Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

Love you all!  I'm taking the week off and will see you in 2012!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookies cookies cookies!!

I am of the opinion that you can never have too many cookie recipes.  So, even though I mostly make the traditional cookies for Hanukkah and Christmas at our house, I like to add something different from year to year.  Here are some suggestions if you feel your cookie list is getting a bit stale!

Grammy's chocolate cookies


Chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies

Lavender biscotti

Lemon and lavender shortbread

The world's best brownies

Lime and basil shortbread

Chocolate shortbread

Homemade Oreo cookies

Perfect vanilla sugar cookies

Perfect chewy chocolate cookies

Bourbon balls

Fudgy chocolate cookies


Matzo toffee

Cream cheese-raspberry brownies

Chai-pistachio sugar cookies

Mexican chocolate cookies

Cream cheese-apricot brownies

Amish raisin cookies

Peanut blossoms

Italian cornmeal cookies

Lime swirl cheesecake bars

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...

...or in a 450 degree oven!  Use a heavy serrated knife to make a small cross cut on the rounded tops (just press down, don't try to slice).  Boil them in red wine for 10 minutes (optional) and then pop them into the oven on a cookie sheet for 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve in a dish towel!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


There's a reason that almost all traditional gingerbread recipes have you mix in boiling liquid near the end of the mixing phase, just before placing the batter into the oven.  I recently tried a method that skipped the boil, and I was extremely sorry that I did!  Even though the flavor of the bread was excellent, the middle was wet and the edges were tough and dry.  Nope.  Back to boiling for me, but I'll be using milk instead of water from now on!


2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t allspice (or half cloves, half allspice)
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t dark cocoa powder
8 T butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
3 T grated fresh ginger
3 T crystallized ginger, minced
3/4 c mild molasses
1 egg
1 c milk
1 t white vinegar

Prepare an 11 x 7 glass baking dish with cooking spray and parchment paper.  Heat the oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour through the cocoa powder.  In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar.  Mix in the gingers, molasses, and egg, stirring well.  Stir in the flour mixture, scraping the bowl well, but not over-beating.  Heat the milk to boiling (glass measuring cup in the microwave helps to prevent burning) and add the vinegar.  Stir the liquid into the batter, stirring until just combined.  Pour into the baking dish and bake for 42 to 45 minutes.  The top should spring back; a test toothpick will not always come out completely clean.  Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lime swirl cheesecake bars

Nicole from Baking Bites posted this amazing recipe for Key Lime Swirl Cheesecake Bars awhile ago, and I've made it several times since.  Oh yum!  Thank you, Nicole!  The lime zest shown above is my own addition, but frankly, the recipe is perfect without it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Italian cornmeal cookies

This is a great cookie recipe to get the kids involved.  It's easy to mix up and to roll out, and after it's baked and cooled, it's soooo much fun to break into pieces!

Italian Cornmeal Cookies

3/4 c cornmeal
3/4 c flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1-1/2 t anise seeds
3 T butter
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 T lemon zest
Extra egg white
1/4 c sliced almonds
Extra sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk the cornmeal through the anise seeds together.  In another medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light in color.  Beat in the egg and zest.  On low speed, beat in the flour mixture.  Roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thick oval on a parchment covered sheet.  Brush lightly with the egg white and add the extra sugar and almonds to the top.  Press down lightly with hands or rolling pin.  Bake for about 22 minutes at 350; try to avoid too much browning.  Cool on a wire rack and break into pieces.  These keep very well since they are fairly dry.    

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peanut Blossoms

Almost everyone I know has a version of this cookie recipe!  I don't know where they originated, but whether you call them Peanut Blossoms, Witches' Hats, or something else, they are tasty little treats.  My mother passed this version of the recipe on to me.

Peanut Blossoms
Makes 3 dozen

1-3/4 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c Crisco
1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
Extra sugar for rolling
Hershey Kisses

In a small bowl, whisk the flour through the salt.  In a large bowl, cream the Crisco and peanut butter together.  Gradually add the two sugars and cream well.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Blend in the flour mixture and shape into balls by rounded teaspoons.  Roll balls in sugar and bake on parchment covered sheets at 375 for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and top each cookie with an unwrapped Hershey Kiss, pushing down to crack the cookie into a flower shape.  Return to the oven for 2 or 3 more minutes until cookies just begin to brown.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hippy fruitcake

I love all different types of fruitcake, with the exception of the kind that's just basically sweet bread and contains nothing but candied diced citron.  I have nothing against candied citron, but fruitcake is better when it contains a mixture of non-sweetened fruits like currents, dates, dried apples, cherries, raisins, and figs.  Chopped prunes are good too.

My Hippy Fruitcake is the type that most fruitcake jokes revolve around: it's dark, dense, heavy, and loaded with brandy.  You've been warned.

Hippy Fruitcake

5 c of mixed dried fruits and nuts:
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
1 c currants
1 c dates, chopped
3/4 c dried apples, chopped
1/2 c golden raisins
3/4 c dried cherries

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 c butter
1/4 c honey
1 T molasses
3 eggs
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves
Brandy (optional)

Mix all the dried fruits and nuts together and toss with 2 T all-purpose flour to prevent sticking.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, and then beat in the honey, molasses, and eggs.  In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the rest of the flour with the other dry ingredients, and then beat into the butter mixture.  Stir in the fruit.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper that can be folded over.  Fill the pan and bake at 275 for 2 hours.  Place a baking pan filled with hot water on the oven floor to keep the cake from drying out.  Cover the top with the parchment paper and foil once it begins to set.  Cool the cake in the pan.  Remove it carefully from the pan and peel off the parchment paper, setting it aside.  Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, soak the cloth in rum, and re-wrap in the parchment paper back inside the pan.  Cover then entire cake with foil and let it age for about a month.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Triple O Bread

Our Triple O Bread goes really well with all the Italian food we've been enjoying lately!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Butternut squash filling for ravioli

Quite a bit of work, and much easier with help, especially since you'll probably want to have other vegetables with this meal.  We had it with Sesame Asparagus, Beet Greens, and Triple O Bread.  Three people was the perfect number to handle the cooking.  Good thing too, because my kitchen might not have handled more!

Butternut Squash Ravioli

One batch of fresh pasta dough

Small butternut squash (around 1 lb)
1 T butter
1 onion, chopped
2 t sage

1 clove of garlic, minced
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

1/2 c salted butter
1/3 c hazelnuts, chopped coarsely

Pre-cook the butternut squash in a water-filled baking dish at 400.  It will take between 40 and 60 minutes to be soft enough.  Remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, mix up the Fresh Pasta Dough, and set aside to rest.  In a small skillet, cook the onion, sage, and garlic in butter until golden brown; remove from skillet and set aside.  In the same skillet, melt the butter and heat the nuts until the butter has browned slightly.  Pour into a glass measuring cup and cover with foil to reheat later. 

Scoop the butternut squash flesh into a bowl and add the other ingredients.  Mix together by hand. 

Roll out the pasta dough into long strips.  Place teaspoons of filling about 1 1/2 inches from the long edge and about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other.  Fold the edge over and use a crimping wheel to cut out the raviolis.  Press the edges together to seal well before cooking.

In a large pot, bring water to a gentle boil.  Cook the ravioli in batches, removing with a slotted spoon when ready.  It takes between 6 and 10 minutes to cook them.  Remove to a baking dish and cover until ready to serve.  Reheat the sauce in the microwave and serve. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Making fresh pasta

I didn't know how easy it is to make fresh pasta!  Sure, like anything else, it takes a lifetime of practice to get it perfect, but the basics are really easy.  And your results will (almost certainly) be edible.  I found that without a pasta roller, the biggest challenge was getting the dough thin enough.  You'll need to roll it thinner than you think it needs to be.  A friend told me that you need to pick it up and look at a light through it to see if it's almost translucent.

All I really know is that it's fun to make and it gives your arms a good workout!

Fresh Pasta

2 c all-purpose flour
3 eggs 
Additional flour for dusting

Make a circle on your counter top with the flour and break the eggs into the middle.  Use a fork to start stirring the flour into the eggs, working outward until all is combined.  Add either teaspoons of water or flour if the dough is too dry or too wet.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for at least 15 minutes.

Roll out, shape, cut, fill or let dry, and cook as desired.  My first adventure was with plain old fettucine, so I rolled out the pasta into sheets, rolled them up to cut them into strips, and hung the strips over a plastic-wrapped handle to dry.  The pasta only needed about 5 minutes in the well-salted boiling water later to be cooked perfectly. 

This is only one sheet worth of fettucine.  The recipe above makes 4 or 5 sheets.  These are a little too thick...I got better as I went along! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Golden brandy fruitcake

Here's another total treasure from my mother, RuthAnn Lavin, just as she sent it to me.  She's been making this fruitcake forever, and even people who claim to hate fruitcake like this one.  Mostly I think that's because the cake is more dominant than in most recipes.  My old hippy fruitcake recipe is much more fruit than cake, dark and HEAVY, but this cake actually has cake in it.  Imagine that!  It's not devil's food light, but it's really good and moist.

I'm sure the brandy doesn't hurt either ;-)

Golden Brandy Fruit Cake

1 1/2 C Golden Raisins
2 C Blanched Slivered Almonds (1#)
1 C Sliced Dried Apricots (8oz)
1 C Halved Candied Cherries (8 oz) - I use both red and green when I can get both
1 1/2 C Dried Candied Pineapple
4 Large Eggs
1 C Shortening
1 C Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 C Apricot Brandy
2 1/2 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix almonds and fruit together and soak in a little brandy.  Set aside.  Mix  together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.  Grease Bundt pan well and flour lightly.  Cream shortening and sugar and then beat in eggs.  Add vanilla.  Blend flour mixture alternately with creamed shortening and sugar mixture and then blend in Brandy.  Add almonds and fruit and mix well.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake about 2 hours.  Keep a shallow pan of hot water on lowest shelf of oven while cake is baking.  Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out cake and cool completely.  Wrap cake in brandy-soaked cloth and store in air tight container in refrigerator.

I was given this recipe from a woman who grew up in California and she said it came from a California Cook Book of some kind.

Good Luck when you make this cake.  The cake is not a cheap one and sometimes I have trouble finding the dried fruits before Thanksgiving, which is when I prefer to  make this cake because then the Brandy has time to really penetrate the cake mixture.