Tag Archives: baking

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies – Virtual Cookie Swap

I have always wanted to participate in a holiday cookie swap.  However, as this year is filled with Isaiah, Rachel’s (aka The Avid Appetite) virtual cookie swap is just perfect!

Holidays would not be complete without cookies – and the more variety, the better.  To me, shortbread cookies are quintessential for the holiday season.  And, when I usually make shortbread, I keep it pretty traditional and plain.  I love the buttery, crisp and light taste of a shortbread cookie.

Not overly sweet so you can enjoy twice as much.  That’s how it works right?

This year, to quell my chocolate cravings, I paired shortbread with chocolate.  Could you imagine the fantabulouslness that would result?

If you can’t imagine, then here is proof:

Trust me when I say that you will want to make them.  And they are a delicious mix of rich chocolate with a light cookie.  These would be perfect with tea, a tall glass of milk, gifts for friends or a cookie exchange.

Or you can leave them out for Santa.

And by that, eat it as a midnight snack.  🙂

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients:
–  2 cups flour
–  1/4 tsp salt
–  1/2 cup white sugar
–  1 tsp vanilla extract
–  1 cup butter, softened
–   3/4  cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Directions:
–  Cream butter and sugar until light.
–  Mix in vanilla.
–  Add flour and salt.
–   Stir in chocolate chips.
–  On plastic wrap, roll dough into a log shape, 2 inches diameter.
–  Wrap tightly and put in fridge for about 2 hours to firm up.  You can leave for longer, but definitely put in the fridge so the dough easier to handle later.
–  After 2 hours, preheat oven to 350F.
–  Take out the cookie dough and cut into 1/4 inch circles.
–  Place on a cookie sheet about an inch apart.
–  Bake for 10-12 minutes.
–  Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

What’s your favorite holiday cookie?

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Filed under baking, Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

Baby Shower Goods

I have been in a work-related whirlwind for the past three weeks.  The end of this whole mess was marked by the most fantabulous baby shower I have ever received.  Well, I’m not one for surprises and I wanted to be involved.  I donated my baking abilities.  Remember the smorgasbord?

After a grueling three weeks of response writing, which at the end included a grand total of 600 complied documents, 60 of which were my written product, I went on a baking spree.

Meet the results.  (Lemon Blossoms from here; Goat Cheese Terrine from here; Mexican Wedding Cookies from here.)

And, some additional items.  (Pumpkin bread and chocolate cookies – recipes to come)

My mom made Southwestern Egg Rolls – yep, she’s that awesome, and my MIL made her famous chicken salad sandwiches on croissant.

It was foodie heaven.

And presents and decorations heaven.

I must say that this really did mark the beginning of nesting and preparing for the new baby’s arrival.  I have had baby on the brain night and day.  I plan on balancing that out with more baking.  🙂

How do you unwind?  Do you cook your stress away?

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Filed under Appetizers, baking, Cake, Cookies, Desserts, Favorites, Pregnancy

Easy Breezy Beautiful

Cover Girl Lasagna.

I’m a fan of make-ahead meals.

During a busy week, my make-ahead meals are a life saver, a budget saver and a health saver.

Instead of ordering pizza or grabbing something on the way home, I can come home, open the freezer and bake a main dish within an hour.

My favorite make-ahead meal:  Lasagna.

After several attempts with several recipes, this is my absolute favorite.

While it isn’t the easiest to put together and requires some time on my part, it is quite worth it.

I never get tired of lasagna.  I can have it for a week-straight – lunch and dinner – which is exactly how long this recipe lasts.

My Favorite Lasagna
adapted from here

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 12 lasagna noodles *I buy the ones you do not have to pre-boil
  • 16 oz skim milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Directions:
  1. Heat a dutch oven (or large pot) over medium-high heat.
  2. Once pot is hot, add olive oil and wait for it to heat up.
  3. Once oil is hot, add onions and garlic.  Saute for about 5 minutes, until soft.
  4. Add ground beef.  Cook until browned.
  5. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.
  6. Add sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 T salt, pepper and 2 T parsley.
  7. Cover and simmer for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  9. Make ricotta mixture:  combine ricotta cheese, egg, 2 T parsley and nutmeg.
  10. Assemble in the following layers:  (a) 1.5 cups of meat sauce at the bottom of the lasagna dish, (b) arrange approximately 6 noodles to cover the meat sauce, (c) add 1/2 of the ricotta mixture to the noodles and spread evenly, (d) add 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese slices, (e) add 1.5 cups of meat sauce over the cheese slices, (f) sprinkle 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese over the meat sauce, (g) arrange another 6 noodles to cover the top, (h) add remaining 1/2 of the ricotta mixture to the noodles and spread evenly, (i) add 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese slices, (j) add 1.5 cup of the meat sauce over the cheese, (k) add remaining mozzarella cheese slices, (l) sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top.
  11. Spray foil with non-stick spray and cover the lasagna dish.
  12. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  13. Remove foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.
  14. Remove from oven and allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.

Are you a fan of make-ahead meals?  What’s your make-ahead meal?

20 Comments

Filed under baking, Favorites, Italian

A Biscotti By Any Other Name…Would Be Cake Rusk

One of my favorite tea-time snacks as a kid was Indian cake rusk.  Do you know what it is?  Have you had it?

Well, it is delicious.

Since then I’ve grown up.

Since then I’ve also realized that cake rusk is really biscotti.  Since then I’ve made biscotti.  Several times.  And called it cake rusk to my Indian family so they too can understand – and awe at my creation.

And what I mean by “my creation” is that I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and changed it up a tad.

This is hands-down my favorite biscotti recipe.

The flavor is outstanding.  The subtle citrus combined with almonds makes this cake rusk biscotti perfect for tea time or any time at all.

Biscotti/Cake Rusk
–  adapted from here

Ingredients:

  • 3  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/3 t salt
  • 1  1/2 cup sugar
  • 1  1/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • 1 T orange juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Mix sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  4. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  5. By hand, not using an electric mixer, incorporate the flour mixture in three batches into the sugar/butter mixture.
  6. Incorporate until everything is blended and smooth.
  7. Add almonds to cookie dough.
  8. Divide dough in half and shape into two logs onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  9. Make each dough into a 13-inch-long and 2-inch-high log.
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, but do not turn off oven.  Or, if you have to turn off the oven, note that you must have the oven back at 350 F when you re-bake the cookies.
  12. Cool completely.
  13. Once cool, transport the cookies (holding onto the parchment) to a cutting board.
  14. Cut each log into 1/2 wide slices.
  15. Lay each slice back on the cookie sheet with cut sides facing down.
  16. Bake for 12 minutes.
  17. Turn the cookies over and bake for another 8 minutes.
  18. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.

FYI – Currently listening to: Pleasure Songs by The Mary Onettes

Do you like biscotti?  Have you tried the Smitten Kitchen recipe?  Do you drink it with tea? 

19 Comments

Filed under baking, Cookies, Desserts, Italian, Vegetarian

The Underdog

When I read about I Am Baker’s Call To Bakers, I jumped at the opportunity.

I like to bake.  And, I like to help.

I help myself to cookies and the cookies help me in return.  Don’t tell me you haven’t found solace after a bite of a warm freshly baked cookie.

No?  Just me?  Well, the cheese stands alone.

One of my favorite cookies, is the most underestimated – the sugar cookie.

At parties, people always seem to gravitate towards the cookie with more “things” in it (i.e., chocolate chips, nuts, oats, coconut).  The sugar cookie always goes unnoticed or picked as a last alternative.

But, I tell you – don’t take the sugar cookie for granted.  It’s in the sugar cookie you find the strength of the baker.  It’s in the sugar cookie you can actually taste the dough without any distractions.  Every part can be dissected and examined – the texture, flour to butter ratio, the crackle on top and how the salt complements the dough.

And my favorite sugar cookie is found here, an adaptation of this.

It’s perfect.

Perfectly sweet.  Perfectly chewy.  Perfectly simple.

Binks hates sugar cookies.  His favorite cookie would be chocolate chip wherein every ingredient would be chocolate chips – pretty much chocolate chips with a small side of cookie dough.

He loves this cookie.  The recipient of these should probably know that there would have been 5 more if Binks had not seen them.  And, there could have been 20 less if I didn’t end up hiding the cookies from him.

For what it’s worth, he has proclaimed this the BEST sugar cookie ever.

I wouldn’t believe him except for the fact that they are.

They really are.

What’s your favorite non-chocolate chip cookie cookie?  Do you like sugar cookies?

**Side note: It took every iota of my discipline and willpower not to even have one bite.  I did get in a lot of smells though.

23 Comments

Filed under baking, Cookies, Favorites, Vegetarian

One Olie’s Mistake is Another Day’s Cake

I once made The Perfect Party Cake.

What didn’t go into that story was that while making the butter cream, I made a boo boo.  Instead of following the recipe, I accidentally and prematurely combined 1 cup sugar, 3 sticks of butter, and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  After mixing these ingredients, I read the recipe again and realized my blunder.

Despite my error, I was not willing to part with the butter/sugar/lemon mixture.  I was determined to find something that I could make with those ingredients.  And, due to the recent move, work and other cooking endeavors that came in between, my determination for my butter/sugar/lemon mixture was pushed to the back burner.

Until last week.  Last week I discovered that not only could I use my forgotten mixture, but could also use up some cornmeal that I have had on hand.  The bright lemon flavor combined with the nutty texture of cornmeal really makes this cake the wonder that it is.

The batter will be somewhat thick.

Oh and did I mention that it comes with a glaze that melts into the cake?

This would pair well with coffee (as Binks has told me) and (from my experience) blueberries!

My Saturday morning was that much sweeter and brighter with this delicious lemon cake.

Lemon Cornmeal Cake

Adapted from here

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (usually juice from 2 large lemons)
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans.  (You can also use a bundt or tube pan).I was giving one half away so the two cake pans were perfect.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs and beat in one at a time until each egg is fully incorporated into the wet mixture.
  6. Change the speed of the mixer to low.
  7. Add in the flour/cornmeal mix to the wet ingredients slowly.  Do not over mix.
  8. Divide the batter into the cake pans.
  9. Bake for 60 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test (toothpick comes out clean).
  10. Allow cakes to rest for about 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack – be careful because the cake will be moist and tender.

Lemon Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mix sugar and lemon juice together.
  2. Pour over cakes after cake has been resting for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.  (Please be careful as the cake will be quite moist)
  3. Cool completely before serving.

 


13 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake, Desserts, Vegetarian

Green With Yummy

It has been my goal as of late to make efforts (substantial efforts) to get rid of things in my pantry/fridge before I go grocery shopping.  For instance, do you know what I can do with a gallon of raw milk that I cannot finish by the expiration date?  Well, I figured it out – so tune in! 😉

In this case, it was spinach.  I usually use it up with green monsters, salads and the like, but I had some extra to use up.

This is where Diana and her Green Monster Muffins enters the scene.  I have had this recipe printed and bookmarked since early early 2010 (I have to stress the early).  With that said, this was definitely not the first time I have tried one of Diana’s recipes (here).

And, like her cookie dough balls, the muffins were another hit!


*The only change I made was to add orange zest instead of lemon and I only had cinnamon apple sauce.  Loved every bite!

Moist, fully flavorful with a hint of the orange, and an excellent crumb.

And, I did eat every single one of those crumbs.

My review of these chic muffins:  très bien!

Have you tried Diana’s Green Monster Muffins?  How do you make efforts to use things up in your pantry/fridge?  Do you enjoy grocery shopping?

16 Comments

Filed under baking, Bread, Breakfast, Desserts, Favorites, Vegetarian