch or when time is not on your side!

For this recipe I used garlic flavored instant mashed potato mix and doubled the recipe so we'd have plenty of leftovers (we are big on leftovers in this house). I added a little salt, pepper, and onion powder to the instant mashed potato mix since many of these reviews, while raving for the recipe, all said to add a little something extra to the mashed potato flakes. I also figured using garlic mashed potato flakes would definitely up the taste factor.

These were easy and fun to make. I wouldn't call it quick, it does take a little bit of time, but definitely a lot quicker of a solution than the more authentic totally from scratch gnocchi. This also doesn't necessarily compete with the taste and texture of the real thing, but it comes awfully close considering it's made from instant potatoes! I'll definitely be making this again.

To serve I quickly cooked up some ground turkey and tossed with marinara and poured over the already cooked gnocchi in an 11x7 baking dish, and then covered with grated Parmesan and shredded Mozarella cheeses and baked for about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Delicious!

Quick Gnocchi

1 cup dry potato flakes
1 cup boiling water
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Place potato flakes in a medium-size bowl. Pour in boiling water; stir until blended. Let cool.

Stir in egg, salt, and pepper. Blend in enough flour to make a fairly stiff dough. Turn dough out on a well floured board. Knead lightly.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a long thin roll, the thickness of a breadstick. With a knife dipped in flour, cut into bite-size pieces.

Place a few gnocchi in boiling water. As the gnocchi rise to the top of the pot, remove them with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all are cooked.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pioneer Woman greatness

There's no doubt that the Pioneer Woman has terrific recipes. When the snowstorm hit on Friday afternoon in my area, I was just itching to do something since it felt like cabin fever was setting in instantly.

For some reason the little lightbulb in my head turned on (and sometimes it doesn't turn on all the time, thank goodness it did this time) and I remembered her recipe for Onion Strings that I've been wanting to try for forever. Home alone without my onion-hating hubby who was at work, I decided this would be a fantastic lunch treat for me (yes lunch), at least it involved veggies!

I must confess when Ruby Tuesday did away with the onion strings on their menu a few years back, I was devastated. Those things were a big reason Ruby Tuesday was one of my favorite chain restaurants! I know they briefly made a comeback but now I'm not sure if they are on the menu or not since we rarely go out to eat anymore. Either way, it's a comfort to know I can make these wonderful little gems in my own home!

I busted these beauties out easily and quickly (after the soaking process) and while mine do not look as gorgeous as hers, well, none of my food pictures or recipes look much like the website sometimes, but these were delicious and oh so easy. I should mention that this picture was from my first batch which I already had started to gobble up before even thinking to take a picture.

Anyway, I love that they can be a side dish (all to myself obviously) or even an appetizer. You can find Pioneer Woman's printable recipe here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cookie trays / Friday's Frugal Fun

This week I have been busy putting together some cookie trays. My husband brought a tray into work for his holiday gathering and I made 2 trays - one each for the neighbors on either side of our house. I found this recipe for Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies from "...And a Cookie for Dessert" and figured this fit very well into my cookie baking and would help boost up the variety of my trays.

These are so easy to make and only 5 ingredients, all of which I had in my house. Let me just say that these came out so tasty (of course I had to sample some!) and while they look a lot like the Chocolate Crinkles I made for my cookie exchange (in fact my husband thought that's what they are), I can ensure you they are not. And...well...were a lot easier and quicker to make! Mine didn't stay in a ball shape like Bridget's and rather flattened out a bit like a cookie, but they were still delicious! I might be making another batch of these for Christmas.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies
(from And a Cookie for Dessert)

1 (8 ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (18 ounce) moist chocolate cake mix
confectioners'/powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg. Then beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in the cake mix.Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so that you can roll the batter into balls. Roll the chilled batter into tablespoon sized balls and then roll them in confectioner's sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 12 minutes. The cookies will remain soft and "gooey." Cool completely and sprinkle with more confectioners' sugar, if desired.

And on a random side note - a little bit of Friday's Frugal Fun for you! Check out this free sample! (I love Free samples). This one is for Dunkin Donuts Dark Roast!

Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' keeps me blogging. Try Dunkin' Donuts Coffee For Free. Get a Sample

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ham & Shells....errr...Ziti Casserole

I recently received my first issue of Taste of Home magazine which I had ordered from a co-worker's daughter who was having a magazine drive fundraiser for her school. Knowing all too well the ins and outs of a magazine drive fundraiser considering I did the same for years in grammar school/junior high, I was happy to pick out a subscription. My Everyday Food subscription is running out soon so I decided it's time for a change and Taste of Home caught my eye.

Flipping through the magazine I already have several recipes I want to try, the first of which I made last night for dinner - a Ham & Shells Casserole. I used ziti since, well, that's what I had in the house and obviously it worked out just fine.

I would describe this dish as a fancy mac 'n cheese recipe with a twist. We love goat cheese so that drew me at first glance, but the combination of flavors is fantastic. We really enjoyed this dish and I think the leftovers will be that much better! The only change I made to this recipe was that I did not use 3 onions. My husband is not a fan of onions so I knew I'd be pushing my luck with that one - plus 3 onions seems like a little much. Instead I just used one onion which in turn meant Greg didn't even notice they were in there! He also had no clue there is Ricotta cheese in this recipe, something he claims he hates, yet I've used it in recipes without his knowledge and he's never batted an eye. Sometimes what you don't know, doesn't hurt ya!

I am also submitting this recipe to the Presto Pasta Nights weekly collection of pasta recipes. This was started by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. This week's host is C of Foodie Tots - check out that link on Friday for her roundup!

Ham & Shells Casserole

(Taste of Home magazine)

1 pkg medium pasta shells (I used ziti)
3 large onions, halved & sliced (I only used 1 onion)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pkg fresh spinach, torn
1 tablespoon minched fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed (I used dried Italian seasoning blend)
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp pepper
3 1/2 cups fat free milk (I used 1%)
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup (4oz) crumbled goat cheese

2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in large skillet over medium heat, cook and stir onions in oil for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Add spinach & rosemary; cook 1-2 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in ricotta andgoat cheeses until blended.

Drain pasta; place in large bowl. Add the hand, onion mixture, and sauce; toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 9x13 bakind dish; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (I also sprinkled with more pepper on top). Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blogging as I bake....

So I have started a little baking adventure for this week. I am sending my husband into work with a huge tray of cookies on Thursday since his holiday get together is then. I have made cookies for his co-workers in the past usually to their delight so why not do so for the Christmas season? And while I am at it, I am also making some smaller trays for our neighbors on either side of our house.

I got started today, baking a batch of Grandma Bennet's Sour Cream Cookies which were a huge hit when I made them last, so much so they were requested for me to make them yet again by one of my husband's co-workers.

The other recipe I made today was for Katie's Cheesecake Delights from the Betty Crocker website. I got this recipe in a Betty Crocker email a couple of weeks back and immediately bookmarked it for trying at another time. I made these using apricot jam and they came out delicious in my opinion. I can't wait for others to try them!

I am also submitting this to Joelen's Tasty Tools event for December - which features baking sheets. Every month, Joelen's event featurs a different culinary item. It's been a little while since I have participated in this one so I am pretty excited to try to get back in the swing of things as far as blog events go. Thanks, Joelen, for hosting this event - the timing could not be better with the holdiays fast approaching because it seems like I am always baking this time of year!

Katie's Cheesecake Delights

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1 box (4-serving size) cheesecake-flavor instant pudding and pie filling mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
3 oz white chocolate baking bar, coarsely grated

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, dry pudding mix, oil and egg until soft dough forms.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. On ungreased cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart. Using thumb or handle of wooden spoon, make indentation in center of each ball. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon jam into each indentation.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes; sprinkle with white chocolate.

Operation Baking GALS - Round 5

Operation Baking GALS is already in its 5th round believe it or not! I am on my 3rd round with the cause. As you have seen in my previous blog entries, I have participated in Operation Baking GALS which is a now very large group of ladies who "adopt" a soldier and send him or her tons of goodies for them and for sharing. These goodies are a taste of home for these soldiers, especially at this time of the year when they are away from their families for the holidays. My friend Dani of Make No Little Meals hosted again this round. She has 14 bakers as part of her - team Dani's Delightful Darlings this round!!
I was very excited to participate in this round and to help our soldier get a little taste of home. That soldier is SSgt McElyea who is stationed in Iraq. He is my age with a child at home, so it really made me realize how very lucky we are to live our lives of freedom because of the sacrifices these men and women are making on our behalf. I just can't imagine being away from my family for the hoidays, nevermind a young child.

My friends Amy & Melanie participated again and helped me fill up a box to SSgt McElyea. Nothing like good friends to help out a good cause! A box full of sugary goodness was mailed today to SSgt McElyea: Amy made sugar cookies, Melanie made an extra batch she had made of her Cherry Chocolate cookies (that she had brought to my cookie exchange), and I sent a batch of Chocolate Crinkles. I also sent a batch of Butterscotch blondies to round everything out (recipe appears below).

We also sent along some candy, trail mix, a small book of puzzles, and some candy canes to SSgt McElyea. We really hope he and his friends enjoy the goodies. The least we could do is send them a little holiday spirit as our thanks for their sacrifices.

<-- Melanie, me, Amy (and Amy's sister) @ Amy's wedding September '08

If you haven't already checked out the site, I encourage you to head over to the Operation Baking GALS website for more information and hope to see some of you join Dani's team for Round 6 which will likely be starting after the holidays! I will post information as I know it.

Butterscotch Blondies
(from Hershey's)

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups (11-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY'S Butterscotch Chips
1 cup chopped nuts(optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in butterscotch chips and nuts, if desired. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. About 36 bars.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sometimes inspiration pops up in the oddest places...

I'm a coupon clipper - the Sunday paper, websites, flyers, you name it. This past weekend on was on Smart Source printing some grocery coupons. I printed a coupon for No Yolks Egg Noodles among others. When the coupon came out of my printer, there was a recipe below the actual coupon. It sounded pretty delicious, and easy. And I happened to have some chicken ready to use in the fridge. I also had some Italian sausage, which probably had no business being in this dish, but I didn't care to be honest! It was my dinner, right? So I took about 3 links out of the casing and broke the sausage meat apart while I sauteed it.

Rather than serving the teriyaki mixture over the egg noodles, I added the egg noodles to my wok and mixed everything together. This was really delicious and easy - full of meat, carbs, and veggies all in one dish. I like that - especially on a weeknight! I'm looking forward to the leftovers!

NO YOLKS Chicken Skillet

2/3 package cooked NO YOLKS
1 bag (16 oz.) broccoli slaw (found near the coleslaw in the produce section)
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 oz. lean chicken or boneless pork chops, in bite-sized pieces
2 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Cook NO YOLKS according to package directions, adding broccoli slaw at the 4 minute mark. Drain and keep warm. Stir fry chicken or pork in oil in a large skillet until lightly browned, about 5 min. Push meat to one side. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 min.

In the meantime, mix 2 tablespoons chicken broth and the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. To the skillet, add remaining broth, teriyaki sauce, red pepper flakes and cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Serve immediately over NO YOLKS broccoli mixture. Serves 4.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Soup-er Stars!

As I have mentioned previously, my best friend Michelle & I are trying to get together and make it appoint to try out new soup recipes - due to her fear of making soup. A couple of weeks ago we got together to do this and she picked out a chicken noodle soup recipe from the "Soup Bowl" cookbook I gave her for her bridal shower this past summer.

She figured we should try a simple, go-to recipe out of the book first. So chicken noodle it was! This recipe called for us to make our own soup stock, which I was leery about, since while I have no fear of making soup - I've never made my own stock. After our night of soup merriment I discovered that not only was making your own soup stock easy, but it was super tasty too!

So armed with my soup stock making savvy, I made the below recipe which called for canned chicken broth. I, however, walked on the wild side and used the bones from a whole chicken I'd made earlier in the week to bust out some very tasty chicken stock instead. The result I think was a much more robust soup than this original recipe would have yielded.

By the way, I got this recipe from a co-worker and it was delicious and obviously easy. I diced up some carrots and celery and threw that in there as well. Basically this soup was a great twist on a typical chicken soup! The corn flavor is just a delicious addition!

PREMIUM® Chicken Corn Chowder

1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
1 can (14-3/4 oz.) cream-style corn

Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add onion; cook and stir 5 minutes. Add peppers; cook and stir an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add chicken; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until cooked through, stirring frequently.

Add broth and corn; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 25 minutes.
Serve with crackers.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More Cookie Goodness

As I mentioned in my previous post, I just hosted my 3rd Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. I posted my own recipes that I made for the exchange here. But here are all of the rest! I apologize for not having pictures for all of them, I thought I snapped one of each cookie but obviously I was too distracted by all of the sugary sweets in my house that I missed some!

I should mention that my friends are incredible people. I mentioned in my invitation that I would love for everyone to bring one canned good to donate to the local food bank and they came through - 15 canned goods were donated!

Almond Chocolate Chip Fudge Snowtops
Made by: Liz

1 pkg (18.25 oz) plain devil's food cake mix
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups thawed frozen whipped topping
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 miniature chocolate chips
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Place the cake mix, eggs, whipped topping and almond extract into a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 second. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 1 to 2 minutes more, or until dough is smooth and thick. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped almonds until well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set aside two ungreased cookie sheets.

Spoon the confectioners' sugar into a shallow dish. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.

Spoon out teaspoonfuls of the batter and gently roll them into balls between your palms. Place the balls in the dish of confectioners' sugar and rol them around with your fingertips until they are coated with sugar. Coat only as many balls as you'll bake at one time. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the ungreased cookie sheets. Place the sheets in the oven.

Bake the cookies until they puff up and are firm around the edgesbut still soft in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cookies rest on cookie sheets for 2 minutes. Then, use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire racksand allow them to cool completely, 15 minutes.

Repeat the porcess with the remaining dough. Makes 5 dozen 2 inch cookies

Black Beauties
Made by: Katie

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® double chocolate chunk cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, 3 tablespoons oil, the water, egg, white chocolate and nuts until soft dough forms. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon oil on High 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth. Dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper until set, about 10 minutes. Makes: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Keep cookies chewy and soft by storing them tightly covered. Resealable plastic bags, plastic food containers with tight-fitting lids and metal tins work best.

Butterscotch Raisin Cookies
Made by: Michelle
1 cup butter softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 package (3.4 ounce) instant butterscotch pudding

Mix1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup raisins, 1/2 cup butterscotch chips. In a large bowl cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, beat well. Combine the oats, flour, dry pudding mix and baking soda; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the raisins and butterscotch chips (dough will be stiff.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yields 3-1/2 dozen

Cherry Chocolate Cookies
Made by: Melanie

2 1/2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened
4 cups sugar
4 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) package miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 (16 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 3 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Top each with a cherry half. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Date Rolls
Made by: Denice

½ cup butter
1 8oz package of chopped dates
¾ cup sugar
1 egg beaten
3 cups rice crispies
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 pkg coconut

In a saucepan, combine butter, dates, sugar, & egg. Bring to boil and turn down and simmer for 8 minutes stirring constantly. Will become a taffy consistency. Remove from heat and stir in the rice crispies & nuts. Let cool a couple minutes.

Butter your hands and then spoon a teaspoon of the date mixture and roll into a small ball and then roll in coconut. Place on waxed paper to cool completely.

*Coconut won’t stick if the mixture is too cool. If this happens just warm up mixture in microwave.

Quebec Maple Drops
Made by: Denise (my mom!)

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons maple-flavored syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked quick oats (not old-fashioned oats)
¼ cup packaged chopped pitted dates

Frosting (optional)
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons maple-flavored syrup
1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

For cookies, preheat oven to 350○F. Beat ½ cup butter and granulated sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Beat in 3 tablespoons syrup. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into butter mixture. On low speed, beat in oats, and dates.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased coolie sheets. Bake 12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Let stand on collie sheets 2 minutes; transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

For frosting, beat cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter in small bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in 2 tablespoons syrup. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled cookies. Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Santa’s Sandwiches
Made by: Cathy

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon mint extract
2 ½ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon mint extract
Red, green food coloring

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into bowl; set aside. In large bowl, beat sugar and butter until smooth. Beat in egg, then vanilla & mint extract. On low speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Divide in half; shape each into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut each log into slices, about 1/8 of an inch thick; place onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until almost firm. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Filling: Beat confectioner’s sugar, butter, milk, and mint extract in bowl until spreading consistency. Tint half with red food coloring and other half with green. Spread flat side of one quarter of cookies with red filling, another quarter with green. Top each with a plain cookie. Chill.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My 3rd Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Last night I hosted my 3rd annual Christmas cookie exchange with friends. As usual it was a fun night of getting together with some of my favorite ladies and trying out some delectable cookie creations with plenty left for everyone to take home with them!

This year I made 2 recipes to share - Chocolate Crinkles and Irish Creme Delights. Both cookie recipes came from the special Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine. I was very happy with both recipes. Both are a little more labor intensive since both involve rolling the dough before placing on the cookie sheet, and the second recipe calls for an icing - but I think the end result is well worth the extra work! My husband joked, upon taste testing each cookie, that he may have to eat them all to "save everyone else from such horrible cookies." He cracks me up somedays.

I will be sharing everyone else's recipes and adventures soon, but for the time being I only have time to post mine so they will be forthcoming! In the meantime I am still basking of the sugary glow of all of these wonderfully outrageously good cookies in my house (the good time shared with friends last night wasn't too shabby either!)

I am also submitting these recipes to Joelen's Culinary Adventures blogging event: Holiday Cookie Swap Blogging Adventure. Good timing on this event, Joelen, because both of these recipes fit the bill!

Chocolate Crinkles
(from Better Homes & Gardens - Christmas Cookies)

4 eggs
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted, and cooled slightly
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, melted chocolate, oil, baking powder and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, scraping bowl occassionally. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours or until dough is easy enough to handle.

Prehat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet, set aside. Place powdered sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar and place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until edges are set and tops are dry (do not overbake). Transfer cookies to a wire rack, let cool. (Cookies will deflate slightly upon cooling).

Irish Creme Delights
(from Better Homes & Gardens - Christmas Cookies)

1/4 butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon coffee liquer
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly betaen
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Irish Creme Frosting
Ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine butter & shortening. Beat with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup of sugar, the coffee liquer, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occassionally. Beat in egg & vanilla. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour.

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies onto wire rack; let cool.

Spread Irish Creme frosting over cookies. If desired sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Makes about 48 cookies.

Irish Creme Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and 1 tablespoon coffee liquer. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Gradually beat in 3 cups powdered sugar. Beat in enough half-and-half or whipping cream (1 to 3 tablespoons) to make frosting a spreading consistency.

Quick, easy appetizer

Last night I hosted my 3rd annual Christmas Cookie Exchange but before we broke into the sweet stuff, I of course served up some savory snacking for my guests. A veggie tray, beer bread with a garlic dip (thank you Tastefully Simple!), bakery pizza, chips and salsa and then....

....Well, here's the story. I had bought cocktail wieners on sale at the supermarket over the weekend but was not in the mood to do the typical pigs in a blanket thing I would normally make. So I searched for a little cocktail weiner recipe that did not involve grape jelly, as most do, since I was out of that - oops! I found this little number on - so easy and all things I already had in the house which was nice since going back out to the store was really not an option as the cookie exchange drew nearer. I am going to keep this recipe in my back pocket for sure!

Spicy Franks

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound hot dogs, cut into bite-size pieces, or cocktail wieners, smoked sausage, etc.

Combine everything but hot dogs in the slow cooker; cover and cook on high 1 to 2 hours, until well heated. Add hot dogs, stir, and cook another 1 to 2 hours, until heated through. Turn to low to keep warm; serve from