Sunday, December 14, 2014

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies - Cookie Carnival!

Baking and cold weather seem to go together.  As a child remember that we always baked cookies on a rainy day....I loved doing that...the warmth from the oven, the wonderful smells from the kitchen wafting through the house, and, most importantly to me, the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the roof and splashing against the windows.  It made cookie baking a warm and cozy activity.

Today, if I wait for rain, we would never eat cookies.  Rain is always promised but a few drops here and there aren't quite what I grew up enjoying!  That is why I thought participating in a Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival for the holidays would be fun, regardless of the weather, we would have cookies!


Aren't they pretty?  I just love the sparkle of the sanding sugar.  Rolling the cookies in sanding sugar was actually an afterthought on my part and I must say it was a good thought!  What could be better than triple chocolate, peppermint kisses and sparkles!!?

These Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies were inspired by a recipe posted by Wendy at The Weekend Gourmet.  Wendy is a Texas girl who loves to cook and travel....not only does she post recipes, but she has numerous product spotlights featured, as well as regional restaurant features and travelogues.  

I was tempted to make her Chocolate Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies  but decided that chocolate was in the pantry, and so.....while, Wendy went for the peppermint bang in her chocolate cookie recipe...after thinking about it, I decided to go for the chocolate with a hint of peppermint.  Thank you for the inspiration, Wendy.  And, I must fess up....I made a few adjustments along the way, one being that I omitted the Crisco that Wendy used....(it isn't something that I have on-hand).

Mr. T and the neighbors have attested to how tasty these cookies are...I will definitely make them again...do I have to wait until next year?

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
inspired by The Weekend Gourmet and Hershey's

48 Hershey's Kisses Brand Candy Cane Mint Candies
1 stick butter, softened (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup white sanding sugar

Yield:  About 48 cookies

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Prepare the baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

Remove the wrappers from the Candy Cane Mint Candies.  Place the candies in a bowl and set aside.

Place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the mixing bowl and beat well.  Add the eggs and milk and beat well.

Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the flour mixture gradually to the butter mixture.  Beat until well blended.  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.  

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in the sanding sugar.  Place the balls on the parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake the sheet for 10 to 11 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and gently press the candy cane mint kiss in the center of each cookie.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.  



We really enjoyed these cookies.  They had a soft and chewy texture....and it was really difficult to just eat one....

Hope you enjoy the Cookie Carnival!



Monday, December 8, 2014

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread...This is the absolute best!!


As I mentioned in the last post, this is the year for gingerbread.  I have been on a quest for the gingerbread (of my dreams) recipe!  I love a dark, moist, sticky, spicy, chewy gingerbread....and this is just what I dreamed of...

While the previous Gingerbread was good, the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread from Chef Claudia Fleming, is the one...just what I envisioned a "real" gingerbread should taste like.  Even better is that the flavor improves as it ages.  It can be kept for up to three days covered at room temperature.

Once again, I wanted individual servings so I baked the gingerbread in my mini bundt pan.  The only issue that I came across was that during baking the gingerbread sunk.  I had thought it was due to too much air in the batter as I did not whisk as the recipe said...I used the mixer. But, it could be related to the baking powder...it didn't matter, as I a bundt cake is turned over and it doesn't show.  "smile"

I intend to make the recipe again in two weeks to serve as a birthday cake.   I can hardly wait.

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
Chef Claudia Fleming

1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup oil
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Generously butter/flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan, knocking out excess flour.

In a large saucepan, bring Stout and molasses to a boil and remove from heat.  Whisk in the baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and spices.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars.  Whisk in the oil until blended, then mix in the molasses mixture.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Rap the pan sharply on the counter to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake the cake in the middle of the oven until the tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 45-50 minutes.  Cool the cake on a rack for 5 minutes; then turn it out on the rack to cool completely. Serve the cake dusted with confectioner's sugar or with whipped cream.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This is the gingerbread of my dreams...so delicious.  I think the the stout adds a very nice dimension and depth of flavor to the cake....

I am sharing this week at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gingerbread Trees and Men


December brings out the baker in me.  There isn't any other time of year that beckons one to spend so much time in the kitchen preparing wonderful confections.  The abundance of sweet treats this time of year can be overwhelming....candies, cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, tarts....you name it and it appears.

This year I am focused on making a good gingerbread.  Being curious about the origin of gingerbread, I did a little research and learned that there is a lot of information about gingerbread and its medicinal uses, its use in affairs of the heart and as a treat!    It wasn't until the 15th century that Gingerbread, as we know it, began to appear....breads, cookies, or houses flavored with ginger, honey, molasses and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and anise.  Gingerbread was also a favorite treat at festivals and fairs in Medieval Europe. It is even said that Elizabeth I had gingerbread cookies baked in the likeness of visiting dignitaries!  Can you imagine....?

Each year, I seem to add another gingerbread recipe to the file but I never seemed to make it....until now.  This is the year!  I was swayed to do it when I saw some adorable Gingerbread Trees while visiting Marsha's blog, The Harried Cook.  Swayed?  I should say, sold!  Of course, this meant that I had to buy a new pan...one cannot make adorable little Gingerbread Trees without the right pan....and, the pan I found had both trees and men therefore, I made Gingerbread Trees and Men! Fun times in the kitchen!!

As you have guessed, it is time for The Secret Recipe Club post.  Being assigned Marsha's blog has been fun...  Marsha had been scribbling recipes on pieces of paper, napkins, notebooks, textbooks, mobile phone memos and attests to losing most of them which is why she began blogging. The blog assures that there is a recipe legacy for her daughters.  As is evidenced by her blog, Marsha does love to bake and December is the month for baking...so, needless to say, I found a variety of recipes from which to choose.   I had debated about baking her Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache Frosting (and I may still make them....) but gingerbread was beckoning today.


Gingerbread Trees and Men
adapted from The Harried Cook and Martha Stewart, Cakes

Yield:  8 molded cakes or 1 loaf cake
Grease the mold or pan with butter.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
Sprinkles for decoration

Preheat oven:  350° F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.  Set aside.

In the mixer bowl, cream the softened butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg before adding the next.  Add the vanilla and mix into the mixture.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.  Do not over-mix the batter.

Pour into the prepared pan or mold. Smooth the top using an offset spatula.

Bake until the tester comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes for the loaf or if using the molds, bake for about 18-20 minutes.  Allow the pan to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn the cakes out onto a plate.  Allow to cool completely before dusting with confectioner's sugar.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


These cute little guys were a treat that I served at a recent meeting...they were a hit!!



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Creamy Ham and Potato Cheese Soup

Hustle and bustle, cold, brisk breezes, parades, shopping and getting home too late to think about cooking? For me it was recovering from the flu so I decided to take the easy route for dinner....soup!

I smiled as I realized I had everything on hand to make this creamy, cheesy soup...and I love Gruyère cheese so dinner was easily decided.


Ham and Potato Cheese Soup
adapted from Pacific Fresh

Yield:  about 6 cups

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup cubed baked ham
1/2-3/4 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
3 large potatoes, sliced
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the ham, then add in the thyme, potatoes, and broth.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.  Potatoes should be broken up and slightly mushy.

Add the cheese and milk and stir until the cheese melts and the soup is heated to serving temperature.  Season with salt and pepper.  Keep warm over low heat.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


We loved this soup...how long does one have to wait to make it again?  Mmmmm....

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Barbecued Garlic Shrimp

I am so happy that Mr. T cooks!  I have been sick for the last week and it was so nice to not have to worry about dinnertime....and be able to sit down to a nicely prepared and tasty meal.  Thank you, Babe!  It was delicious!


Barbecued Garlic Shrimp
adapted from Great Meals on the Grill

Yield:  2 - 3 Servings

1 pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
A twist or two of fresh ground pepper
Lemon wedges

In a medium-size bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add the shrimp to the bowl and stir gently to coat with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for about two hours, stirring gently every 1/2 hour.  (We prefer to put everything in a ziplock bag.)

Prepare the grill.  Reserving the marinade, thread the shrimp onto bamboo skewers.  Grill the shrimp 4 to 5 inches from the hear for 3 minutes, then baste with some of the reserved marinade.  Grill for another 3 minutes or until cooked through but still moist.  The shrimp will be lightly colored and firm to the touch.  Be careful not to overcook.

Serve the barbecued shrimp on a preheated platter with lemon wedges.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Thanks again for a great dinner....I will make you breakfast for dinner tonight, dear....  "smile"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Slow-Roasted Hot Tri Tip....Sandwiches!

One of my very favorite meals when I was growing up was a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes. That's not to say that I didn't like the Sunday roast that usually preceded the leftover roast beef sandwich but there was something about knowing that there was a hot roast beef sandwich waiting for me that always had me looking forward to the next day's dinner!  Maybe it is the very best in comfort food for kids....hmmm, not just kids....whatever the appeal, I knew I needed one!

To get to leftovers meant that I had to make a darn good roast that was falling apart and just right for sandwiches.  For the last three or four years I have been making a roast that Mr. T. kept telling me to post....and I would have if it had lasted long enough to get a good picture.  The difference in the preparation of this roast from others was Beef Consomme.  It is so rich and flavorful...

So, when it turns cold and Mr. T. doesn't really want to stand outside and barbecue and that is usually what we do with a tri tip....my mind travels to Slow-Roasted Tri Tip Sandwiches aka Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches!


Hot Slow-Roasted Tri Tip Sandwiches
Kate's Slow Roasted Tri Tip

Preheat oven to 300° F.

1 tri tip roast, cut into large chunks, about 2-2.5 pounds
Salt and pepper
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 cans of Beef Consomme (10.5 oz. cans)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1-2 cups of water

Gravy
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 Tablespoons flour
Additional water for gravy....(I add some of the water that the potatoes cooked in...)

In a large dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the tri tip generously with salt and pepper. Brown the meat, remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, if needed.  Brown the onions for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook another minute. Return the tri tip chunks to the pan.

Pour in the beef consomme, 1 cup water, bay leaves and thyme. Stir and cover.  Place the pan in the preheated oven.  Check on the meat occasionally to make certain that there is liquid.  Add the additional cup of water if needed.  The meat is done when it is fork tender and pulls apart easily, usually about 2-3 hours. Remove from the oven.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pot.  I like to also remove the onions and garlic as I don't want chunks in the gravy...it is a matter of choice!

Place the pan on the stove and bring the liquid to a simmer.  If you need additional water, add some of the potato water.  Mix the butter and flour into a paste and pour into the liquid and whisk to blend. If the gravy is too thick add a little more water.  If the gravy is too thin, mix an additional tablespoon of flour with another tablespoon of soft butter and whisk in.

Serve the meat on a platter or return the meat to the gravy and serve.  Mashed potatoes are a must!!

Leftover Slow-Roasted Hot Tri Tip Sandwiches

We like our sandwiches to be open-faced.   Just pull apart some of the beef, put it on whatever bread is handy and add gravy.  Simple as that...  That's not to say that some artisan sourdough bread wouldn't be dandy but sometimes, with leftovers, we just go with whatever is available in the bread drawer.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


The very best in comfort food....

I am sharing today at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Asiago Vegetable Risotto

I remember the first time that I tried to make risotto.  The method used was a bit flawed.  I stirred and waited and stirred and waited and it never really got to the correct consistency.  I tried again, here, using the method described by the Barefoot Contessa.  It was a great success!  So, when I saw the recipe for Asiago Vegetable Risotto at Chef Becca's blog, It's Yummi!, and the method was one I had success with, well, it was a given that we were having it with our dinner!

I was not disappointed, it was delicious!  I did make a change or two as the recipe used spring vegetables which I changed out for what was in the refrigerator!  This is so creamy and the flavor is lovely...using saffron and asiago cheese made this side dish impressive!


Asiago Vegetable Risotto
adapted from It's Yummi!

2/3 cup unsalted butter, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided (chicken broth my be used)
2 pinches of saffron threads
1 medium zucchini, sliced and cut into 1/4-inch half rounds
1 cup broccoli flowers
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
2 green onions, diced
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
4 slices of bacon, (Applewood-smoked, if available) chopped, cooked until crisp, drain

Chop and cook the bacon until crisp.  Drain and set aside.

Toast the pine nuts and set aside.  To toast pine nuts, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 375° F., stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.  Watch the nuts closely so that they do not burn.  Alternatively, the nuts may be toasted in a skillet over medium high heat, stir frequently until brown spots form, about 3 minutes.  (Be certain to keep an eye on them....they burn quickly!)

In a 3-4 quart pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add rice and stir continuously until the grains are translucent; about 4-5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and stir until absorbed; about 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and add another 1/2 cup stock, saffron, zucchini, broccoli, red pepper, onions and pepper.  Cook until all liquid is absorbed; stirring frequently.

Continue to add the remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking each time until the liquid is absorbed.

When all of the liquid has been added and absorbed, stir in the lemon juice, Asiago and the remaining butter.  The mixture should be creamy and the rice should be al dente.

Before serving, stir in the basil, pine nuts and bacon.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Not only was this a delicious side dish, it was quite tasty for lunch the next day!