Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Double Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies

Something about Christmas brings out the desire for peppermint in me. So, when we were hanging out with my family - and of course baking - the week before Christmas, these delightful little cookies seemed very fitting. 

Something else that filled my desire for peppermint last week - Starbuck's Peppermint Hot Chocolate. Yuuuum. I highly recommend it.

These cookies have a soft, chewy outside (just the way I like it) and a York Peppermint Patty on the inside that is gooey and falls apart when warm but hardens nicely as they cool. 

This picture was taken right after they came out of the oven.

Yield: about 18 cookies

2/3 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
18 York Peppermint Patties
Powdered sugar, to decorate

Beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl; add egg, milk and vanilla, blending thoroughly. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture, blending well. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough about 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Remove wrappers from peppermint patties.

Roll dough into about 1 inch balls. For each cookie flatten the ball slightly, press the peppermint pattie into the dough. Mold dough around the pattie so that it is completely covered. Place on prepared cookie sheet. 

Bake 12 -14 minutes or until cookie is set. Cook slightly; remove from cookie sheet to cool. After about 5 minutes, roll the cookies in powdered sugar.

Source: slightly adapted from Hershey's Kitchen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

Last week I had a sick husband. Unfortunately, we were both working for the week so I wasn't able to dote on him and make him better. Besides buying him drugs like Nyquil and Advil Cold and Sinus, I decided that making him yummy comfort food that would go down easily was the next best option.

This turned out to be wildly successful. It also makes a LOT of soup. Seriously, my crockpot was almost overflowing. This picture was taken after taking out almost a whole quart. 

Making this will make all your chicken noodle soup dreams come true.

Yield: a LOOOT of soup.

1 whole chicken
64 oz. fluid (chicken broth, vegetable broth, particular combination was about 3 cups chicken broth, 4 cups vegetable stock, and 1 cup water. It would have been different if my pantry supplies were different)
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs of celery, sliced
3 whole carrots, chopped
8 oz noodles
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients into a crockpot. Let sit until the chicken is cooked, and vegetables are tender. Prepare the noodles and add to the soup right before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

*This can also be made faster, not in a crockpot. Those directions go like this: Place all the ingredients into a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender. Add the noodles, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Friday, December 16, 2011

Soft Butter Rolls

I have been on the hunt for a good roll recipe for a long time. I have tried 3 or 4 different kinds in the last month or so. The ones that I have tried up to this point have been too sweet or too dry or had some other imperfection. These ones though, worked out wonderfully. 

It was lucky for me that these turned out. After googling "roll recipes" I found beautiful pictures of soft butter rolls. I clicked on the link and read all the directions on how to make them. I was stoked. When I got home and started to get my ingredients out, I realized that all the ingredients were dry ingredients with the exception of the butter. After unsuccessfully trying to find the rest of the recipe, I decided that I was dedicated enough to improvise and see what happened. 

These pretty, round rolls were the result.

Yield: 12 rolls

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp dry milk powder
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted

Put the yeast in the warm water and allow it to sit until it starts to dissolve and swell, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder together. In a small bowl, combine the egg and melted butter. Add in the dissolved yeast. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. 

Form the dough into a ball and put into a deep, well oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow raise until doubled in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours (I turn my oven on and put the bowl on top of it so the yeast gets a warm, happy environment).

After doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 pieces. Roll into smooth, round balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 375. Butter the rolls immediately after removing from the oven. 

Source: Heavily adapted from the Bread Experience Blog

Monday, December 12, 2011

Eggnog Cupcakes

I have never liked the idea of eggnog. To be completely honest, I'm not sure I ever tried it before Hunter made me buy him some and have a taste a few weeks ago. Something about the raw eggs always turned me off. 

While my small taste of eggnog wasn't life changing, and I'm not sure I could even handle a whole glass of it, I liked it enough to bake with. We had a little get together this last weekend and I made a number of goodies, this being one of them. It was a hit. When I heard, "Oh my gosh, this is so good" (accompanied by a dreamy, best food ever look) after the first bite, I knew they were a success.

As I'm sure you can tell from the picture, I finally broke down and bought a cupcake decorating kit. Totally worth every penny of the $20 I spent on it. I mean, aren't they pretty? And this is just the beginning. There will be many pretty cupcakes to come, rest assured. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention how ridiculously easy this recipe is. It might have taken me 5 minutes to prepare the batter. 

Yield: about 16 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/4 cup eggnog
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

For the frosting:
20 tbsp (2 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
3 1/2 tbsp eggnog

For garnish:
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In another medium bowl, combine the eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar, and sugar. Beat on medium-low speed until well blended. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake 22-24 minutes. Cool in the pan 5 minutes, then remove to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in a bowl and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar, salt, and nutmeg, and mix on medium-high until incorporated and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the eggnog and whip on medium-high until light and fluffy.

Put frosting in a pastry bag and decorate the cupcakes as desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Source: slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are high up on the list of my favorite deserts ever. They are simply wonderful - easy to make, require ingredients that are almost always already in my cupboard, and who can resist the perfectly textured chocolaty goodness? Certainly not me. 

Up until about a year ago I was still making brownies out of a box - which, don't get me wrong are very good. Then one of my friends got me a recipe book called Blissful Brownies. It is through this book that I learned that making brownies from scratch is just as easy as making them from a box and they taste oh so delightful. 

I wish my dinner plate could look like this every day.

Yield: 9 good sized brownies

8 oz butter (2 sticks), cut into small pieces
5 1/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips *

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 inch baking pan (an 11 x 7 inch pan would work too).

Put the butter and chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water until melted. Remove from the heat. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar, and mix well. Stir the eggs into the chocolate mixture, then beat into the flour mixture. Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

*You can add or subtract any of the extra trimmings. Hazelnuts can be omitted, as can the chocolate chips. You can add raisins or coconut. Whatever your heart desires.

Source: slightly adapted from Blissful Brownies by Love Food

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Let me tell you a story about sweet potatoes.

I found this recipe online and was stoked to try it! Unfortunately, because of the Thanksgiving holiday and travel, I was forced to wait a couple weeks before I could. When I went to pick up the ingredients, I couldn't find sweet potatoes - hello, main ingredient here! White sweet potatoes and about a million yams were my only options. I opted to buy the white sweet potatoes because I couldn't feel good about changing the main ingredient.

A few days later I was curious, well I had been curious since leaving the store but the time was coming to actually make the gnocchi so my curiosity peaked. How could the grocery store not have sweet potatoes? Why did the yams look soooo much like the white sweet potatoes with the exception of being a pretty orange color (like a good little sweet potato should be...)? I googled sweet potatoes vs. yams to see what I could find out. Making my amateur chef status blindingly obvious, I learned that yams and sweet potatoes are indeed the same thing. Awesome. 

The more I thought about this newly acquired information, the more I decided I needed real sweet potatoes to make my gnocchi with. The white ones just wouldn't do. So, I went to the store and bought myself 4 pounds of normal sweet potatoes. I ended up using the white sweet potatoes too (because what else was I going to do with them??), which is why I have pretty multi-colored gnocchi.

Fun fact about Tiffany: I like to cook in bulk. It makes me feel good to know that I can turn to my freezer and have ready made meals. Almost anytime a recipe says it can be frozen, I make sure I have enough to freeze and eat at a later date. 

Knowing this fun little fact, I decided to double the recipe (the recipe below reflects double the recipe so we can all have some frozen goodness for later)- which means that when I originally bought the white sweet potatoes, I bought double what the recipe called for. When I went back for normal sweet potatoes, I couldn't have less normal than I did white so I also bought double the amount. All this means that I was essentially going to have to quadruple the recipe. We. Have. So. Much. Gnocchi. I spent so much time rolling and cutting and shaping I don't even want to make it again for a year. Good thing I won't have to!

Luckily, it turned out tasting wonderfully and is definitely something we will eat again. This time around I sauteed it in olive oil and rosemary to give it a nice crisp outer covering and served it with Parmesan cheese. Don't get me wrong, this tasted lovely, but next time I am definitely making a sauce to go with it. I'm not sure what, but maybe something creamy with pesto or some sort of meat sauce. It will be delightful I have no doubt. This alone was too much of the same texture for me, and those who know me know that I have texture issues. It's good to have a base recipe though, right?


4 large sweet potatoes (or about 4 lbs total)
3 to 4 cups flour (from my experience, it will be closer to 4)
2 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt

Cook the sweet potatoes. I cooked mine in the oven at 450 degrees for 40 minutes, but if you prefer the microwave that is perfectly acceptable as well. 

Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them. Scoop them from the skins into a bowl and mash them until smooth. Then add the eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Mix with a spoon and then kneed until a dough forms. Gradually add additional flour until the dough is not sticky (I added the whole extra cup plus a little more before mine hit that point). If it's too sticky to roll, add more flour. 

Divide the dough into 4 parts. Using your hands roll out each piece into a very long, skinny roll.

Cut off small parts of the dough to form the gnocchi. 

At this point, you can freeze or prepare immediately. To freeze, I put them on parchment paper and rolled it up to nicely fit in a bag. Once frozen, they can be boiled immediately. To prepare, boil the gnocchi until they float, about 5 minutes. 

To prepare the gnocchi as I did here, heat a couple tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet with some about 2 tsp of salt and rosemary. Add the gnocchi and cook until slightly browned. Top with grated Parmesan. 

Source: A Couple Cooks blog

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Classic Mac & Cheese

Tragically, I was under the impression that Hunter didn't like mac & cheese for the first year of our marriage. This all stems from the fact that he would incessantly mock me for ordering mac & cheese at Noodles and Company every time we went. I don't think I ever asked how he felt about home baked mac & cheese. 

Then one day as we were browsing Annie's Eats looking for something to make for dinner, the first recipe on her page was for mac & cheese. I made a comment something like "it's really tragic that you don't like mac & cheese because I would try all of her recipes". His response was something like "what? I do like mac & cheese!"

I am so happy that we resolved this little misunderstanding. As it turns out, we are both big fans of this recipe as well as the other one I have tried. You can't go wrong with this cheesy pasta goodness. 

Yield: 8-10 servings

For the crumb topping:
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I like the pre-made ones at the store)
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and Pepper

For the pasta:
1 lb pasta (any shape you like)
6 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 tbsp flour
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
3 1/2 cups milk
1 lb colby jack cheese, shredded
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Ground black pepper

To make the bread crumb topping, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are a light golden brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta to the water and cook just until it begins to soften. Drain and leave in the colander. 

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic, dry mustard, and cayenne, cooking just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and milk and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheeses, whisking until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce. 

Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into a lightly greased 9x13" baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumb topping. * Bake 30-35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown. (You may want to place a baking sheet on the rack underneath the baking dish to catch any sauce that bubbles over.)

*At this point, the dish can be wrapped tightly with foil and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To serve, bake covered at 400 degrees until the filling is hot, about 40-45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are crisp, 15-20 minutes more. 

Source: Annie's Eats