February 26, 2011

Chai Sugar Cookies

Remember I told you about my new love, cardamom?  We had a date today.  Well, it was more like a cardamom-palooza than just a date ... but let's stick with calling it a date. 

Mark had to work today, and it's always dangerous to leave me by myself on a Saturday.  Out came the to-be-tried recipe lists, and when all was said-and-done, I had put three cardamom cookie recipes through the ringer - Chai Sugar Cookies, Chai Shortbread (naked and chocolate-dipped ... the chocolate-dipped was my own brain-child), and Sparkling Cardamom Cocoa Drops.  But I don't want to overwhelm you with my new love, so I'll introduce you to it slowly - starting with the Chai Sugar Cookies.  (Side note:  My unofficial "official" tasters need to prepare themselves for a tasting care package - you know who you are!)

For the Chai Sugar Cookies, you start with the same-ol'-same-ol' stuff you'd think of for a sugar cookie - butter, sugar, eggs, flour, - but then you add this wonderful combination of spices that makes chai chai:

The chai line-up ... vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, & black pepper.
Chill your dough for a bit.  Then roll it into little balls, dip the balls in sugar ...


Yummy little chai sugar balls.

... bake 'em up, and enjoy! ... perhaps with a cup of chai tea.



Aren't those crackled tops pretty?


Chai Sugar Cookies
Source:  Adapted from McCormick Gourmet
Ingredients
2 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper (I used 20 cranks of freshly ground pepper from my pepper mill) 
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Additional granulated sugar for rolling


Directions
1.  Mix first 8 ingredients (flour through black pepper) in a medium bowl; set aside.

2.  Beat butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Gradually add flour mixture, on low speed of mixer, until well mixed.  Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, or until dough is firm and easy to handle.

3.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in additional sugar.  Place balls about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets 1 minutes.  Remove to wire racks and cool completely.

Enjoy!

February 24, 2011

Grandma's Echo Cakes - a simple pleasure



Echo Cakes are simple, in every sense of the word.  Simple flavors.  Simple ingredients.  Simple to put together.  And they are one of my all-time favorite sweet treats.  Not only do they taste simply divine, they also hold very wonderful childhood memories for me.  My Mom used to make them for my brother and me all the time, and my Grandmother used to make them for my Mom and her two sisters all the time before that.  I remember having them frequently as an after-school snack.  Now that we're adults, Mom usually makes them for us as a treat at Christmas time.  I still love them as much as I did as a kid!

Echo Cakes are quite simply a strawberry-jam-filled cupcake, with a pie crust bottom and one-egg cake top, dusted with powdered sugar.  That's it.  They're sweet, but not too sweet - just perfectly sweet, in my opinion.  My Mom and I aren't sure where the name Echo Cakes comes from, but we think they're named for the Echo brand muffin tins they were originally made in.


I just made these myself for the first time.  Being the recipe tinker-er that I am, I wanted to make a few with different flavors of jam filling just to see how they'd be.  When I called my Mom to ask her about other jam flavors, she said "Oh, I don't know how they'd be - I've only ever made them with strawberry."

Really, Mom?  You've been making these for over 40 years and have never tried another jam flavor?  Where's your sense of cooking adventure??

And so, there was even more incentive for me to tinker.  Here's the flavor report:

Fig - NOT good, and I had such high hopes
Apricot - okay, but not wonderful
Raspberry - okay
Blackberry - really good!

If you make these, I recommend sticking with the original strawberry jam filling, or going with blackberry.

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Echo Cakes
Source:  My Grandmother

Ingredients
Pie crust
Strawberry jam
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

One-Egg Cake:
4 T. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla


Directions
Make the One-Egg Cake: 
Cream shortening and sugar.  Add egg, and beat.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, alternately with milk, beating after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.

Assemble the Echo Cakes: 
Cut circles from the pie crust.  My Mom figured out that a plastic stadium cup like you get at sporting events is the perfect size to use as a cutter.  (We use a Carolina cup - go Heels!)  Fit pie crust circles into the bottom and sides of muffin tin cups.  Put in about 1 tsp. of strawberry jam (not too much, or it will spill out when cooking).  Then, top with one-egg cake mixture - just plop some on the top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cool.  Sprinkle tops with confectioner's sugar.

Enjoy!



This post is linked with This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking and Sharing Sundays hosted by Everyday Sisters.

February 22, 2011

Oma's Super Healthy Salad Dressing

This is one of those recipes that you're probably going to think "That's strange!  Really, that's good?"  Honestly, that's what I thought when I was first told about this salad dressing.  But, I promise, this is all you need to make super tasty and amazingly healthy Oma's Salad Dressing:

Oma's Salad Dressing ingredients - tomato juice, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, & sugar
First, some background on this recipe.  Oma is Mark's grandmother.  She lived with Mark's family when Mark was growing up, and apparently she made this salad dressing all the time.  When I decided to create a family cookbook last year, this is one of the recipes that Mark put on his "must include" list.  So, I went to work finding out from Mark's mom how to make this.  When she told me about it, I thought to myself, "Oh, that just doesn't sound good."  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it truly is very good!  And healthy.  And another plus - it's super fast.

Here's all you do.  Measure out your ingredients into a small bowl.


Whisk them together with a fork.  That's it.  You're done.


Pour the dressing over your salad.  There will be a lot of liquid in the bottom of the salad bowl - like this:


But that's okay, it's supposed to be that way.  When individual servings are scooped out, make sure to get some of the juice from the bottom of the bowl for each one.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how flavorful this is!

Oma's Super Healthy Salad Dressing
Source:  Mark's Grandmother (Oma)
Ingredients
3/4 c. tomato juice
2 T. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Whisk together with a fork.  Pour over tossed salad.

A couple of notes:
  • I buy the little cans of tomato juice and keep them on-hand in the pantry.  That way, I have the ingredients I need for this pretty much all the time - and I don't end up wasting a bunch of tomato juice from the huge cans.
  • The black pepper controls the spiciness of the dressing.  The full 1/2 tsp. makes it quite spicy.
  • You can add extra cider vinegar, too taste. 

February 20, 2011

Blueberry Gingerbread

What?  Blueberry gingerbread?  Yes, blueberry gingerbread - and oh my it's tasty!  This is one of those recipes I found out in the blogosphere and thought, hmmmm, that could be really wonderful or a complete flop.  So I put it on my "50 Recipes for 2011" list so it would be in queue to be tried.  It turned out to be really wonderful!

You start with some beautiful, fresh blueberries.  I had a lot of blueberries I had picked this summer in the freezer, but decided I should buy actual never-been-frozen ones since I was trying this recipe for the first time.  So, I spent way too much to get these out-of-season beauties!  But I'm impatient once I've decided to try something, and wasn't going to wait until blueberry season to give this a go.

Gorgeous fresh blueberries.
Some of those really nice big, plump ones you see didn't make it to the gingerbread.  Somehow, my tummy convinced me to gobble them up just like this.

Then, you mix up some gingerbread batter.  You know, most recipes (just as this one did) say to sift together the dry ingredients.  Well, here's my really fancy-schmancy way to sift.  Get all the dry ingredients together - you can use a bowl, but I usually just leave them in the measuring cup - like this:


Then give the dry stuff a little stir with your measuring spoon so it ends up looking like this:

Sifted ... Tracey-style.

And there you have it!  "Sifted!"  I'm sure I just made hard-core bakers all over the world cringe.  But, I've been baking this way for years, and my stuff seems to come out just fine.  I guess I just don't believe in sifting.

Back to the blueberry gingerbread ...  Mix up your gingerbread batter and then fold in the blueberries, which have been dusted with flour.  That's the flour-dusted berries to the side in the pictures above and below.  This helps keep them from all just sinking to the bottom of the cake.


Bake it all up, top a slice with some whipped cream, and enjoy the blueberry-studded deliciousness!  Think I may go enjoy a slice right now - there's still a little bit left.


Good for my tummy.


Blueberry Gingerbread
Source:  Timeless Gourmet
Ingredients
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. molasses
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. fresh blueberries
1 c. buttermilk

Directions
1.  Spray a 9x13” baking pan with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Dust the blueberries with a tablespoon of flour, sifting off any excess. Set aside.
With a mixer, beat the sugar, oil, salt and molasses thoroughly. Add the egg and mix again until combined.
3.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, spices and baking soda.  Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Combine thoroughly after each addition.
4.  Gently stir in the blueberries, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

(NOTE:  I did try this again with the frozen blueberries I had in the freezer.  It worked.  I just made sure to thaw them thoroughly, pat them dry, and still dusted them with flour.  Not sure I would attempt it with frozen blueberries from the grocer's freezer section, as those tend to get really juicy when you thaw them.  If anyone does try that, let me know how it turns out.)



This post is linked with Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking, and Flash-Back Friday hosted by Cookin' for My Captain, A Themed Baker's Sunday hosted by Cupcake Apothecary.

February 19, 2011

I tried gizzards

My husband loves gizzards.  Seriously.  Loves them.  He makes them for himself as a treat quite often.  Every time, he asks me - "Would you like some gizzards?"  My reply - "No thank you, I don't like gizzards."  Of course, he's called my bluff repeatedly and asked me if I've ever tried them.  No, I haven't.  What am I, six years old??  You truly have no right to say you don't like something if you've never tried it!  Well, I didn't want to try gizzards.  They look nasty.  They smell nasty.  The thought of them is nasty.  Surely, then, they taste nasty.

I don't know exactly what happened, but one day I committed to Mark that I would try gizzards.  I wanted him to do something, and he said he would do it if the next time he made gizzards, I would try them.  I don't recall what the "something" was, but I must have wanted it done really badly, because I agreed!  So, that's how I got roped into trying gizzards.

Well, the day arrived that Mark decided to make himself a gizzard treat.  Oh crud.  I was committed.  He got them ready in his pressure cooker ... that's how he cooks them ... and, I must admit, things actually looked promising.  He puts fresh rosemary, bacon, onion, and jalepenos in with them.  "The pot" actually looked kind of pretty.


Getting the gizzard pot ready - it doesn't look sooooooo bad.

After a short bit, the gizzards were ready.  It was time.  I could avoid it no longer. 

Ummmm ... not looking quite so appetizing now.

So, I put my big-girl pants on and cut myself off a bite.  Just a bite - let's not get crazy here!  Well, my suspicions were confirmed - I absolutely don't like gizzards.  And now I have every right to say it.

February 17, 2011

Update on my "50 Recipes for 2011" Project

I've made a little progress on my "50 Recipes for 2011" project ... I've got 8 done!  Out of the 8, there have been 5 successes and 3 failures.  Hmmmmmm ... that's only a 62.5% success rate ... a D- in report card terms!!  But I'm having a lot of fun experimenting, so that's all that really matters - right?

As I try recipes on the list, I'm making updates in red in the original post.  Click here to view that post and check out which ones made the success list, and which were failures.

I think I'm going to try either #23 Blueberry Gingerbread or #27 Coconut Pie this weekend.  Let's hope whichever I choose turns out to be a success!  Oh, and I'm still toying with tweaking the Chipotle Mac & Cheese ... I'm having a hard time letting the concept go ... I think I can make it work ... I think I can, I think I can ...  (UPDATE:  I did indeed try the Chipotle Mac & Cheese again using my "vision" ... still not great.  Gotta give up on this one.)

February 15, 2011

Would you like a cup of tea? - Chai Tea, that is

Homemade Chai Tea Latte Mix

My love of Chai Tea began back in my Corporate America days.  Before becoming a 1st grade teacher, I spent 13 years working in the corporate grind.  Especially as I progressed in my career, I always seemed to be having morning "coffee meetings."  At least once a week, someone would say, "Let's meet for coffee to discuss that."  The problem - I don't drink coffee.  Never have, doubt I ever will.  I've tried to acquire a taste for coffee, but to no avail.  I just don't like it.  What was I to do?  I couldn't very well sit for hours-on-end at Starbuck's or Caribou and drink water, could I?  That seemed silly.  And that's how I discovered Chai Tea Lattes, with their wonderful mix of ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and other spicy yumminess.

I absolutely love chai tea lattes!  So, of course, I eventually had to figure out how to make my own at home.  You can buy chai tea latte mix at the grocery store, and I've tried them all.  They're actually pretty good.  But this past summer I put all the grocery store mixes to the test against a chai tea latte mix recipe I made myself.  I went to the grocery store and bought every chai tea latte mix they had, both powder and liquid ... $40 later, I had a testing line-up set up on my kitchen counter.  Guess what won, at least in my mind?  Yep ... my own powder chai tea latte mix.  And I'm going to share that recipe with you.  If you like chai, I think you'll love this mix.

Homemade Chai Tea Latte Mix

Now, the "secret" ingredient is cardamom.  I adore cardamom - click here to read more about that.  Cardamom is pricey for a spice - I actually read somewhere that it is the most expensive spice by weight.  A bottle will run you about $10 at the grocery store.  But believe me, it's worth it.  It makes all the difference in this chai tea latte mix, and is the ingredient that puts it over the top from a taste perspective.  So I encourage you to splurge!!  And I encourage you to enjoy a delicious cup of chai tea.

Homemade Chai Tea Latte Mix
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Chai Tea Latte Mix
Source:  Adapted from a friend


Ingredients
1 c. nonfat dry milk powder
1 c. powdered nondairy creamer
1 c. French vanilla powdered nondairy creamer
1 ½  c. sugar
1 ½ c. unsweetened instant tea
2  tsp. ground ginger
2 ¼  tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/8  tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/8  tsp. ground cloves


Directions
In a food processor, combine all ingredients; cover and process until powdery. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

To prepare 1 serving:  Dissolve 3 T. of mix in 1 c. boiling water; stir well.


Enjoy!

Homemade Chai Tea Latte Mix

This post is linked with Flash-Back Friday hosted by Cookin' for My Captain and Cure for the Common Monday {Flashback Edition} hosted by Lines Across My Face.

February 13, 2011

Homemade Sweet Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dressing for dipping



Now just look at those homemade sweet potato chips.  Don't they look good? Well, they weren't.


Homemade sweet potato chips with homemade blue cheese dressing for dipping

  At least not as good as I expected them to be.  And they were quite "fussy" to make (read that "tedious!") ... the amount of effort required was not worth the result.  Though Mark just said from the kitchen, as I'm typing this post, "I like the sweet potatoes pretty good."  The flavor was decent, so maybe I'll try to re-work the spicing from this recipe into a roasted sweet potato side dish.  Maybe...

Anway, both recipes (the sweet potato chips and the blue cheese dressing) are from my "50 Recipes for 2011" list  (click here to see the list).  The potato chips have a combination of chili powder, cumin, and paprika on them.  Hmmmm, I thought to myself - if we dip buffalo hot wings in blue cheese, might it be tasty to dip these spicy sweet potato chips in blue cheese??  And that's how today's cooking adventure was born.  So, I went to work making sweet potato chips and blue cheese dressing. 

I'm happy to say that the blue cheese dressing is fabulous!  The recipe is from my friend Jennie, and I can say with confidence that, as of today, it will be a rare day when I buy pre-fabbed blue cheese dressing.  I'm now a homemade convert.  So, let's begin there.

First, put all your blue cheese dressing ingredients - minus the blue cheese - in a bowl.


Give it a good stir to get everything all cozy together.


I actually tasted it at this point, before adding the blue cheese.  It was already yummy!
Now put in your blue cheese crumbles, and gently fold those in. 


You don't want to over-work it and break up all those nice, big hunks of blue cheese.  You want it to be all lumpy-bumpy.

With phase 1 of the adventure done, it was time to move on to the sweet potato chips.  Unfortunately, phase 2 didn't go so well.  The first challenge was to get the sweet potatos sliced thinly - about 1/8" thick.  My food processor isn't able to slice that thinly, and I don't own a mandoline (and would be afraid I'd cut my fingers off if I did!  I'm a clutz.), so I tried the slicing side of my 6-sided box grater.  No luck.  This left me with only the option of slicing by hand.  Do you know how hard it is to evenly slice by hand?  "Fussiness" #1.

Next, toss the potato slices in a canola oil-and-spice mix to coat, and lay in a single layer on baking sheets.  Oil coated potato slices stick together and are not that easy to separate.  "Fussiness" #2.  Then bake, watching carefully to make sure they don't burn.  Remember that trouble I had slicing them evenly?  Well ... here's what happens when some of the slices are thinner than others ... they end up like these guys -- "Fussiness" #3.



Thin potato slices ... a *bit* crisp ... not so good
Oh, and did I mention that half-way through cooking you turn the potato slices over?  I started this process using tongs, but it was hard to grab the slices because they were so thin.  So I ended up just using my fingers ... on potato slices that were baking in a 400 degree oven.  Yes, it did hurt.  Thank you for asking.  "Fussiness" #4.

The final result - sweet potato chips that were very unevenly cooked - sometimes burnt, sometimes just right, and - more often than not - soggy and flimsy.  While the flavor was good, I was severely disappointed with the end product.


So ... the very fabulous, absolutely yummy, amazingly wonderful homemade blue cheese dressing ended up being enjoyed like this.  Yum.
Good ol' veggie sticks with blue cheese.



Blue Cheese Dressing
Source:  A Friend
Ingredients
3/4 c. nonfat plain yogurt (I used nonfat plain Greek yogurt)
3/4 c. mayonnaise
1 medium shallot, finely chopped (I used just a small slice from a regular onion, and grated it)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 to 4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Directions
In a bowl, combine all dressing ingredients except the blue cheese.  Crumble in the blue cheese and fold together gently.  (NOTE:  Don't use finely crumbled blue cheese - you want it chunky.)  Store covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

Enjoy!


This post is linked with Saturday Night FeverThink Pink SundayNifty Thrifty SundayWhimsy WednesdaysWednesday WhatsitsThe Wednesday RoundupProject ParadeWhat's Cookin' WednesdayCook It! Craft It! Share It!Full Plate ThursdayShowcase Your Talent ThursdayCreate It Thursday.

February 12, 2011

Cardamom - My new love!

I have a new love - cardamom!  I don't know how it has taken me soooooo long to discover this wonderful spice, but I'm so glad I have now.  Actually, I guess I've loved it for a long time - I just didn't know it.  It's a key ingredient in Chai Tea, and I absolutely LOVE Chai Tea.  I just had no idea that the wonderfully intoxicating flavor in Chai was cardamom.  (Side note - I've worked on a recipe for Chai Tea mix for a while, and have it tinkered to my liking ... but I'll save that for a future post.  Stay tuned!)

Cardamom, to me, has a fabulous and very unique, intense flavor.  Descriptions I've read of it describe it as having "eucalyptus tones," but to me it's like a very florally peppery taste.  I don't think there are any words to do it's flavor justice, honestly.  I think you just have to experience it for yourself.

Oh, I'm very much looking forward to getting to know my new love better.  Here are a few of the cardamom recipes I've found that pique my interest:

Strawberry Cardamom Shortcake
Cardamom Roasted Almonds
Cardamom-Dark Chocolate Tart (oh, my!)
Chai Shortbread (Hmmmm ... maybe with a cup of Chai Tea???)
Cardamom Vanilla Poundcake
Chocolate Cardamom Truffles
Cardamom Creme Brulee (can't wait ...)

It'll take me a while to work through these, but rest assured I plan on trying each one!  And, rest assured, I'll let you in on the results.  Cupid's cardamom arrow has definitely struck me!

February 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies - and the great ganache debate

I love chocolate chip cookies.  I love brownies.  So, when I found this idea for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies, how could I resist?  The combination had to be tried.  Well, they are indeed quite tasty!  You mix up a batch of brownie batter, put it in the pan, and then drop spoonfuls of chocolate chip cookie dough all over the top so it looks kind of like this:

Mmmmm ... cookie dough in brownie batter.  I could scoop it up just like this!

Are you ready for your close-up?
Bake it all up until the brownie part is all cooked up, and the cookie part is golden brown.  You want something like this:
Golden brown and yummy looking.
Now, the only problem with this recipe is that it has caused "The Great Ganache Debate" in our household.  The original recipe calls for topping the brownie yumminess with a layer of ganache.  I had never made ganache before, and had always thought it was difficult.  I was sooooo wrong!  It's way easy.  And apparently, ganache is a new word to Mark.  He thinks it sounds funny, and will now go around the house just randomly saying the word ganache.  I hope this is a phase that passess quickly.

Anyway - the first batch I made, I followed the original recipe and put on the ganache topping.  Don't get me wrong - it's very good this way!  But me being me always tinkering with recipes, I wondered how it would be without the ganache topping.  Both my husband and I found the topping to be a bit overpowering - kind of taking over the whole taste of the brownie. We decided I should make another batch without the ganache topping.  So, I did.  Which led to "The Great Ganache Debate" that is still going on at this very moment - Mark is literally still taste-comparing right now as I type this post.  The verdict --- I'm undecided.  Sometimes I think I like the non-ganache ("naked") ones best; sometimes I think I like the ganache-topped ones best.  Mark is 100% behind the naked ones.  If you try these, I'll be interested to hear what you think!
Ganache-topped vs. Naked

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Source:  Adapted from Bakerella
Ingredients
Brownies:
1 box of brownie mix + ingredients listed on the box.  (Or, a batch of your favorite brownie batter.)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
I found that a 1/2 batch of standard chocolate chip cookie dough batter was the perfect amount.  Here are the measurements for a 1/2 batch of dough.

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1/4 c. + 1/8 c. sugar
1/4 c. + 1/8 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 1/8 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Ganache:
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
6 T. butter



Directions
Prepare the Brownie Batter:
1.  Prepare the brownie batter, according to the package directions (or according to your favorite brownie's recipe).  Place brownie batter in a greased 9x13" pan.

Prepare the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
2.  In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla;  beat until creamy.  Beat in egg.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda.  Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture; mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips.

3.  Drop by spoonfuls onto the brownie batter.  Using the palm of your hand, push the cookie dough down into the brownie batter just a little bit.

Bake:
4.  Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven. When they’re done, take them out and let them cool completely (for about an hour).

Prepare the Chocolate Ganache:  (skip this step for the naked version)
5.  In a small saucepan, heat cream and butter until just before the boiling stage.  Pour over the chocolate chips.  Let sit for about 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  I found that whisking the mixture with a fork worked great to get the chocolate chips melted and the ganache smooth. 

6.  Pour ganache over the brownies and let set before cutting.

Enjoy!

February 6, 2011

Broccoli Salad and Chipotle Mac & Cheese - success and failure

Well... I had both success and failure in the day's cooking adventures.  The Broccoli Salad is fantastic - but I knew it would be.  It's a recipe from my Mom, and she's an absolutely fabulous cook so I had no doubts. 

But the Chipotle Mac & Cheese was from one of the foodie blogs I frequent, so one can't be sure until one tries the recipe oneself.  It was waaaaaayyyyyy too spicy - and I LOVE heat in my food, and I STILL think it was waaaaayyyy too spicy!  Mark's comment when he tasted it:  "I love you honey, but your experiment is a failure."  He actually started referring to it as "the barely edible mac & cheese."  He's not one to mince words - and I love that about him.  Just tell it like it is.  I appreciate that.  I don't even think the Mac & Cheese is worth re-working to tone it down.  Think I just have to accept defeat on that one.

So, here's the recipe for my Mom's Broccoli Salad.  It was the succes of the day!


Donna's Broccoli Salad
Source:  My Mom
Ingredients
Salad:
1 bunch broccoli, broken into small flowerets
1/2 c red onion, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
8 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
1/2 c hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 c golden raisins or craisins

Dressing:
3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c sugar or Splenda
2 T apple cider


Directions
Combine salad ingredients in large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients; pour over salad and toss. Serve chilled.  (NOTE:  I used turkey bacon, and it worked just great.)

Enjoy!

Butter Pecan Cake - the 1st of my "50 Recipes for 2011"



Woo hoo!  I completed the first recipe from my list of "50 Recipes for 2011" - Butter Pecan Cake.  The original title is Butter Pecan Pound Cake, but it's texture isn't really that of a pound cake to me ... it's much "fluffier" ... so I'm just going to call it Butter Pecan Cake.  I don't think anyone will mind.

I'm generally a "from scratch" baker, but this cake doctors up a store-bought cake mix and store-bought frosting.  I'm not opposed to giving a doctored up mix a try!

Brought the cake to school for the birthday of one of my friends, and it got great reviews.  So, here's the recipe.  It's SUPER easy!!  And don't we all love tasty recipes that are SUPER easy?




Butter Pecan Cake
Source:  A Family Friend

Ingredients
1 box Betty Crocker Butter Pecan cake mix
1 can Coconut Pecan Frosting
1/2 c. oil
1 c. water
4 eggs

Directions
Mix all ingredients (including the frosting ... yep, put it IN the batter) in one bowl.  Beat about 2 minutes.  Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan (or tube pan).  Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes.  (I had to bake mine 60 minutes.)

Enjoy!



Please enjoy these other fabulous cakes from The Kitchen is My Playground...


"50 Recipes for 2011" Project - I better get cooking!

I collect recipes.  It's an addiction.  I have more recipes than I could possibly prepare in my lifetime, yet I continue to collect them - from new cookbooks, from friends, cooking magazines, cooking blogs, make up my own - you name it.  I read cookbooks like most people read novels.  But despite this huge collection of recipes, I still tend to cook the same ol' stuff over and over and over and over.  Sound familiar?  Or am I the only one who gets stuck in this cooking rut??

So, I decided to create a list of 50 new-to-me recipes I want to make by the end of the year.  That's about one per week - definitely doable, I think.  Most of these come from the family cookbook I published this year.  I figure I should work on cooking my way through "my own" cookbook as a first goal!  Out of the 534 recipes in it, I've cooked 282 of them myself - leaving me 252 still to do.  That's a lot.  Should keep me going for a while!

Our Family Cookbook
  Well ... here are my "50 Recipes for 2011."  I would have loved for all 50 of them to be wonderfully ooey-gooey chocolatey desserts, but I don't think my waistline can take that!  I've tried to show just a teeeeeeeny-tiiiiiny bit of restraint by making them a good mix of stuff.  I'll post some of the good ones so you can try them, too, if you're interested.  Happy cooking!

As I try these, I'll post updates in red.
  1. Blueberry Salsa    (I'm intrigued by this --- could be great ... could be terrible!)  SUCCESS! (click here to view post)
  2. Redneck Caviar    (a.k.a. Texas Caviar ... but I think the name Redneck Caviar is way funnier!)  SUCCESS!  (click here to view post)
  3. Spinach Cheese Swirls
  4. Sweet Potato Chips  FAILURE  (click here to view post)
  5. Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake
  6. Chocolate Chip "Puffins"    (Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins - get where the "Puffins" comes from??)
  7. Maple-Cardamom Sweet Potato Biscuits  Needs to be waaayy re-worked... so I'll say FAILURE
  8. Pumpkin Bread
  9. Sourdough Bread    (This one scares me!  But I'm up for the challenge.)
  10. Chocolate Fudge   (Can you believe I've never made fudge?  Homemade marshmallows, yes - fudge, no.  Crazy.)  SUCCESS!  (click here to view post)
  11. Honey Rum Marshmallows  (I've mastered regular, so time to move on to flavors!)
  12. Oreo Truffles    SUCCESS!   (click here to view post)
  13. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies   SUCCESS!    (click here to view post)
  14. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pops     (Like cake pops, but with cookie dough ... gotta do it, just gotta do it.)   SUCCESS!   (click here to view post)
  15. Fig Nut Bars
  16. S'more Nut Bars
  17. S'more Whoopie Pies     (I'm a bit obssessed with S'mores.)
  18. Whoopie Pies       (A family classic, but I've never made them myself.)
  19. Neopolitan Cupcakes
  20. Persimmon Cupcakes & Persimmon Frosting
  21. Pomegranate Chocolate Cupcakes  FAILURE
  22. Blueberry Crisp    SUCCESS!  (click here to view post)
  23. Blueberry Gingerbread    SUCCESS! (click here to view post)
  24. Blueberry Pie
  25. Butter Pecan Pound Cake    SUCCESS!    (click here to view post)
  26. Chocolate Loaf Cake     SUCCESS!
  27. Coconut Pie
  28. Fig and Almond Cheesecake
  29. Fig Tart
  30. German Chocolate Cake
  31. Honey Whole Wheat Pound Cake
  32. Pie Crust          (Nope, never made my own pie crust - always cheated with pre-made.  Please don't be disappointed with me.)  I did it ... but it wasn't great.  I need to try again.
  33. Shoo Fly Pie     (Southern classic!)
  34. Welta's Pound Cake    (Another southern classic.  Welta is my mother-in-law.  Not sure I can live up to hers!)    SUCCESS!  (click here to view post)
  35. Chipotle Mac & Cheese       (Mmmmmmm ... chipotle.)  FAILURE   (click here to view post)
  36. Crab, Shrimp, & Wild Rice Casserole
  37. Easy Hamburger Stroganoff
  38. Easy Scalloped Salmon
  39. Roasted Grapes & Pasta    SUCCESS!    (click here to view post)
  40. Broccoli Salad    SUCCESS!   (click here to view post)
  41. Blue Cheese Dressing      (Have eaten it a lot, but never made my own!)    SUCCESS!  (click here to view post)
  42. Pea Salad   SUCCESS! (click here to view post)
  43. Brussels Sprout Soup   SUCCESS!  (click here to view post)
  44. Chesapeake House Fish Stew    Not as good as I remember my mom making ... have to say FAILURE
  45. Mushroom Gouda Chowder
  46. Baked Squash
  47. Dill Pickles (canned)        (I've never canned!  This one scares me a bit, too.)
  48. Mashed Squash Casserole
  49. Sauteed Cabbage
  50. Sherried Fruit Bake     (How can you go wrong with sherry?)

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