May 2016 in Review, and Christmas Cookie #5
A favorite photo…
A few highlights…
- School year ends
- A family wedding with lots of festivities
- Visit to St. Louis, complete with a backyard Senegalese meal and lots of good family time
And a cookie recipe to go with it!
These pretty mint swirls are fun to make with kids, since they can help with the rolling and swirling. They make a colorful addition to Christmas platters. The recipe originally came from Light and Tasty magazine.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
Divide dough into thirds. Stir red food coloring into one portion of dough; stir green food coloring into another portion. Leave remaining dough plain. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Divide each portion of dough into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-in. rope. Place a red, a green and a plain rope next to each other. Cut through all three ropes at 1-in. intervals, forming sets of three differently colored doughs. Repeat.
Roll each set of doughs into a ball; place balls 3 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten to 1/8-in. thickness with a glass dipped in additional sugar. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
March 2016 in Review, and Christmas Cookie #3
A favorite photo…
A few highlights…
- Katya turned 8
- Spring break with family in San Antonio, TX
- Favorite Easter traditions (especially of egg dying)
- An especially good women’s retreat with our church
And a cookie recipe to go with it!
Cream Cheese Almond Bars
These are one of Than's annual favorites. They should be kept refrigerated, but keep well for a week or more. They get a little messy when you cut them into small servings, but I do it anyway because they are deliciously rich.
Crust: Cut butter into dry ingredients. Press into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Filling: Mix sugar and cream cheese until well creamed. Beat in eggs and almond extract until fluffy. Pour over hot crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. The layer of filling might look a little thin, but it really is enough! Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.
Frosting: Cream sugar and butter together well. Add milk and almond extract and mix until fluffy and easy to spread. Adjust consistency with more powdered sugar or milk as needed. Spread evenly onto baked, cooled bars. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and press them gently into the frosting. Cover and chill to set.
January in Review, and Christmas Cookie #1
A favorite photo…
A few highlights…
- Returning from Senegal
- Sharing photos and trip stories with so many kind audiences
- Settling back into routines (and getting snow!)
And a cookie recipe to go with it!
Hot Cocoa Cookies
These were near the top of Nathan's list this year, and are always popular at my recital. They just look so festive. The soft texture of the base cookie is also appealing. The original recipe is from glorioustreats.com via Pinterest.
In a medium saucepan or microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
In a mixer bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and vanilla on low until well combined.
Add the melted chocolate mixture and blend well.
Gently mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined.
Cover the dough and refrigerate about 1 hour. If making the dough a day ahead, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease at least two baking sheets. Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to put the dough on the prepared sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake about 12 minutes.
While the cookies bake, cut large marshmallows in half for a total of 50 marshmallow pieces. (You can also use 4-5 mini marshmallows per cookie). When the cookies have baked, remove the tray from the oven. Press one marshmallow half (or 4-5 mini marshmallows) onto each cookie. Return the hot cookies to the oven and bake another 3 minutes or until the marshmallows have puffed up and adhered to the cookie.
Allow cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
When cookies are cool, combine all icing ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Icing should be pourable but not too runny, so adjust consistency with additional powdered sugar or hot water.
Place cookies on cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch drips. Spoon a small amount of icing on top of each marshmallow. After icing just a few cookies, top with sprinkles before the icing sets. Continue icing and sprinkling until everything looks festive.
Allow icing to dry and set for at least 30 minutes before serving.
One more fall post, and then I promise some pictures from our Thanksgiving travels, followed by lots of Christmas recipes.
These cookies won Nathan’s vote for favorite fall treat. I think he grabbed one every time he walked past the cookie jar! Maybe that’s why he is almost tall enough to look me right in the eye… Love this growing young man so much!!
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
These soft cookies are full of satisfactory fall flavor while still meeting my need for chocolate. I got the recipe from a good friend at a cookie exchange many years ago, and it is certainly on our autumn treat rotation. Thanks, Becki!
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Beat butter and brown sugar in a large mixer bowl until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Beat in pumpkin.
With mixer on low, add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix just until combined.
Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and nuts if desired. Don't overmix.
Drop by rounded spoonful or cookie scoop onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 about 12 minutes or until set and beginning to brown on the bottom. Try not to overbake--Nathan loves them soft!
Katya’s favorite fall treat has now been made 4 times this season! It turns out that these cider caramels are pretty popular, and the more we hand out as gifts the more requests we get. Katya helped me make the first batch, learning a lot about both the waiting and the rushing that goes into home candy making. Katya left the cooking of subsequent batches up to me, but both she and Nathan had a wonderful time handing out these delectable treats to teachers and friends. Yum!
(And no, there are no leaves in the caramels–the photo shows Katya licking off the caramel spoon in one hand while doing a wax-leaf dipping project with the other. Crazy kid!)
Apple Cider Caramels
These delicious homemade caramels have a slight spiced cider flavor that makes them particularly special. The temperature of candy making is always a bit tricky, but even if they turn out harder than desired they can be broken apart with a mallet and enjoyed just the same.
Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for 15-20 minutes or until cider is reduced to 1/3 cup. Keep an eye on it--it goes from thick to burned pretty fast!
Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Coat with a bit of cooking spray or rub with the butter wrapper to grease. Set aside.
While the cider is boiling, get out a second saucepan. Pour 1/3 cup whipping cream into a glass measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1/2 cup. Pour that into the empty saucepan. Add sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees. (At my altitude, it is actually 222 degrees).
While sugar mixture heats, keep pouring the apple cider into a clean glass measuring cup until it is only 1/3 cup. When it has reduced enough, pour it into that measuring cup and let it cool. While it cools, stir in remaining 2/3 cup cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Mix well.
When the sugar mixture has reached temperature, remove it from heat and slowly whisk in the cider cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until everything is melted and mixed.
Return the pan to low heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees (236 degrees at my altitude). This part can take a really long time--sometimes 20 minutes or more!
Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Careful, it is a bit tricky to pour! Let the caramels cool completely at room temperature. It takes several hours, so try just leaving it overnight.
Hopefully the caramels are soft enough that you can use kitchen shears to cut them into long strips, and then cut them into 1/2 inch squares. You can try to individually wrap them in squares of waxed paper, or put them into mini muffin papers which is much easier!
Recipe from Our Best Bites: http://ourbestbites.com/2010/11/apple-cider-caramels/
Sometimes my caramels set up unusually hard, and I have to break them into bite-sized pieces with a kitchen mallet. Sometimes they are a bit soft and when I put them in the mini muffin papers they gradually take on the shape of their container. Either way, they taste good and are totally worth the work!
These were popular at a Sunday lunch gathering so I am sharing the recipe for those of you who asked. In my personal opinion they were a bit too far on the sweet side, but that didn’t seem to keep lots of other people from enjoying them!
Caramel Apple-Nut Bars
Sweet autumn bar cookie with layers of oatmeal, apple, and caramel sauce.
Heat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of 9x13 baking pan.
In large bowl, beat 2 cups of flour, the oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter with electric mixer on low speed until crumbly. Press about 3 cups of mixture in prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes.
While bottom crust bakes, mix caramel topping and 3 Tbsp. flour together in a small bowl.
When crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle with apple and pecan pieces. Drizzle with caramel mixture. Sprinkle with remaining crust mixture.
Bake 25-30 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into bars.
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker: The Big Book of Cookies
These decadent bar cookies were a definite hit at our Sunday lunch gathering. Salty and sweet, they make up quickly and are eaten just as quickly!
Salty Caramel Peanut Bars
These salty-sweet treats are appealing to the eye and to the taste buds.
Heat oven to 350. Line 15x10x1 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in mixer bowl and stir thoroughly. Add butter and cut in until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Press mixture into prepared pan. Bake 18 minutes.
While crust bakes, microwave ice cream topping 30 seconds or until of drizzling consistency. Pour into a small bowl and stir in 3 Tbsp. flour.
When crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle with peanuts and chocolate chips. Drizzle evenly with caramel sauce mixture. Sprinkle evenly with coarse salt.
Bake 12-14 minutes longer or until caramel is bubbly. Remove from oven and cool completely, about 1 hour. Refrigerate if needed to set chocolate. Cut into 8 rows by 6 rows. Store covered at room temperature.
Recipe from Betty Crocker: The Big Book of Cookies
These bars have a simple ingredient list and come together quickly. They are also fairly economical, making them nice for large group catering. They capture the flavor of a snickerdoodle with the soft richness of a blondie. Than says “YUM.”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with cooking spray.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in salt, egg, and vanilla until well combined.
Add flour and cream of tartar. Mix until no streaks of dry remain. Dough will be very thick.
Scrape dough into prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.
Bake for 30 minutes or until bars are set and edges are just very lightly browned. Cool in the pan before slicing.
I got this recipe at a cookie exchange. (Thanks, SL!) It makes rich, sweet, pretty layered bars that are always a hit. They also keep well, so they are nice for making ahead.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
In a mixer bowl, combine first 6 ingredients (2 cups flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, baking soda, and salt).
Dump half of the oat/flour mixture into the prepared pan. Press to create a bottom crust with no holes. If needed, use a bit more than half the mixture to make sure the pan is well covered.
Bake bottom crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Mix the remaining 6 Tbsp. flour into the caramel ice cream topping. Stir until evenly combined. Chop nuts.
When the partially baked crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Then sprinkle nuts on top. Pour caramel/flour mixture evenly over that. Finally, crumble the remaining flour/oat mixture on top to form a final layer.
Return pan to the hot oven and bake an additional 30-40 minutes. The caramel should be hot and bubbly and the oatmeal topping lightly brown.
Allow bars to cool thoroughly before cutting. Sometimes the edges are hard to get off of the pan, but you can pick them off for nibbling after you have cut the rest of the bars out of the middle! Store in the refrigerator for best results.
Another recipe for you today from the 89th birthday party. This one is a good breakfast or brunch or appetizer option, and I am sure you could add other toppings to these moist little crustless quiches. The ricotta cheese is what makes this recipe different, and I like the change in texture that it gives. These are also nice because they are easy to make ahead and reheat for serving.
Spinach and Cheese Tartlets
(cut from the Dierbergs grocery store recipe magazine) Crustless quiche with sophisticated flavor... simple, yet elegant!
Coat mini muffin cups with no-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese and eggs; stir to combine. Add spinach, cheddar cheese, Bisquick, sour cream, melted butter, and spices. Stir to combine.
Using small cookie scoop, divide spinach mixture evenly among prepared muffin cups.
Bake at 375 for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pans for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen edges of tartlets from pan and carefully remove; cook completely on wire rack. Store in refrigerator. Warm in 350 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes before serving.
Cooked tartlets may be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in refrigerator.