Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maple Coconut Blondies

This simple yet delicious recipe is adapted slightly from Baking Bites and yields 16 very moist, not-too-sweet-or-overpowering, wonderful bars.

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F.
Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and the egg and whisk until smooth. Add in flour and salt and stir just until no streaks of flour remain. Add in coconut and stir to distribute evenly. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until blondies are set and lightly browned.Cool in pan on a wire rack.
[High altitude: Add an extra 1-2 Tbsp flour and bake at 325, watching closely after 30min or so til top is lightly browned and knife comes out almost clean.]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

A favorite of Scott's (who got the recipe from a co-worker, who originally got it from a cooking magazine but not sure where??), these sweet and salty almonds also pack some heat. Seriously addictive!
2 1/2 cups unblanched, raw almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes
3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, and pepper
4. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 Tbsp honey and 1 Tbsp water with 1 tsp olive oil, stirring until combined, about 1 minute.
5. Add almonds; toss to coat
6. Transfer nuts to sugar mixture (do not scrape extra glaze into bowl); toss to coat
7. Cool in a single layer.
Nuts will keep for up to 2 weeks -- let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Permutations on Brickle

Not to mess with perfection, but I got a wild hair to start experimenting with different variations on brickle.
The pics here are of 4 different permutations:

1. Gingersnap base (coarsely broken gingersnaps) with semisweet chocolate and sea salt on top
2. Gingersnap base with butterscotch morsels (need longer in oven to melt!) and sea salt on top
3. Newman's Own Ginger-O's cream-filled ginger cookies, split open and broken as base, with melted chocolate and sea salt on top
4. Newman's Own Ginger-O's as base with melted butterscotch morsels and sea salt on top.

Prepare as in original brickle recipe, or try out new combos.

I thought I would have a favorite...and yet all are delicious :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Black Bottoms

While quite good, and an old family favorite, I'll be honest and admit these can be sort of a pain (the pouring of stuff is the most annoying part, and they make a good number, so it's best to have a few mini muffin pans on hand). But, they are something my mom has always made for many special occasions and so something about the holidays usually prompts me to do the same.

8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
6 oz chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring in the chips last, and set aside.
3. Combine remaining ingredients and beat well.
4. Fill miniature cupcake pans (lined with paper cups) 1/3 full with chocolate mixture
5. Drop 1 tsp of cheese-chip mix into middle.
6. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, removing before cream cheese mix browns.

(Adjust using normal conventions for high-altitude...paying special attention NOT to overcook).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Espresso Irish Creme Kiss Cookies

When I found Irish Creme flavored Hershey's Kisses in the holiday candy section, I knew they must be incorporated into the holiday baking line-up. I took the easy way out and grabbed some refrigerated sugar cookie dough, added 1/2 packet of Starbuck's Via using a hand mixer, rolled into balls, baked, and dunked the Hershey's Kiss in the center. After cooling, I drizzled with some chocolate.
They are pretty good, but as Scott noted, these types of cookies suffer from the goodness of the Hershey Kiss never getting distributed throughout the cookie. Also, thanks to high-altitude baking, these cookies got really flat (as most refrigerated sugar cookie dough does anyway), and so the spread was even more accentuated.

Irish Creme flavored Hershey's Kisses
1/2 packet of Starbuck's Via
1 roll refrigerated cookie dough

Prepare as instructed above.

HG Seafood Gumbo

This recipe was adapted from a Hungry Girl recipe, and jazzed up with some sausage and rice.
1 package Jennie-O turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2 inch wide medallions
One 14.5-oz. can crushed or chopped tomatoes (not drained)
8 oz. peeled and deveined raw medium shrimp with tails removed (I used 12oz)
8 oz. white crab meat (about two 6-oz. cans drained)
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning, or more to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice
Directions: Bring a large pot sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Add bell peppers and onion. Add in kielbasa, and stirring occasionally, cook for about 3 minutes, until veggies are tender. Add tomatoes, V8 juice, and cornstarch. Stir well, making sure cornstarch dissolves completely. Cook until mixture begins to bubble. Add Cajun seasoning, and Frank's RedHot. Stir and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp, and continue to simmer until shrimp are cooked through, about 3 - 4 minutes. Add crab meat and 3/4 cup water. Raise heat to medium, and return to a boil. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let thicken for 5 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper. If you like, add a little more Cajun seasoning and Frank's RedHot.
Either top a bed of rice with gumbo, or add rice to gumbo itself.
Enjoy! Makes 5 servings


This recipe is a classic first introduced to me by my best friend's mom many, many years ago (Thanks Court and Ms. Jan!)
Regardless of its simplicity it remains an addictive treat that is begged for by many every year at Christmas...

saltine crackers (1.5-2 sleeves)
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
18oz (1.5 packages) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Line jelly roll pan (or large cookie sheet with side walls) with heavy duty aluminum foil.
3. Place layer of of saltine crackers evenly on foil.
4. In small-medium saucepan, melt sugar and butter until bubbly, stirring constantly.
5. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla
6. Quickly pour over crackers, smoothly and evenly.
7. Bake immediate for ~6-7min
8. Remove from oven, pour chocolate chips evenly over butter layer
9. Bake on top rack for another 2 minutes.
10. Spread chocolate over butter and crackers, smoothing with a spatula.
11. Freeze overnight, peel off aluminum foil backing, and break into pieces.
12. Keep frozen or refrigerated.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Muddy Buddy Cookies

This was adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe.
It's a little messy, but really good!

1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated PB cookie dough

1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar

1. Bake cookies according to directions (i.e., roll into small balls, bake about 7 - 8 min (they'll look underbaked but take them out early!) and let cool completely.
2. In small microwaveable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds; stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
3. Place 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in a large shallow bowl or plate; set aside. Place 3 -4 cooled cookies in another large plate or bowl. Pour chocolate mixture over cookies, smooth over/toss cookies gently to coat. Place cookies in bowl/plate with powdered sugar; gently turn and coat cookies. Remove cookies to cooling rack to set. Repeat with other cookies until all cookies are coated, adding additional powdered sugar as needed.


I combined a recipe from Coconut & Lime with my mom's "recipe" (it's in her head) that she makes every year. I personally preferred the twist to the traditional version, and I think everyone liked it, even the traditionalists.

28 oz sauerkraut [I think I used ~30oz Klausen's jar?]
1 thick cut boneless pork chop (about 1/4 lb)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar + 1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp yellow mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp caraway seed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 large shallot, diced

Place the sauerkraut, shallot, horseradish, sugar, vinegar and spices in a 2 or 4 quart slow cooker. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add the pork chop and cover in sauerkraut. Cook on low 8 hours or 4 hours on high. The pork should be easily shredded with a fork. Shred the meat and stir. Serve hot.

Blackberry Cranberry Sauce

I got this recipe from Baking Bites and made it for Thanksgiving this year, though I left out the allspice lest my very traditional family mutiny. I liked it a lot, but maybe added too much water at the beginning, as it stayed fairly watery.

Blackberry Cranberry Sauce
12-oz bag cranberries
2 cups blackberries (approx 12-oz)
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
[1/4 tsp ground allspice...I omitted]

Place cranberries in a medium saucepan and fill about 1-inch deep with water. Cook over medium-high heat until cranberries start to pop. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until popping slows. Add in blackberries, sugar, salt and allspice. Stir well and cook over medium heat until sauce comes just to a simmer and starts to thicken.
Use a potato masher to gently crush the berries, the cook for an additional minute.
Pour sauce out into a heat resistant dish, cover and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Berries will keep, refrigerated, for at least a week.

Makes about 4 cups

Cranberry Ribbon Cake

I saw this on Coconut & Lime and got very excited about the use of yogurt and cranberry sauce, as I had both to use up. Haven't tasted it yet but am excited to!

2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce at room temperature (I used this recipe that I made for Thanksgiving this year...)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

[Added a little more flour (~1-2 Tbsp) and slightly less baking soda and powder (reduced by about 1/8 tsp) for altitude...also baked at 325 for about 40min]

"Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or use a baking spray 1 bundt or tube pan. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, butter, vanilla and sugar until well mixed. Slowly add in yogurt. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and a dash of salt. Slowly incorporate into the yogurt batter. Mix thoroughly. It might not look like you have enough batter to fill the pan, but you do. It is not a super tall cake, but it will rise and have a great texture, I promise. Spoon 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth with the back of a spatula. Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce to form a ring around the middle of the pan, without touching the middle or sides. Top with the remaining batter and smooth with the back of a spatula. Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack. Slice and eat."

(I also made 4 mini cakes in my snowflake pan for added holiday spirit :-P)