December 15, 2017

Marble Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
2-3 drops peppermint extract
pinch salt

nonpareils for sprinkling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extract. With the mixer running slow beat the flour into the butter mixture. Remove half of the mixture to a bowl. Add the cocoa to the dough in the mixer, and mix until well-incorporated. 


Fill the cookie press fitted with a disk of your choice (I used tree) with the dough, alternating tablespoons of chocolate and plain dough. 

Press dough 1 inch apart onto ungreased, unlined nonstick baking sheets. Sprinkle with nonpareils Bake 8-12 minutes or until set. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.  

Yield: 1 1/2-2  dozen cookies (this recipe can be easily doubled)
My thoughts:
I was wondering why peppermint is such a popular flavor at the holidays, I mean wouldn't something seasonal like citrus be a more natural choice? Thanks to living in the modern world, I found this article that asks this important question. Apparently candy canes started out as a stick sugar candy given to children to keep them from being noisy in church? I'm a little skeptical. Apparently no one knows why peppermint flavoring was added or why they were striped. My guess is that like so many food origin stories is that the guy probably had peppermint flavoring and red dye on hand and voila. It is an eye-catching combo and there weren't too many peppermint candies out there save the York Peppermint Pattie.

It also credits Bobs for popularizing candy canes after the invention of an automated candy cane machine that made it possible to make curved candy canes vs the peppermint sticks that had been popular. I have to say, Bobs are far and away the best commerical candy canes out there, annoying lack of apostrophe aside, so I am not surprised they are were at the forefront of the candy cane revolution.

Anyway, it seems like no one knows but I do love peppermint and the holidays are as good an excuse as any other to make something pepperminty. These cookies pair it up with its BFF, chocolate and create a refreshing crisp little cookie. I only made a small batch because we are only two people but feel free to double to triple the recipe, it should be fine.

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December 13, 2017

Sauerkraut-Spiked Latkes



Ingredients:
4 cups grated Russet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
1 cup sauerkraut, well drained
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup potato starch
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil

Directions:

In a large cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan, heat about 1/4 inch oil.

Place the potato and sauerkraut into a metal sieve or colander over a large bowl. Press out any liquid. Pour out the liquid from the bowl and place the drained potatoes and sauerkraut in the bowl on top of the remaining (should be dry-ish) starch. Stir in pepper, egg, and the potato starch. Form into flat patties. If they will not hold their shape, stir in additional potato starch until they do. Fry in hot oil, flipping halfway through, until just golden, about 8 minutes.

Drain on paper towel lined plates. Serve hot, with sour cream. Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley for some color.



Yield: about 10 latkes, depending on size.



My thoughts:
I've had the idea for sauerkraut-spiked latkes for some years now. I know this because I have a blank draft entitled "Sauerkraut Latkes" dated 2009. Finally, I have actually made them! An aside: we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah but somehow it is the non-Jewish person (me) who makes the latkes every year and it was the Jewish person (my husband) who wanted a Christmas tree (which we finally bought and now have up with only food ornaments).

Anyway, we both love sauerkraut so I am sure that is why I had the idea and then ignored it all these years. As my husband says, there is nothing that epitomizes Jewish food better than combining fatty, starchy and pickled foods and these latkes hit all three. They are super yummy, of course, and you have to eat fried foods for Hanukkah so why not go crazy! We ate an embarrassing amount of these at in one sitting. They got super crispy (maybe thanks to using just potato starch? I normally make latke using either just matzo meal or a combo) yet very tender inside. You want them golden brown inside, too light and the insides might not be cooked enough. The sauerkraut added a nice tang but wasn't overpowering. I'd totally make these again. And maybe top them with some lox to be fancy.

Some notes:

  • Russet (i.e. baking) potatoes only, you need a starchy, "dry" potato. 
  • Potato starch can be found anywhere you can buy "Jewish" or kosher groceries. Japanese, Korean or Filipino grocery stores should have it too. Use the leftovers to make karaage.
  • You can use homemade or jarred sauerkraut (we haven't made sauerkraut yet this year so I used Wildbrine Sauerkraut I bought at Costco which is pretty close to my homemade version)



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December 11, 2017

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies



Ingredients:

5.3 oz bar (70%) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup bittersweet chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

for the topping:
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
handful bittersweet chips




Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray with baking spray or grease and flour one 8x8 inch baking pan. Set aside

In a saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa, and chocolate together over low heat. Stir occasionally, and when the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, malted milk powder and baking powder. Set aside

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly stream the chocolate mixture into the eggs and mix to combine. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is thick and glossy. Fold in chips. Pour into prepared pan.

Heat peanut butter over low heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Pour over brownies and smooth to cover. Sprinkle with chips.

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with one or two crumbs. Cool completely in pan, on a wire rack. Cut into 9 or 12 squares. They are a little messy thanks to the peanut butter topping so if you are transporting them, don't stack them.

Note: I did not try this using natural peanut butter. If you do, do at your own risk :)
My thoughts:
I wouldn't say I have a love-hate relationship with peanut butter, it is more of a love-indifference relationship. I like peanut butter but sometimes months, even a year can go by without me thinking of it at all, much less eating it. I wouldn't turn down a peanut butter oatmeal cookie but it wouldn't occur to me to make them myself or to eat a peanut butter sandwich. Then suddenly, a switch goes off and I find myself wanting a peanut butter open-faced sandwich (I do not like peanut butter and jelly ever) on my favorite sliced brioche, eat peanut butter on apple slices and spreading peanut butter on marshmallows. Only the tops of the full-sized ones; I'm not a monster. For some reason, the latter half of 2017 has been a peanut butter season and I've been buying jars at a somewhat alarming rate. It was during such madness that I made these brownies so I could finish the jar and start a new one (much like Ramona Quimby, I think the first spoonful out of a new jar tastes the best). Luckily they turned out well. It has a dark chocolate flavor and lots of peanut butter thanks to the chips and the smear of peanut butter on top. It is as if Reese's Cups were as tasty as they used to be and married a brownie. Yum.

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December 08, 2017

Ginger Spiced Cranberry-Apple Butter



Ingredients:

8 cups peeeled, diced (I used Jonagold) apples (about 10-12 medium apples)
12 oz fresh cranberries
1 large cinnamon stick
3/4 cup water or apple cider
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 2-inch knob fresh ginger

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed pot (I used a 5-quart cast-iron enameled braiser). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally and uncovered, until the apples are very tender and falling apart.




Remove and discard the ginger and cinnamon stick. The ginger should be easy to find because unlike the apples, it should still be firm. Blend, using an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until very smooth, carefully as the apple mixture will be very hot and sticky. If the mixture is not at apple butter consistency, return to heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until it reaches the proper thickness.


When it is proper thickness, pour into clean, sterlized jars and cool completely and refrigerate up to 3 weeks or ladle when warm into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.


Yield: about 5 8-oz jars


Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is an Amazon list of my favorite products for canning, including the Blue Book. (I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites to help off-set the cost associated with running this blog.)



My thoughts:
I've made a few batches of apple butter over the years but only in the slow cooker, not the stove top. We like to go to the Berkeley Springs Apple Butter Festival where they make the apple butter in the town square over a wood fire (although we normally buy it from the cheaper place around the corner that makes in over a wood fire in a parking lot-- not as picturesque but a buck's a buck and I figure they can use the business) but we didn't make the trip this year. I almost didn't make apple butter this year either but Matt bought like a bushel of apples last month to take a to an event and we ended up with a ton of apples leftover. They've been sitting in cold storage (aka my enclosed, uninsulated porch) until today when I thought I'd finally make something with them.

Since it is now December and I am over the whole faking I am excited about fall thing, I thought I'd make a slightly more festive and seasonally appropriate apple butter by adding a ton of spices and cranberries. This takes it right into winter, right? I'm planning to give these out to friends and family right now so I didn't bother canning them but if you want to give them out as gifts (and you should! only fools wouldn't love a jar of this sweet-tart spicy goodness) please can it to make it shelf-stable. Don't give the gift of botulisum this Christmas (or Hanukkah!). The cran-apple butter is just as creamy as the regular but with just a hint of tartness from the cranberries that really takes it to the next level.


Try using the apple butter in one of these recipes.
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December 06, 2017

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Rice Krispies Chocolate Cookies



Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup bittersweet (60% cocoa) chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
2/3 cup puffed rice cereal (Rice Krispies)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.


In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweetened butter and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and puffed rice, distributing them evenly.

Form cookies by dropping 1 tablespoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Bake for exactly 12 minutes; the cookies will look slightly shiny and soft, but the bottoms should be lightly browned and crisp. Remove gently slide the cookies still on the parchment to a wire rack to cool for 2 minutes or until set. Remove the parchment and continue to cool the cookies on the wire rack until fully cooled.


Yield: about 1 1/2 dozen fairly large cookies (I used this cookie scoop)




My thoughts:
I've been a cookie making kick lately and I've been trying to mix up what kinds I make. Peanut butter chips are back in stores again thanks to the holiday baking season so I've been stocking up. I don't know why they aren't available in all stores all year long! The same with the bittersweet chips, they are tricky to find off season too.

Anyway, I thought I'd make the classic peanut butter/chocolate combo with a twist: Rice Krispies. I've made cookies with cereal before so I know it could be good but I wasn't sure if Rice Krispies stand out enough. It turns out that they did, they added a bit of a crunch and malty-rice flavor to the cookie that was a fun change.

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December 04, 2017

Chicken Cordon Bleu Baked Frittata


Ingredients:
2  cups cubed, cooked chicken
4 oz fresh spinach
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely shredded Gruyère
1/4 cup milk
10 eggs
3 oz thin sliced lean serrano ham, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft. Add the spinach and chicken and cook until the spinach is wilted.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, cheese salt, and pepper until fluffy*. Fold in the , vegetables/chicken mixture and ham.

Oil an 8x8-inch baking dish. Pour the mixture into the dish and bake for 40 minutes or until fully set in the middle. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Slice into 9 squares and serve.


*I love my egg beater for this task.



My thoughts:
I am so happy I discovered baked frittatas a few years back. I had been making frittatas the old fashioned way by starting them on the stove top but this way so much easier! It is sort of like strata but there no layers. Anyway, they are super easy and when you make them in an 8x8 inch baking dish they are the perfect size for dinner with leftovers (they reheat remarkably well in the microwave or oven)--so many baked egg dishes assume you are serving a huge crowd! 

For this baked frittata, I used some leftover cooked chicken (even better it, it was leftover Costco rotisserie chicken I had froze so bonus points for using up leftovers), some Gruyère and serrano ham (thanks Aldi for carrying this stuff on the regular and cheap*!) for a sort of riff on chicken cordon bleu but without the frying and some spinach tossed in so I got some veggies in. Super easy, super satisfy and best of all, super tasty. The cheese and serrano ham add a ton of flavor that really makes the dish. Serve it with a light vegetable dish or just with some crusty bread. 



*Insert shameless plug for my Aldi fan blog for which I do totally for free and with no involvement by Aldi here.


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December 01, 2017

Honey Roasted Peanut Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares


Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cup bittersweet chips (60% cocoa) or semi-sweet chips
2/3 cup honey roasted peanuts



Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour one 8x8 pan.


In a medium-sized bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweetened butter and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips and peanuts, distributing them evenly.

Press the dough into the prepared pan in an even layer, taking care to touch all sides of the pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the edges golden brown and only 1-2 crumbs comes out on a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 24 squares.


My thoughts:
I normally don't buy honey roasted peanuts (or any nuts at all to be honest) but I bought some to make the Halloween Chex Mix with so I've been snacking on them. I found they were even better if I mixed them with dark chocolate chips (so obvious! peanut butter and chocolate is classic) but eating bowls of chips and nuts seemed a little unseemly somehow. So I thought I'd make them more acceptable (and shareable!) by turning the combo into cookies. I've made a lot of drop cookies this year and a few spritz so I thought I'd make bar cookies instead. Nice, thick, chocolate-y cookies.

I used all dark brown sugar to give it a bit of a chewy texture which I love. The chocolate is awesome of course and keeps the whole cookie from being too sweet despite the sweetened nuts. The nuts add a nice toasty note and a touch of honey flavor. 


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