30 December 2009

Looking Forward to 2010

I'm really looking forward to 2010!  Look at one of my favorite gifts that I received this Christmas: 

Yes, that is right... my very own KitchenAid Mixer!  I never thought that this day would come... well, at least I didn't think it would come before a wedding!  Thanks to Doug's parents, I will be posting many more mixer-friendly recipes on the blog!  I love spending time with Doug's family - HUGE THANKS TO DR. & MRS. D FOR A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS!  

Sorry for not posting a lot lately... I'm up at the cabin with Doug and we are enjoying our holiday break without spending a lot of time on our laptops.  We just got back from a nice snowmobile ride and now we are getting ready to go ice fishing!  I love Minnesota winters!

24 December 2009

Christmas Cookie Packages

A few of you wanted to know how I package up my cookies... well, here you go: 

Boxes are from Martha Stewart's line at Michaels.

This one is ready to go!  Hope you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Lemon Sugar Cookies with Zesty Icing

I had a request to include these lemon sugar cookies in my Christmas cookie boxes again.  I made them last year and everyone grabbed these cookies first.  I feel like I need to forewarn you that I'm staying at my parents' house this week... and so when I'm baking, I have two little mice constantly nibbling at my baking creations (a.k.a. "Mom" and "Dad").  My mom said that these are her favorite!  That means a lot to me because she normally isn't a huge fan of cookies.  The good thing about this recipe is that you can make these cookies all year round and you'll get the same compliments every time! 

Lemon Sugar Cookies
(Adapted from Pinch My Salt)
Yield: 3 Dozen

2 C. Sugar, divided
Zest of 2 Lemons, divided
1 C. Butter, cubed at room temperature
2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
1 t. Vanilla
1 T. Lemon Juice
2 3/4 C. Flour
1/4 t. Salt
2 t. Cream of Tartar
1 t. Baking Soda

Prepare lemon sugar by blending 1/2 C. sugar with 1 tsp. lemon zest in a mini food processor.  Pulse several times until the lemon zest is incorporated.  Pour the sugar in a shallow bowl and stir with a fork (breaking up any clumps of sugar).  Set aside.

For the cookie dough, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and remaining 1 1/2 C. sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla, lemon juice, and remaining lemon zest.  Slowly add the flour mixture.  Refrigerate dough for at least one hour (this is an extremely important step)!  Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  

To shape the cookies, I rolled the dough into a 1-inch ball and then placed it into the bowl of lemon sugar; gently roll it around.  Place the ball of cookie dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and press down lightly with the bottom of a glass until cookie is about 1/2 inch thick.  Repeat.  I was able to fit 8 cookies on one baking sheet.  Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes.  When the cookies are done baking, I just take the whole parchment paper off  the cookie sheet and let the cookies rest on the counter (still on the parchment); cool completely and ice with recipe below.

Lemon Zest Icing

1 1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
Zest of 1 Lemon

This is a pretty basic recipe for icing.  Put all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined.  Put one teaspoon on each cookie and gently spread it around on a cooled cookie.  

Mini Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies dipped in Chocolate

If I were to have a "signature cookie," this would probably be it. I'm kind of hesitating sharing this recipe with everyone because this could shortly turn into your signature cookie! After much thought, I've decided that it would be beneficial to the entire world if you all had this recipe. The more mouths that this cookie hits, there will be more happiness in the world. Trust me and enjoy.

Mini Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
Yield: 3 Dozen

1 C. Butter (2 Sticks)
1 C. Sifted Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
2 C. Flour
6 oz. Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips

Beat butter and sugar together until light. Beat in vanilla and salt. Add flour and beat until mixture is blended. Stir in chocolate chips. I put the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Shape dough into 3/4'' balls and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes (cookies should be pale in color). Remove cookies and let cool.

Chocolate Dip

3/4 C. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
4 Tbsp. Butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. Cream
Pinch of Salt

Carefully melt in the microwave. I stop it every 15 seconds and give it a good stir. Dip 1/2 the cooled cookie in the chocolate dip. Optional: lightly sift powdered sugar over the other half.

22 December 2009

Merry Martini

My boyfriend, Doug, is quite the mixologist!  Who knew?!  Last night he shook up some seasonal spirits and created a F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S holiday drink!  I printed out a recipe of one of Oprah's favorite holiday martinis and he put his own spin on it.  I loved it!  Oprah's recipe calls for cherry limeade, but we couldn't find any at the store, so we created a pomegranate-limeade combo (ohhh so divine)!  The diet ginger ale gives it splash of something bubbly that makes this drink very refreshing and festive.  Cheers!

Merry Martini
(Adapted from Oprah.com)
Yield: 1 Extra Fabulous Drink

1 Shot Vodka
1/3 C. Prepared Cherry Limeade (or Pomegranate + Limeade)
1/3 C. Diet Ginger Ale
1/2 Key Lime, freshly juiced
Fresh Cranberries (for garnish)

In a martini shaker half-filled with ice, combine the vodka, cherry limeade, and ginger ale.  Shake mixture in shaker, then pour into a martini glass.  Add the juice of 1/2 key lime.  For garnish, thread fresh cranberries onto a short wooden skewer.  Garnish with cranberry skewers in the glass (perfect for swirling around all the goodness before you take a nice sip)!

21 December 2009

Gingersnap Cookies

Tis the season for cookies!  I am baking like a mad woman today!  Gingersnap cookies are the first on my list.  Not only do they make the house smell like the holidays, they are also one of my favorite cookies!  These bake down to a pretty thin cookie, so they are a little crisp on the outside but extremely chewy on the inside!  If you ask me, that equates to the best of both worlds!  

To keep cookies organized in little gift boxes, I tied up 6-8 cookies with a ribbon.  I also wanted to show you in the picture how gorgeous they look on a serving platter.  Simple, yet oh-so-delicious!  

Gingersnap Cookies
(Family Recipe)
Yield: 2 dozen big cookies or 3 dozen small cookies

3/4 C. Butter
1 C. Sugar
4 Tbsp. Molasses
1 Egg
2 C. Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cloves
Additional White Sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F degrees.  Cream butter, sugar, egg, molasses; beat well.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves).  Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture.  Once everything is incorporated, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.  Take a spoonful of dough and roll it into a ball.  Optional: Roll the ball of dough in white sugar for a glistening look.  Place it on a cookie sheet (I do not pre-grease mine).  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  

17 December 2009

Cute Cookies

Look at these fabulous cookies:

My darling friends, Molly and Amy, baked these sweet treats for me!  Molly made the personalized frosted sugar cookies and Amy made all the rest.  I am really impressed!   I'm impressed not just because the cookies are so adorable and delicious, but that they had time to bake these!  Molly and Amy spend their days in the hospital (with Doug) and studying!  All three of them have a exam on Friday morning - so let's all wish them GOOD LUCK!  

After the test on Friday, Doug and I are driving home to see our families (with all of those houndstooth-wrapped presents)!  I'll be making my own Christmas cookies this weekend.  I'll post those recipes as soon as I make them, because I want all of you to have the recipes in time for your own holiday parties!  Thank you so much for the cookies, Molly and Amy! xoxo

15 December 2009

Do Yourself a Favor...

...and make these!  I don't want to toot my own horn here, but I promise that they will satisfy any craving for something sweet and delicious!  I think there is a mouse living in the freezer... I only have about six little cookies left in my freezer, so I'll need to make more of these oatmeal cranberry cookies the next time I get my hands on a Kitchen Aid mixer.  To my friends and family who receive Christmas cookie boxes from me - these will definitely be in there this year! 

Turkey Chili

With the cold weather that is sweeping across the country, I figured that a soup recipe would be fitting. Since I don't eat beef, I was searching around for a good turkey chili recipe. I found this one tucked away in my mom's pile of recipes torn out of magazines and newspapers. Will I ever have a stack of recipes like that or does this blog keep me more organized than I originally thought?!

Turkey Chili
(From LPGA Player: Nancy Lopez)
Yield: 5 Servings

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 C. Sweet Onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1/4 C. Yellow Bell Peppers, chopped
1 lb. Ground Turkey
1 (28 oz) Can Crushed Tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 oz) Can Red Kidney Beans, drained & rinsed
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2 C. Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. Hot Sauce
1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Dried Basil
1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano

In a large skillet, saute onions, garlic, and bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until browned. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. I garnished mine with some shredded cheese.

10 December 2009

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

My mom is known for these cheesecakes.  Whenever family or friends have birthdays coming up, they always request that my mom makes these for their special day.  Perhaps it is the simplicity of the ingredients or the fact that you get your own little cheesecake... whatever it is, people love these.  So if you are young, old, or fall somewhere in between, I'm pretty sure that you should give these a try.  Maybe this recipe will become a part of your family tradition as well?!  Enjoy!

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes
(Mom's recipe)
Yield: 24 mini tarts

2 (8 oz) Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
3/4 C. Granulated Sugar
2 Eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp. Vanilla
24 Vanilla Wafers
1 Can Prepared Cherry Pie Filling

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Beat softened cheese and sugar until creamy; add eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth.  Line muffin tins with paper baking cups.  Place a vanilla wafer in each cup, spoon cheese mixture into cups (about 1/2 way to the top).  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Remove from tins and let cool.  Top with cherry pie filling.  Chill several hours or overnight.  

Here is his the birthday cake Wuollet's made for my uncle based off of a real picture!  He is, of course, the one dressed up as Santa! (P.S. "Loads" is not his name.  It is his nickname... because he is loads of fun)!

09 December 2009

Bowtie Pasta Toss

Are you cooking for a crowd this holiday season? If so, you have to make this bowtie pasta toss! This is a perfect vegetarian side dish that is so tasty and it can easily be made in advance. I tripled the recipe below for a holiday party we had last weekend and we had soooo many leftovers! I guess it is better to have more food than not enough! I loved the sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese in this pasta salad - absolutely delicious!

Hostess Tip: Prepare your dishes in at least two different serving bowls or platters. When you see something running low, simply swap out that dish with the perfectly-filled dish that you already prepared!

Bowtie Pasta Toss
(Adapted from Byerly's Cookbook)
Yield: 28 (1/2-cup) Servings

1 (16 oz) Package Uncooked Bowtie Pasta
1 (8 oz) Bottle Zesty Italian Dressing
2 Large Tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 (7 oz) Jar Sun-Dried Tomatoes in oil, drained, chopped
2 (4 oz) Packages Crumbled Feta Cheese
1/2 C. Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 C. Capers, drained
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water (4 quarts water, 1 Tbsp. salt) until almost tender (about 11 minutes); drain. Rinse with cold water; drain. In a large bowl, combine pasta and dressing. Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate covered, several hours or overnight.

08 December 2009

Holiday Cheese Ball

My girlfriends and I always have an ornament exchange party with our moms around the holidays.  It is so much fun!  We always have a fabulous time at M's house... maybe too much fun!  Anyway, last year Katy made this cheese ball (times two)!  Giant cheese ball.  Lots of ladies.  Champagne.  Laughter.  Yea, CHEERS to good times!  Thanks for passing along the recipe, Katy!

Holiday Cheese Ball
(Adapted from my friend, Katy)

1 (16 oz) Cream Cheese (room temperature)
1 Small White Onion, finely chopped
3 Green Onions, finely chopped
1 Stalk Celery, finely chopped
1/2 C. Blue Cheese Crumbles
3 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Small Bag Pre-Chopped Pecans

Mix all ingredients together (except pecans).  This can be kind of messy, but use your hands.  Roll into a ball and then roll it in chopped pecans.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. 

04 December 2009

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

I don't know why I didn't call these "Out of This World Cranberry Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies"... Oh yes, not to mention... they are very festive for the holiday season!  I made 3 batches of these cookies today - that translates to 12 DOZEN!  Baking 144 cookies is nothing.  Just another day in the life of Becky Crocker.  I don't plan on eating all of these though - Don't worry!  They are for my godfather's 50th birthday party tomorrow (more recipes to come from that party... like birthday cake, mini cherry cheesecakes, and other fun appetizer ideas).  

P.S. Don't I have the coolest xmas stocking?!  My mom made it for me when I was younger :)

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
(Recipe adapted from Carol R.)
Yield: 4 Dozen 

1 1/2 C. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 C. Margarine, room temperature
2/3 C. Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
2/3 C. Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 3/4 C. Post Grape-Nuts Cereal
1 3/4 C. Old Fashioned Oats
1 C. Dried Cranberries
1 C. Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.  Mix flour and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.  Beat margarine in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until softened.  Gradually add brown sugar, white sugar, egg, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy.  Gradually add flour mixture.  With a large spoon, stir in cereal, oats, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  Using a tablespoon, drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets (I always line mine with parchment paper).  Bake for 9 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool one minute before removing from cookie sheets.  

Kentucky-Style Grilled Trout

I laughed when I read the name of this in the Costco cookbook: "Kentucky-Style Marinade"... due to the 1/2-cup of whiskey in it! Holy cow! I definitely did not think that this recipe would be "blog-worthy," but it was really tasty so I decided to share it with you! Give it a shot! (Haha... no pun intended).

Kentucky-Style Grilled Trout
(Adapted from Easy Cooking - The Costco Way)
Yield: 4 Servings

4 Trout or Salmon portions (6-8 oz. each)
1/2 C. Bourbon Whiskey
1/3 C. Soy Sauce
1/4 C. Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 or 3 Cloves Garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl (except for the fish, of course)! Marinate trout of salmon portions for an hour in the refrigerator. Preheat the grill. Place marinated fish on the hot grill and cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side. Make sure the fish flakes apart easily before removing.

03 December 2009

Pecan-Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake with Brandy Whipped Cream

Prepare yourself for the most scrumptious cheesecake you have ever tasted!  This is the second year in a row that we have made this cheesecake for our Thanksgiving dessert.  It always gets rave reviews and our guests always ask for the recipe... so here you go!  It is definitely a keeper.  Yes, it takes a lot of time - but it's worth it! I added a brandy whipped cream topping to this fabulous Food & Wine recipe and it just makes it that much more sinful and special! 

Pumpkin Cheesecake
(Adapted from Food & Wine)
Yield: 12 Servings

1 (15 oz) Can Pumpkin Puree (1 3/4 C.)
8 Whole Graham Crackers, broken
1/2 C. Pecans 
1 Tbsp. Light Brown Sugar
5 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/2 C. Cream Cheese (14 oz.) at room temperature
1 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp. Ground Allspice
5 Large Eggs, at room temperature
1 C. Heavy Cream, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Exract

Set a rack over a baking sheet and line the rack with 2 layers of paper towels.  Spread the pumpkin puree over the paper towels and let drain for 2 hours, until the puree is fairly dry.  Preheat the oven to 500F degrees.  Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan,  In a processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely ground.  Add the pecans and brown sugar and pulse until finely ground.  Add the melted butter and pulse just until incorporated.  Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, just until it is fragrant and lightly browned.  Let the crust cool completely.  

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk the sugar with the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.  With the machine on, add the spiced sugar to the cream cheese and beat until creamy, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl.  Carefully add the drained pumpkin puree and beat until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition.  Beat in the heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla until the cheesecake mixture is smooth.  

Pour the cheesecake mixture over the cooled crust and bake for 12 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 225F degrees and bake the cheesecake for about 3 hours, until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150F degrees; the center will be very jiggly but not liquidy.  Let the cheesecake cook on a rack, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Run a hot knife around the cheesecake and loosen the springform ring.  Carefully remove the ring and transfer the cake to a plate.  Using a warm knife, cut the cake into wedges and serve with the pecan praline topping and whipped cream.

Pecan Praline Topping
(From Food & Wine)

1 1/2 Sticks Unsalted Butter 
3/4 C. Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 C. Pecans

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  In a large saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat; stir until smooth.  Stir in the heavy cream and salt and bring to a boil.  Simmer just until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Let the caramel cool.  Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant.  Transfer the pecans to a work surface and let them cool.  Coarsely chop the nuts; stir them into the cooled caramel and serve.  (The topping can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.  Reheat slightly before serving.)

Brandy Whipped Cream

1 C. Heavy Cream
1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Brandy

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until thick and frothy.  While beating, add the sugar and brandy.  Beat until soft peaks form.  

02 December 2009

Chicken Baked with Artichokes + Potatoes

No real explanation is needed for this recipe. I make this recipe a lot because is a breeze to throw together and it is super delicious! I like this type of recipe because you basically put it in the oven and forget about it (i.e. that gives you more time to watch football or basketball)! Let's be honest - I'd rather watch Top Chef, Desperate Housewives, or Grey's Anatomy than football or basketball... I'm such a nice girlfriend.

Chicken Baked with Artichokes & Potatoes
(Adapted from one of my mom's recipes)
Yield: 6 Servings

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Large Onion; chopped
4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Dried Sage Leaves
2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. Capers (I put in 4 Tbsp. because I love capers)
2 Cans Quartered Artichoke Hearts
3-Pound Whole Cut-up Chicken
1 1/2-Pounds New Potatoes; cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 C. Dry White Wine or Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper

Heat oven to 425F degrees. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic, sage, parsley, and capers in oil for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Spread in ungreased 13x9'' pan. Place chicken (skin side down), potatoes and artichokes over mixture. Mix wine and lemon juice; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn chicken and potatoes. I usually sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on the skin at this point. Bake about 30 minutes longer until chicken is no longer pink when centers of the thickest pieces are cut.

01 December 2009

Caramelized Onion Dip

December will be filled with wonderful holiday recipes.  Sorry I sort of slacked in November... I promise that I'll amp it up a little bit this month.  Here is a perfect holiday appetizer that you will want to serve at your next gathering!  I'll warn you, however, that your eyes will water for a good 15 minutes.   Darn onions!  

Caramelized Onion Dip
(Adapted from Toast to Omaha)
Yield: 8 Servings

4 Tbsp. Butter
1/4 C. Vegetable Oil
3 Large Vidalia or Sweet Onions, thinly sliced
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Cajun Seasoning
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 (8 oz) package Cream Cheese
3/4 C. Sour Cream
1/4 C. Mayonnaise
Paprika or Cayenne Pepper to garnish

Make sure that your onions are thinly sliced and possibly even cut in half (makes it easier for guests to put on a baguette or chip).  In a large skillet, heat butter and oil on medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add garlic and seasonings.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes until onions are caramelized.  Add vinegar and stir to incorporate.  Allow mixture to cool.  In a food processor, blend cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise.  Add mixture to onions and mix well.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Garnish with paprika or cayenne.  Serve at room temperature with kettle chips, vegetables, or baguette slices.