Friday, December 31, 2010

Top of 2010

So it seems like everyone is doing a "Top 10 of 2010" post on their blogs.  I've always been a rebel, but this one sounded like fun.  I'm doing a Top 5 based on pageviews, and then a couple of my personal faves from the year that didn't make the list. 

And there are a couple of recipes that may not have made the top 5 based on pageviews, but were some of my favorites:

And what was one of my favorite things from 2010?  Welcoming a new member of our family!!

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's celebration, and may 2011 bring many amazing things for everyone!

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Painted Cookies

Have you ever read something, either online or in print, and forgotten to bookmark it so that you could go back and find it later?  Well, that happened to me recently.  Before Christmas I read a blog post somewhere about “painting” sugar cookies before they were baked, but when I went to find it again, I couldn’t. 

A (not so) quick Internet search revealed quite a few posts about the subject.  I found one at She Wears Many Hats that I remembered reading, and also one at Pioneer Woman.  Both of those, like most of the others, uses an egg yolk as the base for the paint.  I thought I remembered reading about a technique using evaporated milk instead, which was what I wanted to do.  I never did find one, so I decided to try it anyway and see what would happen!

For this little experiment, I used a sugar cookie mix.  I needed something fast and easy, and since I had bought some mixes when they were on sale I figured why not use one. 

Start by pouring a small amount (seriously, no more than a tablespoon really) of evaporated milk into a small cup or bowl.  Add a few drops of food coloring, stir, and --- instant cookie paint!  Repeat for each color and you’re good to go.

When I went to Michael’s last week I looked for some brushes in the cake and candy section.  I found a package of three for $1.69.  Because I’m cheap frugal and knew that I would need at least two sets, because heaven forbid the kids share, I walked two aisles over to the kids crafting section, and found brushes that were almost identical.  Six bucks for 144 brushes, plus a 40% off coupon.  Perfect!  They are not fancy brushes.  This is not fancy work.  Use what you have or can find!  Just make sure they are clean, since you will be using them on food.

The next step is to roll out your dough and cut out your shapes.  I just used a random assortment of cutters that was easily accessible.  Meaning I grabbed what I could because the natives were getting restless.  Anyway, set up the kids and let them go to town!

Both of my kids had fun with this, and I would probably be willing to do this again.  I’ll be honest, my blood pressure likely rose during this activity.  But that was due mostly to the fact that I decided to try this at naptime, because we needed something to do when neither of the little kids would sleep…probably not the best idea in hindsight! 

See this little monkey?  This would be the reason I didn’t want to use an egg yolk based paint! 

I liked the results of the cookies we did but based on the pictures I’ve seen, the ones using egg yolks do turn out with better colors.  You can also add colored sugar to the cookies before baking for more sparkle. 

Enjoy!  :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homemade Cinnamon Dolce Latte

I recently professed my love of coffee and fancy coffee drinks.  After the success of the Peppermint Mocha, I decided to tackle the Cinnamon Dolce Latte, another one of my favorites. 

According to the Starbucks website, it has flavors of "cinnamon, butter and brown sugar".  Well, I covered the cinnamon and brown sugar components, but left out the butter.  And you know what, I think it turned out quite well, if I do say so myself! 

I honestly wasn't sure if the cinnamon flavor in the syrup was going to be strong enough, but it was.  I will admit to being impatient and not letting it steep for very long, so the cinnamon flavor might develop more if you do actually let it sit and cool off first.  If you wanted it to be even stronger, you could always add a tiny bit of cinnamon oil to it as well.  But be careful -- a little of that goes a long way!

How much to make depends on how much you'll actually use.  I just made a single batch this first time, but considering how much I like it, I probably need to at least double it next time.  :)  And have I mentioned how handy this little gadget is?  Again, put it on your wish list!

Homemade Cinnamon Dolce Latte

6-8 ounces strong brewed coffee
6 ounces heated milk (I again used the fat-free half-and-half)
2-4 Tbsp cinnamon simple syrup, to taste (recipe follows)
whipped cream
cinnamon for sprinkling

In a large mug, mix together the coffee, milk, and cinnamon syrup.  Top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.  Enjoy.  Repeat if necessary.  ;)

Cinnamon Simple Syrup

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
6 inches of cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let boil 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Strain out cinnamon pieces and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!  :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Peanut Brittle

Can you believe that in one week, it will be Christmas?  Yeah, me either.  So not ready.  :)

The other thing I can't believe is that it's the last week for the 12 Weeks of Christmas cookies.  It has been a lot of fun.  I'm very glad to have participated, and would like to thank April for putting this all together.

My contribution this week is to put the spotlight on a post from last year about peanut brittle.  It's just not Christmas without peanut brittle, in my opinion, and it's perfect for sharing!  Click here for the link.

Enjoy, and I hope everyone has a great weekend, and a wonderful holiday!  :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Mocha Nut Cookies

It's Friday?  Again?  I think we have the same conversation every week.  Sorry about that.  If you'll remember, last week I talked about a cookie exchange that I was co-hosting.  It wound up being a small group of people, but it was a lot of fun.  I really should dedicate a post just to the cookie exchange, and the baked brie that fought back!

This week's recipe for Mocha Nut Cookies was one of the two recipes that I made for the exchange.  It was a new one for me, and with some modifications I think I like it.  The original recipe said that it would make balls, but mine spread a little more during baking, losing their rounded shape somewhat. 

I'll be honest, my notes trail off about halfway through the recipe, so I'm not 100% sure what I did!  I guess that means I need to make the recipe again to double check things.  This cookie seemed to be a hit at the exchange, so I'll take that as a good sign.  I replaced the instant coffee with espresso powder, and wow!  You could definitely tell why there was the word "mocha" in the title.  Next time, I'll cut back a bit on the espresso powder (I've made that change in the recipe below already). 

Also, I think that I may try rolling the dough into a log, chilling it, and then slicing the cookies before baking next time.  I just want to see what will happen.  These remind me a bit of a sable, and so that's why I thought I'd try the slice and bake method. 

You may also notice that, at least for the next couple of weeks, my blog has a new background.  Yeah.  Don't worry, I didn't make all that cutesy stuff from scratch.  I found a digital kit.  However, I spent about two hours messing with it.  Was it the best use of my time at the moment, considering I have 12,324 things on my to-do list?  Hmmm...probably not.  However, it sure is cute!  ;)

One more thing.  Is anyone else panicked that it's almost Christmas?  I am. 

Mocha Nut Cookies
adapted from Taste of Home

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp espresso powder (or 2 Tbsp instant coffee granules)
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, optional
Confectioners' sugar for dusting, optional

Preheat oven to 325'F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and espresso powder.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Gradually add the dry ingredients.  Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips, if using. 

Roll dough into 1-inch balls (I used my #40 disher).  Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Bake 14-16 minutes or until firm.  Let cool on baking sheets for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Yield:  4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy!  :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's up with me and TWD!

You might have noticed that I haven't been posting about Tuesdays with Dorie lately.  I thought I should give an official update about that. 

See, I joined TWD when the group was a year old.  I was so excited!  I've learned new things, and made dishes I never thought I would.  And I've found some new friends along the way.  :)

However, lately I just haven't been able to keep up.  I've taken a few breaks, due to being pregnant and having a baby, and picked back up here and there.  I thought I could do it.  I really did.  But one of my more (or less!) endearing traits is the habit of over extending myself.  It's something I've done all my life!  I'm learning to say "no"...occasionally! 

Since I didn't post enough in October or November, I have been officially removed from the TWD blogroll.  At first I thought about protesting, then I pouted, then I decided that maybe it was for the best.  I have enough commitments as it is, and frankly, I think it's easier on my mental health when I can bake what I want, when I want to!  ;) 

I absolutely love Dorie Greenspan and her books, and I've loved being a part of Tuesdays with Dorie.  I'll still be baking along when I can, just unofficially!  And now I can catch up on all those yummy recipes that I've missed for one reason or another. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Molasses Spice Cookies

I'm participating in (okay, co-hosting) a cookie exchange tomorrow.  When I got up this morning, I had two double batches of cookie dough in the refrigerator to bake.  I'm currently halfway through the baking process.  This is one of the recipes that I decided to try.  Yep...I tried not one, but two new recipes for a cookie exchange.  Eek!  I know there have already been a ton of molasses and/or ginger spice cookies made for the 12 weeks of Christmas cookies...but hey, why not another?  :)

If you like molasses, then these are a cookie for you.  If not?  Then walk on by.  You can most definitely tell they have molasses in them.  Which is not bad.  Unless you don't like molasses.  I happen to love the stuff, so I'm good to go. 

They spread a bit more than I expected, and are actually crispier than I thought they would be.  These cookies are good though!  And my little cookie monster approved of them. 

This recipe is scaled to make a large batch.  You could cut the recipe in half if you didn't want that many cookies.  I got just over 6 dozen from the recipe.

Molasses Spice Cookies
adapted from a Nestle recipe

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
additional granulated sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and 2 cups sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the molasses and mix well.  Gradually beat in the dry ingredients, just until combined.  Stir in the white chips and nuts.

Divide dough in half.  Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375'F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls (I used my #40 disher).  Roll in additional granulated sugar.  Place on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool slightly on baking sheets, then move to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield:  6 dozen

Enjoy!  :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Chowder

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week.  We did, even if it was crazy...but it always is!  It has decided to get cold lately, so I though it would be the perfect time to try out this new slow cooker recipe. 

Also, for a variety of reasons, we have decided to crack down on the unhealthy eating around here.  Yes, during the holidays.  I'm crazy like that.  In light of that, I used reduced fat dairy products in this, and while I didn't actually figure out what the nutrition facts would be, it is makes for a pretty healthy recipe.

Like many slow cooker recipes, this one came together rather quickly.  I did add an extra step of lightly sauteing the vegetables at the beginning, but that's because I wasn't getting the dish on as early as I'd planned, and I wanted to make sure they were well cooked.  You could most likely omit that step with no problems.

This was mostly a hit all around.  D and I really liked it.  I preferred it with a dollop of sour cream on top, but he liked it better without.  Munchkin fished out some of the chicken to eat, and while he kept blurting out "that's hot!" {spicy} and reaching for his glass, he kept going back for more.  Sprout...well, he wasn't really in an eating mode tonight.  He was in more of a whining mode.  It happens. 

I have a feeling that this recipe will definitely go into the "keeper" file.  Just a warning though, the El Pato sauce makes it rather spicy, so feel free to tone it down by using regular tomato sauce, and making sure to get mild enchilada sauce as well as mild tomatoes and green chilies.  Also, adding sour cream does cut the heat a bit.

And don't worry people.  For Christmas, I'm planning on getting myself an honest-to-goodness light setup so that I can take better pictures.  Well, at least the lighting will be better.  ;)

Chicken Enchilada Chowder
Adapted from Katy's Kitchen (amusing, right?) and Family Circle Quick and Easy Cooking

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained (RO*TEL)
1 (7 3/4 ounce) can El Pato Tomato Sauce (Mexican Hot Style)
1 (10 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2.25 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (12 ounce) package frozen Southwestern corn (or just plain whole kernel corn)
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Optional toppings:
     shredded cheese
     sour cream
     tortilla strips/chips

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Lightly saute the onion and bell pepper just until they begin to get tender.  Add the garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In the crock of a slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce and milk.  Stir in the onion mixture, chicken, beans, corn and spices and mix well.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4-5 hours. 

Divide into bowls and add desired toppings.

Enjoy!  :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Week 9

Wait, it's Friday?  How did that happen?  Well, I guess since yesterday was Thanksgiving, that would make today Friday.  In light of this revelation, I will be revisiting another past favorite for this week's addition to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies:  Double Shot Mocha Chunks.  They were good.  Very good. 

Sorry for the short post.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Enjoy!  :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gobble Gobble!

It's almost Thanksgiving.  Can you believe it?  I thought I'd share what's on our menu this year, and see what everyone else is cooking up.  :)

We are having a hard time deciding what to serve as the main dish this year.  Munchkin is convinced that it's not Thanksgiving if we don't have turkey "it's tradition!"  Actually, tradition around here is to serve something non-traditional.  I'm thinking pork loin.  We shall see.

Here's what else we have cooking up:

Cornbread dressing (family recipe)
Bacon Wrapped Green Beans by Our Best Bites
Sweet Potatoes from Pioneer Woman
Mashed Potatoes also from PW
Cranberry Sauce...ummmm, also from PW
Corn on the Cob (self-explanatory)
Yeast Rolls

Pecan Pie from Southern Plate
Sweet Potato Pie (my recipe)
Chocolate Cupcakes from Martha Stewart
and I'm debating Banana Pudding (my recipe)

That's what we've got so far.  We always make enough to feed an army, I swear.  What's going to be on your menu this year?

Friday, November 19, 2010

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Week 8

For this week's recipe, I am revisiting a cookie from early 2009 -- the Chocolate Fudge Cookie with Toffee and Dried Cherries.  It's a recipe that I received while participating in the Cookie Carnival (it is being hosted by someone different now, but still going on!). 

Anyway, this week has been just too crazy for me to get any baking done, so I thought I'd pull out an old recipe to share.  It was a really good one, and I may be baking it again for a cookie exchange that I'm co-hosting in a couple of weeks (eek!).  When I first got the recipe, I wasn't sure how they were going to turn out, but I liked them a lot! 

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Homemade Peppermint Mocha

Let me just get this out of the way and say that I love coffee.  I do.  I also love fancy coffee drinks.  It's a fact.  And in the winter, that means peppermint mochas. 

But I don't really want to pay upwards of $4 for one every day, so I've come up with own little version to make at home.  I must say that it tastes very good, and is actually quite easy to make. 

I know that several companies make flavored creamers, but I'm not a fan.  I have never liked the non-dairy creamers.  I've even tried the newer ones that are supposed to be made from milk and cream, but they didn't do it for me either. 

This recipe is what works for me.  Feel free to adapt it to your tastes {obviously}.  I don't have an espresso machine of any kind, so I just use strong brewed coffee.  I have a Keurig machine and love that I can make one cup at a time, and each cup can be different from the next.  No, I was not paid by the company to say that.  I just love my machine!  Anyway, I know that I can get some espresso blend cups.  I haven't tried them, but may.

Another product plug:  a few years ago D bought be one of these little gizmos.  It is handy for so many things, including mixing coffee drinks, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, and more.  Put one on your Christmas wish list if you don't already have one.  Seriously.  My kids even fight over who gets to use it. 

Ok, finally, the recipe.  :)  This doesn't have a "punch you in your face" peppermint flavor.  It's a little more subtle.  If you want a stronger flavor, I would suggest doubling the amount of peppermint extract in the syrup.

I am posting this without a picture.  Why?  Because Blogger is giving me problems, and since it's not one of my children, I can't ground it and send it to its room.  In the meantime, imagine how yummy, warm, and inviting a mug of this would look.  Hopefully later I can add the picture.  :)

Homemade Peppermint Mocha

1 heaping Tbsp Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
6 ounces heated milk (I use fat-free half-and-half; it's a contradiction, I know, but good!)
6-10 ounces strong brewed coffee
2-3 Tbsp peppermint simple syrup (recipe follows)
whipped cream (I used Reddi Whip)
crushed peppermint candies (I'm lazy, smart and found a jar of peppermint sprinkles at the store!)

In a very large mug, mix together the chocolate and milk.  Add the coffee and peppermint simple syrup and mix well.  Top with whipped cream and crushed peppermints (optional). 

Peppermint Simple Syrup

3/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Mix water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until boiling and sugar is dissolved.  Add extract and let cook a couple more minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  (I use a plastic squeeze bottle with a lid.)

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco seasoning is something that's used a lot around my kitchen.  I wanted to share my recipe that I use.  One nice thing about making it yourself is that {obviously} you can adjust the seasonings to fit your preferences.  This is what works for us. 

I will usually just make this up as needed, but you could certainly make a larger batch and store it with your spices to have on hand.  I will add this to whatever recipe I'm using it in, and then taste and adjust as needed for that particular use.  Sometimes it needs more salt.  Other times I'm in a garlic or oregano mood.  You get the idea!  :)

I keep the recipe on a little recipe holder thing that I made a few months ago.  How's that for technical?  It allows me to keep it handy, and is easy to clean if things get messy.  You'd think I would have it memorized, but no. 

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp corn flour or corn starch
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients and use where a packet of taco seasoning mix is called for.

For taco meat:  brown one pound of ground beef or turkey (drain fat if needed).  Add seasoning mix and 1/4-1/2 cup water.  Mix well, and allow to cook on low for 5 minutes to thicken. 

Enjoy!  :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Years!

I've been blogging for two years now! It's hard for me to believe it's been that long. I know I haven't been all that consistent with it, but it really has been fun!

This little anniversary actually snuck up on me. I was thinking last night that I needed to see when it was. I checked, and eek! November 6th. Guess maybe I should put it on my calendar or something so I don't forget it. :)

I wanted to do something special on the blog to celebrate. In typical Katy fashion, I'm going to be late to my own party, but I have a couple of things in the works that I will share soon!

I've been doing a lot of thinking (stressing) lately about blogging. I never set out to try to be a big-name blogger, land a book deal, or even make a little money off my blog. I am certainly not knocking those that have those aspirations. I just...don't. I just want to have fun, but I also tend to have a "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well" attitude. So I always want to be a better blogger. And I'm in the process of trying to figure out exactly what that means to me! :)

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! We are (knock on wood) having some beautiful weather right now, even if it is chilly at night.

Oh, if you're curious about the cake in the picture, it is Daddy's Coconut Cake from Southern Plate.  So easy, and soooo good.  I've only recently found the blog, but wish I'd found it sooner.  ;) 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mocha-Toffee Truffle Bars

This week's recipe comes straight from Betty Crocker herself.   Er, well, the Betty Crocker website anyway!  On a side note, I almost thought about trying to be Betty Crocker for Halloween, but ran out of time and didn't.  Maybe next year...

These bars are super rich!  They have a great chocolate flavor though, and the toffee bits blend in nicely.  Don't try one if you have a loose filling though.  Can you say sticky and chewy?  I would suggest cutting them into bite size pieces, especially for gift giving or treat platters.

I sent about half of them to work with D and apparently they disappeared quickly, with lots of requests for the recipe coming soon after!

The original recipe can be found here.  It is quite quick and easy to whip together, since it starts with a packaged sugar cookie mix.  Now, I admit that I don't usually like using mixes, but they can definitely be nice to have on hand, especially when you need to get something baking quickly during the hectic holiday season!

I didn't really make any changes, other than using bittersweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate, I only had 1 cup of toffee bits on hand, and I used espresso powder instead of regular instant coffee.  Mine took much longer than 2 hours to cool, but I think that my glass baking dish probably held the heat in longer than a metal one would have. 

Enjoy!  :)