Wednesday, December 21, 2011

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Mwuahaha. (That is my evil laugh by the way.)

I bet you thought I was done with cookies. So did I.

Then I saw these. And I wasn't done.

Something about the white chocolate and cherry mixture called to me. It disregarded the fact that I don't like dipping things, and said "make me". Kind of creepy, actually.

Thank goodness I was able to look past that. And my dislike of dipping desserts. (Which stems from the fact that usually the chocolate ends up everywhere -- in my case, it is most definitely "operator error".)

Case in point -- there is already chocolate on my shirt this morning and all I did was EAT it. Dang it. Somebody put a bib in my stocking. And yes, I totally had chocolate as part of my breakfast. Early lunch?

Annnnyways. We were talking about these cookies I believe. That need to go on your to-make Christmas cookie list. Which is already 3.47 miles long. Don't worry. There's still time. You can do it. I have faith.

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from: Baking Serendipity

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
12 ounces white chocolate baking chips, divided
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Place cherries on a paper towel to completely drain.

In the large work bowl of a mixer, stir together the flour and sugar. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender (two knives work as well).

Finish drying cherries and finely chop. Chop 4 ounces of white chocolate until fine. Using a spatula, fold the almond extract, cherries, and white chocolate into the dough until a smooth ball forms.

Scoop out a 1" ball of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten the ball with the base of a drinking glass until about 1/4-inch thick. Repeat until sheet is full, spacing cookies 1-2 inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cookies cool for 1-2 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies have cooled, combine the remaining white chocolate with the shortening in a small bowl. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate, then shake of any excess. Place cookie on wax paper. Coat with sprinkles if desired; let the chocolate harden.

Makes: 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Due to my recent flurry of baking activity, I failed to notice how low I was actually getting on my almond extract before making these. Turns out, I only had about 1/4 teaspoon left. Although I supplemented with vanilla, definitely think the right amount (or even a bit more) of almond extract will really make these sing. Shoo, even without the full amount they were still pretty darn tasty. My only complaint is I wish the cherry flavor was just a smidge more prominent. Then they'd be perfect.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 27g
Amount per serving
Calories 120Calories from fat 63
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.0g11%
Saturated Fat 4.5g23%
Cholesterol 12mg4%
Sodium 40mg2%
Total Carbs 14.0g5%
Sugars 8.2g
Protein 1.4g
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%Iron 2%

Christmas Dinner

Oh my goodness. 4 days until Christmas. FOUR DAYS. I think I've been in denial.

You would think not, as I've wrapped all the presents, and made all the cookies... but I still feel like it's at least a week off. Maybe two.

While cookies and sweets are staples of the holiday, I suppose we do have to eat. Real food, that is.

Even though we haven't quite settled on our Christmas dinner yet, I've come up with a few ideas for you if you happen to be like me, and totally forgot about the whole "dinner" thing. Since everyone goes about the main meal a little differently, I've come up with two separate menus: one fancy pants menu for those that are looking for an elegant way to serve up dinner, and another with more casual fare.

Christmas Dinner #1

Appetizer - Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms OR Chestnut Fennel Soup
Entree - Beef Wellington
Side - Mashed-Potato Casserole with Smoked Gouda and Bacon OR Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Apple Cider and Bacon Dressing

Christmas Dinner #2

Appetizer - Baked Brie OR Spin Dip
Entree - Honey-Glazed Ham
Side - Cheesy Corn Bake AND/OR Honey Yeast Rolls

So... what's on your Christmas Dinner menu?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pumpkin Waffles

Apparently, when I have a hankering to make something, I can't just stop with one thing. Obviously. Cookie streak anybody?

So when I decided to make breakfast the other day, naturally I got it in my head to make something else for breakfast. Not the same day. Goodness no. It's all I can do to bake cookies and make dinner in one day.

I'm pretty sure this might have been an "let's order pizza for dinner" type night.

I can't make this stuff up. Promise.

I am also apparently behind the curve when it comes to making any and everything with pumpkin. Such a shame. Because these are super tasty. I believe Adam called them "pumpkin pie lite".

And it's also a shame it took me two months to get around to using my brand spankin' new waffle maker I got for my birthday. Especially since I'm way more of a waffle fan than a pancake fan. Guess that goes to show how often we have fancy breakfasts around here.

Pumpkin Waffles
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat waffle iron.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 9 ingredients (through ginger).

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then add the buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter. Whisk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients increments, whisking well to keep the batter smooth between each addition.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold a soft peak (peaks that easily fall over). Gently fold whites into the batter until just combined.

Coat hot waffle iron with cooking spray. Ladle one large scoop of batter (about 1/2 cup) into the center of the waffle iron and close. Cook according to the manufacturer's instructions (mine was 3-4 minutes). Transfer waffle to a plate and repeat with remaining batter.

Waffles can be kept warm in an oven set at the lowest temperature until ready to serve.

Makes: 8 waffles

This was such a great spin on your typical waffle recipe. And really not much harder than it either, minus the whole whipping the egg white thing. Which actually took much less time that I expected (super plus).

Another great bonus is that waffles are great to throw in the freezer for breakfast another day. Just pop them in the toaster and you're golden (leggo my eggo -- don't tell me I'm the only one that remembers that). It's like we're getting homemade breakfasts every morning. Without the hassle. Now that I like.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 173g
Amount per serving
Calories 312Calories from fat 107
% Daily Value
Total Fat 11.9g18%
Saturated Fat 6.6g33%
Cholesterol 118mg39%
Sodium 468mg20%
Total Carbs 42.8g14%
Fiber 2.3g9%
Sugars 10.1g
Protein 9.3g
Vitamin A 103%Vitamin C 3%
Calcium 19%Iron 16%

Friday, December 16, 2011

Baked Red Velvet Doughnuts

How about we take a break from the cookies for a bit? Sounds like a good idea -- especially since my oven has not been turned on in about a week. Okay, lie.


For these.

I had originally made a different version of these a couple weeks ago when my sister was visiting, and promptly forgot to add in the melted butter. Nice.

I knew I wanted to give these another shot, but the opened package of red velvet cake mix tucked away in the pantry was calling my name. So the cake mix route I went.


Baked Red Velvet Doughnuts
Adapted from: Gingerbread Bagels

2 cups Red Velvet Cake Mix
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons 1% milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a doughnut pan with non-stick spray (or grease with vegetable shortening).

Whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla, being careful not to over mix. Some lumps from the cake mix may remain.

Transfer batter to a sandwich-sized plastic bag and snip off the corner. Use bag to pipe batter into the prepared pan, filling only about 1/2 full. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat in 3 tablespoons milk. Add additional milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached (I prefer mine more on the thin side).

Once doughnuts have cooled, place them, one at a time, face down in the glaze until the top is coated. Remove and flip right side up and place back on the cooling rack. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. Glaze may remain slightly sticky.

Makes: 2 dozen

These are light an fluffy and just what you'd expect from a red velvet cake in terms of flavor. As a doughnut... still delicious, but not exact what you get when running into Dunkin Donuts. (Okay, let's just all admit right now that we know they aren't going to be the same going into this.)

Next go around, I think I might actually switch out the cake flour for some good ol' all-purpose as these were almost too soft. Which made getting them out of the pan a rather interesting feat.

Oh, and don't cheat and skip the cream cheese glaze. It's essential. Trust.

And the best part -- I don't have to get up early to make these AND enjoy them for breakfast. It's simply stir. bake. dip. done.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 53g
Amount per serving
Calories 161Calories from fat 43
% Daily Value
Total Fat 4.8g7%
Saturated Fat 2.4g12%
Cholesterol 23mg8%
Sodium 209mg9%
Total Carbs 27.4g9%
Fiber 0.5g2%
Sugars 18.7g
Protein 2.5g
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 5%Iron 5%

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Cookie Guide

Feeling a little inundated by cookies? So am I. Or maybe it's just because my last 3 out of 4 posts have been about cookies.

Though that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Of course, I got it in my head to mail cookies out again this year, which is what sparked this little flurry of cookie making. And oh my -- shipping these things are expensive!

On a side note: avoid the post office. Apparently when you tell the post office lady that the packages are FRAGILE - with it written all over - it makes it fair game for her to shake them (in front of you), then throw them into a bin in the back. Lady, I might not be able to see you do it, but I can most definitely hear the loud bang of them hitting the bin from some distance. I didn't just write FRAGILE on them for my health. Grrr.

So... if you received a box of crushed up cookies... my apologies. For going through the post office.

Anyhoo, so apparently I have far too much time on my hands. I might have made a little guide for the cookies. (I see you rolling your eyes over there, but you know you hate getting food and not having a clue what it is, don't deny it.)

I was inspired by the classic box of chocolates. Because heaven forbid I get a coconut covered chocolate. Or you may just find a bunch of fingernail punctures on the bottom of the chocolates to see what's inside. Not that I've ever been guilty of doing that before.

Not only did I include cookies, but I threw in a little baggie of Peppermint Hot Chocolate, too. With a little scrapbooking paper, fancy scissors, and Photoshop, I think they turned out cute. Okay, and maybe a little bit hard to read.

But still.

So, here's my run down on this year's must-have cookies:

Spritz Cookies
Chocolate Crinkles
Swirl Sugar Cookies
Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies
Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Blossoms

I suggest you start at the top and work your way down. Or start anywhere, really. Because I can't rank things when they're all so good. It's a character flaw, I know. That I can deal with -- not having cookies, I can't.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chocolate Crinkles

At one point last week, at least half of my freezer was completely filled with cookies. No, but really. Even after I cleaned things out. Since then, I've mailed a few of them off, but there still remains well over 6 dozen cookies in there (probably closer to 7 or 8).

We are going to have one tasty Christmas, that's for sure.

See, I just don't believe in Christmas without a cookie plate. It's a necessity -- just part of how this holiday works. You walk by the cookie plate and grab a cookie. Christmas cookies don't come with any calories. Fact.

Okay, or so I wish.

I am not sure how I've made I through 27 Christmases and these have yet to grace the cookie plate. Kind of a crime when you think about it. Or taste them. Time to change that business. After making 2 batches of these, they are well on their way to becoming a holiday staple.

Chocolate Crinkles
Adapted from:

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (such a Hershey's Special Dark)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In the large work bowl of a mixer, beat together the cocoas, granulated sugar, and vegetable oil until the cocoa powder is well hydrated. Beat in eggs, one at a time, fully mixing in before adding the next. Add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add in thirds to the wet ingredients. Once the flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter, cover dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into a tablespoon or a #50 size cookie scoop. Drop dough into the powdered sugar, roll until coated with sugar, then roll into 1-inch balls. Transfer dough ball to prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the dark, cracked part of the cookie looks baked. Let rest on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Makes: 5 dozen

I'll admit, I was a little leery when I saw these went for oil instead of butter -- until I remembered that's how brownie and cake mixes roll, soooo I should just go with it. And you know what? It works.

These are rich and fudgey -- pretty much just a brownie in cookie form covered in powdered sugar. Totally a cookie Adam can get behind. And me. Although I usually don't discriminate, I'll back most any cookie.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 18g
Amount per serving
Calories 69Calories from fat 21
% Daily Value
Total Fat 2.3g4%
Saturated Fat 0.6g3%
Cholesterol 12mg4%
Sodium 24mg1%
Total Carbs 11.8g4%
Fiber 0.6g2%
Sugars 7.7g
Protein 1.1g
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%Iron 3%

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Blossoms

These have been on my to-make list for a year. A year people.

Last year, while we were still at home, I had purchased a bag of the candy cane kisses, and thoroughly enjoyed most of the bag before stumbling across this recipe. "Oh, well, I'll just make them for Christmas when we're out at Adam's parents."

Fast forward a couple weeks, much hair-pulling, and at least 4 grocery stores later -- there were absolutely no candy cane kisses to be found in the Kansas City area. I'm pretty sure his parents thought I was out of my mind. Well, more-so than normal anyways.

I will admit I felt slightly vindicated this year when I easily found them taking up shelf space at their local grocery store over Thanksgiving. Yes, they do exist.

As soon as I got my tush home from Kansas City I went out and bought a package. Then made these cookies. And became even more depressed that I had to wait an.entire.year to make these. Don't make the same mistake.

Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Blossoms
Adapted from: swEEts by e

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa, such as Hershey's Special Dark
36 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the large work bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the egg, continue to beat until well mixed. Mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the large bowl, a little bit at a time until fully incorporated.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 tablespoon). Place on prepared baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Press a candy cane kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes: 3 dozen

While still absolutely tasty when eaten the next day, or a few hours after baking for that matter, these are absolutely a.w.e.s.o.m.e. almost right out of the oven. Okay, give them like 10 minutes or so, then they're awesome. The kisses hold their shape upon first inspection, but after the first bite they turn into a molten mess on the top of the cookie, which is just divine.

Microwaving is the next best thing when they're not straight-out-of-the-oven, but I have yet to find the right time to get that kiss to start getting gooey on the inside. Don't worry. I'm still trying.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 25g
Amount per serving
Calories 122Calories from fat 63
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.0g11%
Saturated Fat 3.3g17%
Cholesterol 12mg4%
Sodium 42mg2%
Total Carbs 14.0g5%
Sugars 7.9g
Protein 1.3g
Vitamin A 2%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%Iron 2%

Kitchen Must-Haves

As I was busy in the kitchen today making even more cookies, I got to thinking about all the little (or not so much) gadgets and things that make things so much easier and a breeze in the kitchen. Well, as long as they're clean anyways.

Things I just can't live without. Or, until I have to, and then I suck it up while pouting.

Multiple sets of quality measuring cups and spoons. Because let's face it, your recipe just called for you to add 1 teaspoon vanilla, then 1 teaspoon baking soda. (I kind of wish they sold these separately, as my teaspoons keep running off...)

The often overlooked pastry blender. An absolute must for pie crusts and crumbles.

The cookie dough scoop. I totally grew up using the two-spoon method, but after having one of these -- it makes life so much easier. (Not to mention my cookies all the right size!)

A kitchen scale. It's not just for those looking for portion control -- weighing out ingredients is far more accurate than measuring cups. Not to mention it works wonders with hard to measure ingredients (such as meat or veggies).

A meat thermometer -- rock it old school, or get fancy with a wireless programmable one. Either way, it's crucial for knowing when that awesome pork tenderloin is ready to come out of the oven.

Pastry bags and and couple tips. You don't have to go buck wild here, but having a few large tips (such as a 2D or 1M) make frosting cupcakes a breeze -- not to mention make them look all fancy. Oh, and I prefer the disposable bags. Makes for a lot easier clean up.

The stand mixer. What else can I say besides "love"? Maybe how awesome it is I can let it whip eggs while I go work on something else. No need to stand around holding the mixer.

If you give a mouse a cookie... you'll have to have some accessories to go with that mixer... like a Beater Blade or an extra bowl.

So tell me, what makes your life easy in the kitchen?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Swirl Sugar Cookies

I am so excited for the holiday baking season. I really hope you're with me on this one, because there's a lot of sweet sugary goodness coming your way.

I can't help it. The more and more presents that make their way under our tree all nice and prettily wrapped, the more and more cookies I think I should make. Let me tell you, there's already quite a few presents.

Problem is, I'm running out of room in the freezer. And I'm less than halfway through my baking list. Looks like I need to clean out some non-essentials -- like the meat and veggies. Oh, and that bagged crockpot meal that's been hiding out in the back, since, forever. Or maybe just throw that away?

Either way, it's time to make room for the cookies. I mean, really, how can you say no to something as cute and festive as these?

Swirl Sugar Cookies
Adapted from: Our Italian Kitchen

2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon food coloring
1/2 teaspoon flavored extract (optional)
2 ounces sprinkles

Prepare 4 sheets of wax paper, larger than 11 x 9-inches; set aside.

In the large work bowl of a mixer, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, powdered sugar, and granulated sugar. Add butter and mix at medium speed. Add vanilla, and continue mixing until dough forms a ball on the paddle. Divide dough in half, and remove one half to a sheet of wax paper, while leaving the remaining portion in the mixing bowl. Add the food coloring and any additional extracts desired. Beat until coloring is thoroughly mixed in. Transfer colored dough portion to a second sheet of wax paper.

Cover each dough portion with a sheet of wax paper, and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness (about 11 x 9). Slide dough rectangles, still between wax paper, onto cookie sheets. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Remove the top wax sheet from each dough portion. Lightly brush uncolored dough with water. Place the uncovered side of the colored dough face down on top of the uncolored dough, so no wax paper is between the two. Lightly press together the edges of the dough portions so they seal together. Trim any overlapping dough to form straight, even edges.

Once dough becomes soft enough to bend (though still fairly chilled), start rolling up the long side of dough, forming a swirl. If any tearing occurs, simply pinch dough back together.

Place sprinkles on a large flat plate. Carefully lift dough log onto the sprinkle plate and roll through sprinkles, pressing lightly to help them adhere to the outside. Completely cover outside of log with sprinkles. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator 3-4 hours (or in the freezer for up to 2 months).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut dough with a sharp knife into 1/8 - 1/4-inch slices. Place on prepared baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cookies remain on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Makes: about 18 cookies

Now I know I've called these "sugar cookies", but they're really more of a mix between butter cookies and sugar cookies. Soft like a sugar cookie, but the flavor definitely has some heavy butter overtones. Which, isn't necessarily a bad thing. I could totally see going in all kind of directions with different flavors and colors with these!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 41g
Amount per serving
Calories 204Calories from fat 120
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13.3g20%
Saturated Fat 8.1g41%
Cholesterol 34mg11%
Sodium 122mg5%
Total Carbs 20.3g7%
Sugars 9.6g
Protein 1.6g
Vitamin A 8%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%Iron 4%


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