Saturday, March 31, 2012

Countdown to Easter

It’s been a busy couple of months, so Easter, unfortunately, is pretty much going to pass me by as far as baking and decorating.  Thank goodness for my not-so-able-bodied-but-still-a-trooper 85-year-old mother who has agreed to continue her tradition of Easter brunch.  Last Easter we were in a complete daze after being struck by the Good Friday tornado.  This Easter I’m still in a daze, but a happy one, busily decorating a new house.

No matter how busy, I still enjoy putting Easter baskets together for my sons.  Now in their twenties, they never stopped loving these fun baskets that I manage to create year after year.  Sometimes it gets to be a real challenge coming up with just the right vessel, so when I found this soft Batman basket I knew it was perfect for my Batman-loving son.

What are you making for Easter?

This post is linked to:
Seasonal Sundays

Friday, March 30, 2012

Chewy Toffee Almond Bars

Ever since hitting on such great success with the mushroom soup recipe that I found on the package of Monterrey mushrooms, I find myself stalking packaging these days.  Today the people at Hershey’s enticed me with this recipe on the back of the Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits bag and suddenly I had to make them. You’re probably wondering why a frantic woman like me would stop what she’s doing to make cookies.  Honestly, I don’t know.   Perhaps it’s some form of brain damage. What I do know is that these cookies are addicting!  I don’t know if it is the caramel deliciousness, the chewy texture, the nutty goodness, or the shortbread crust, but I think, given enough spare time (that, thankfully, I did not have), I could have polished off the pan of them all by myself. 

Gather your ingredients...

Here's the recipe, try them for yourself, and don't say I didn't warn you!

Irresistable, no?

This post is linked to:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lemon Cream Scones

When the weather turns warm I crave citrus. Lemon pound cake, freshly squeezed lemonade, lemon chicken, and lemon scones. For this morning’s breakfast I rummaged around in the fridge, grabbing anything lemony that I could find and tried out this recipe. Zesty and refreshing, thanks to the candied lemon peel that I added in place of the called for dried fruit, this was a wonderful way to start the morning.

Lemon Cream Scones

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½  tsp. salt
3/4 cup dried fruit such as cranberries, cherries, currants, or chopped apricots*
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 Tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Stir in dried fruit and 1 tsp. lemon zest. Add heavy cream and mix until just moistened. Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead gently. Roll or pat into a 10-inch circle, 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Arrange wedges 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Mix confectioners’ sugar, cream and zest together in a small bowl until desired consistency.  Drizzle over cooled scones. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I used leftover candied lemon from the holiday fruitcake for an extra zesty lemon taste

This post is linked to:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mocha Shortbread Cookies

It has been one heck of a month.  Thank you for sticking with me.  Between the jaunt between two houses (painting and decorating one, cleaning and de-cluttering the other), getting the mister out of cardiac rehab (can you say Cranky?), and my brand new LG washer exploding with a bang (trapping clothes inside the drum), I haven’t had a lot of time to bake.  But let's face it, when a girl needs a cookie, a girl needs a cookie and this combination of mocha and chocolate (not to mention one bowl/one pan ease), I swear, is the only thing keeping me sane.  It’s a Martha Stewart recipe straight out of her Cookies book and she gets a big thumbs up on this one.  These cookies are delicious and can be tossed together in a flash.  Baking them in a cake pan makes for a nicely shaped shortbread, easily removed without a bit of trouble.  The taste is densely chocolaty with a nice touch of mocha.  These cookies very well may keep me out of therapy.

Mocha Shortbread Wedges

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 round cake or spring form pan with parchment paper. (Who has time for parchment?  I used Pam.) Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Stir in espresso.

With an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until pale and creamy.  Add confectioners’ sugar and beat well.  Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until well combined.

Pat dough evenly into pan.  Bake 20 minutes, or until puffed at the edges.  Remove from oven, and let sit 5 minutes, then cut into 8 wedges.  Let cool completely on a rack.

  Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature to up to 1 week.

Cooling in the pan.

This post is linked to:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chicken Louisa

The tarragon in this picture is from a windowsill kitchen garden.  It did very little all winter long, but come spring, it shot up over a foot in less than two weeks.  Isn't it funny how Mother Nature just seems to know when it's time to grow and when it's time to remain dormant?
Gathering ingredients for making dinner.

Here's a chicken recipe from a 2000 issue of Gourmet magazine.  A lover of both growing tarragon and using it as a flavoring, I’m always on the lookout for recipes that not only call for it as an ingredient, but do so in the fresh stage.  This dish is a wonderful weekday meal, but its simple elegance also makes it perfect for a party.

Makes 4 servings.

4 (1/3-inch-thick) chicken cutlets (1 1/2 lb)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 or 5 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 extra-large chicken-bouillon cube, crumbled
Garnish: finely chopped fresh chives

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Brown chicken on both sides in 2 batches, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Add shallot to skillet and cook, stirring, until tender, about 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze by boiling over high heat, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Stir in cream, tomatoes, tarragon, and bouillon cube, then simmer, stirring, until tomatoes are softened and sauce begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Return chicken, with any juices accumulated on plate, to skillet and simmer until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve immediately.

This post is linked to:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Renewal of Spring

Our first Daffodil of the season nestled in between a pair of chicken salt and pepper shakers.

For those of you who happened to have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while, I thank you; it’s nice to be missed.  It’s been a frantic couple of weeks.  I came down with the flu, my husband went into the hospital for an angioplasty and ended up staying for a quadruple bypass, and I have been running back and forth between two houses.  In such cases, one neither feels like nor has time to cook.  Fortunately, spring has sprung, the birds are chirping, the flowers blooming, I am better, the mister is out of rehab, and I’m almost ready for the big reveal on the decorating project that I first mentioned to you here.  So stay with me, there is more (LOTS more) to come!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mini Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

A hundred years ago this past week the Oreo cookie was born.  I think I grew up on these cookies (which certainly explains my hips); I don’t think I ever ate one without breaking it apart.  In honor of Nabisco and the iconic Oreo, here is a recipe for an Oreo-type cookie that you can make at home. It comes from one of the delightful "small batch" books by Debby Maugans.  If you've not treated yourself to the experience of her tasty treats that whip up in no time and in a batch small enough to finish off in one sitting without feeling guilty, then you are seriously missing out.  Click the link and check them out.  I've yet to have tried anything (these cookies included) that haven't been delicious.

Mini Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
From Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers by Debby Maugans

 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
1 ounce fine-quality semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
Vanilla cream filling (recipe follows)

Position a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 375 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Place the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to blend.  Place the sugar, butter, and egg yolk in a small deep mixing bowl; beat with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until blended, about 20 seconds.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 20 seconds.  Beat in the melted, cooled chocolate.  Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat just until the dough is blended, 15-20 seconds.  Portion and roll the dough in your hands to form 24 equal-size balls, and place them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1-1/2 inches apart.  Press the cookies to flatten them using the bottom of a buttered and sugared drinking glass.  Bake the cookies until they are firm, 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Sandwich two cookies together with vanilla cream filling.

Makes 12 sandwich cookies

Vanilla Cream Filling

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening, or unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon heavy (whipping) cream, milk, or water
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Place the butter, shortening, cream, vanilla, and salt in a small bowl and mix with a fork until a soft, smooth paste forms.  Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until the filling is well blended and smooth.  Cover and refrigerate the filling until firm enough to spread, about 15 minutes.

NOTE: To make larger sandwich cookies, form the dough into 14 balls; press and bake 10-12 minutes and fill the cookies as directed.

Makes about 1/4 cup
This post is linked to:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mysterious Cinnamon Rolls

Today I am cooking from the books. What cookbook you ask?  No cookbook at all, this recipe comes from a delicious mystery by Krista Davis called The Diva Cooks a Goose (A Domestic Diva Mystery).  Her Diva series is a fun one, and, as an added bonus, each book comes with an assortment of recipes in the back of the book that were mentioned throughout the story.  If you're anything like me your mouth will be watering the entire time you read this book! 

A big fan of the bread machine, I decided to give Krista’s ABM Cinnamon Rolls a try.  Here is the recipe right out of the book.  There are many more, but you're just going to have to buy the book to get those!  

I made these exactly as the recipe states -- with wonderful results, I might add -- but I turned mine into Butter Pecan Rolls by using a different topping (see recipe below) on mine instead of the cream cheese frosting.  They are excellent either way, so try them both.


In each of two 9-1/2 x 5 x 3 metal  loaf pans (I used glass pans and melted everything in the microwave.) mix ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup butter and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup.  Heat slowly, stirring frequently until blended.  Remove from heat. Sprinkle 1/3 cup pecans in each pan.

Ready for the oven.

Hot from the oven. They must cool about 10 minutes before you invert them onto a cooling rack.
Buttery, sugary, pecan-y goodness!