December 18, 2010

.'tis the season.

I have a confession. I feel as though I should tell you all I have a little bit of a blog crush on the Pioneer Woman. My cousin Mandy introduced me to her website and I have been hooked ever since. She cooks. She bakes. She takes pictures of her children covered in manure. And so much more. I love it.

A short while ago she had a cookie week, in preparation for Christmas, no doubt. I bookmarked many of the recipes to try and this is the first one I got around to. I remember having something like this growing up but it wasn't one of the yearly traditional cookies that my grandmother made.

These cookies are off the chain. For real. They are light, airy, buttery and delicious. It's taking all of our self-control for me and the man to not go eat the rest of them right now. I halved the recipe and didn't add any of the lemon or orange zest, as I only had one stick of butter and no lemon or orange. I also used whole cherries for each cookie, rather than cutting them in half. The Pioneer Woman's recipe is here. And mine is below.

Christmas Cherries makes 13 cookies
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon)
1 cup flour, double sifted
Candied cherries (green or orange)

Cream the butter and sugar together until combined. Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Mix until combined. You may need to scrape the bowl periodically to get everything together. Add the flour, mix. Place dough in a ziplock bag, or cover the bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. After the dough is cold enough take it out and roll it into small balls. I was able to get 13 out of a half batch. Press a candied cherry lightly into the dough. Bake for 20 minutes.


December 14, 2010

.the daring cooks challenge: december.

Jenn and Jill have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose an Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan and Homemade Sun-Dried Tomato and Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie Num Num.

Eggs Benedict was the recipe I decided to try, mostly because it was the one I was most familiar with. I have never made it, nor have I ever poached an egg. I thought, hey how hard can it be?

Well, turns out it's freaking super hard. I decided to just attempt the poaching and not the Hollandaise sauce, and really the dish was fine without the sauce. The poached eggs, however, well.... they didn't really work out so great for me.

I attempted the first egg.

Hot mess.

I attempted the second egg.

Hotter mess.

I attempted the third, and final egg.

Hottest mess ever recorded.

So, I did manage to salvage the second egg, as seen above, then I just pan-fried 3 more. Yeah. Y'all should know by now that's how I was going to roll. So we wound up with an English muffin, topped with some sliced ham, and a fried egg. It was pretty dang good. Not Eggs Benedict good but poached eggs are not my forte. I highly doubt I will ever even try to make them again. It just isn't worth the stress of seeing that egg white break apart as soon as it hits the water.

Some people turn out awesome poached eggs though, so if you're one of those people, I am very impressed now.


December 13, 2010

.puffy pumpkin pillows of deliciousness.

I have really come to appreciate pumpkin this season. I have never really cooked with it much before, and really rarely even ate it unless it was a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or possibly a pumpkin empanada. This fall though I have branched out and tried new things. When I saw a recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I pretty much knew I had to try them too.

So, while looking at the recipe I, of course, decided to change a few things. It called for 2 sticks of butter which is just way too much for me so I cut that down to 1 stick, and then upped the pumpkin from 1 cup to the whole can. I'm an all in sort of girl. Don't play poker with me. Even for matchsticks. Just ask my father-in-law.

Pumpkin Chocolate Cookies makes 50-60 cookies
1 stick of butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups chocolate chips, semi-sweet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter. Add both sugars and mix together. Since I omitted the second stick of butter this never really got to a creamed state but it was thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and beat. Add the vanilla extract and the pumpkin, beat until everything is combined.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to the wet mixture in thirds until everything is combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are browned.

One thing I thought was interesting about these cookies is that they don't really flatten at all in the oven. I used a handy dandy cookie scoop to put them on the baking sheets and they came out of the oven in pretty much the exact same shape. I did attempt to flatten one batch, as shown, before putting it in the oven by wetting my fingers and pressing the dough flat and that turned out fairly well but I decided I liked the puffy dome shaped cookies anyway.

They taste the same, and oh! That taste. This is definitely not Grandma's classic chocolate chip cookie. The pumpkin gives it an extra oomph. I highly recommend these cookies.


December 4, 2010

.this bread is bananas.


Yup, so apparently 'tis the week to be making banana bread. I have been seeing it everywhere! I attribute this to Thanksgiving. Mostly because that's the reason I made banana bread. You see, everyone bought bananas before Thanksgiving, but then got so caught up in cooking and eating Thanksgiving dinner and leftovers and the poor bananas got neglected, thus causing them to over-ripen, but making them perfect for some delicious homemade, freshly baked banana bread.

Ms. Smart over at the Smart Kitchen pretty much has banana bread on lock down, and has some awesome banana bread recipes I would like to try (Dark chocolate! Nutella! Hello!) But, for this time I used my grandmother's recipe. Tried and true. This is the banana bread I grew up eating. Kind of.... ok... I actually did change two things. I cut back on the butter (a lot) and the sugar (a little). The resulting bread is still extremely delicious though so, I would say no harm, no foul.

Grandma's Walnut Banana Bread makes 1 loaf
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of butter
2-3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend the butter and sugar until creamed. Add the banana, eggs and vanilla. You can mash these together before hand, or just throw them all in and let the hand mixer do the work. Next add the flour, baking soda and baking powder until combined. Gently fold in the walnuts.

Place in a greased and floured loaf pan. Cook in oven for 1 hour. You might want to check after about 45 minutes and make sure the top is not getting burned. If it is, just place a foil tent over the top for the remaining cooking time. Remove and let cool.

The banana bread will go from looking like this:

To this:

I know some people put things on their banana bread. Butter, peanut butter, etc. I find, however, that this banana bread is best eaten all by itself. The man agrees. And Wally probably would too.... if he would eat people food.


December 1, 2010

.tasty nuts.

Ohhh yeah. So I'm a big fan of Angela over at Oh She Glows. I'm also a big fan of mixed nuts. So when I saw her recipe for Twice Baked Bar Nuts that she made for her Canadian Thanksgiving I thought they would be great for an American Thanksgiving snack as well.

I only used walnuts and almonds but you can pretty much use any kind of nuts you want. I was also fortunate to have a fresh rosemary plant on my back deck, courtesy of my mother-in-law! That one is faring much better than the basil, haha. I also switched out Angela's cayenne pepper for chili powder because that's what I had.

This recipe is super, insanely easy and I recommend you give it a try. Perhaps for Christmas?

Twice Baked Bar Nuts serves many
3 cups of nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts, any will do)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pinch of chili powder
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes in the heated oven. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes. While the nuts are cooling combine mix all of the ingredients, except for 1 tablespoon of the butter. Dump the nuts into a separate bowl and combine with the 1 tablespoon of butter. I did not have to melt the butter that I put on the nuts but I did melt the butter I combined with the other ingredients. After all of the nuts are coated with the butter, pour the other ingredients into the bowl and mix to combine. Pour the nuts back onto the baking sheet and toast for another 10-12 minutes. Serve warm.

These nuts were so freaking good. They had the sugar and the salt combination but the rosemary really took them over the edge. I can't wait to make them again, and I'm sure my family won't mind either.