Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year 2012!

253. A New Year has arrived. New possibilities, new dreams, new accomplishments and new experiences. I love a clean sheet of paper, crisp new book, empty journal just waiting to be filled.
For our New Year dinner I roasted a Pork Loin with Garlic, along with Polish Cabbage and Sour Cream Potatoes.
Polish Fried Cabbage

1 head cabbage, chopped into medium chunks
1 large onion chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh, chopped dill, or 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
salt and pepper
(optional) 1 pound boiled egg noodles to make Halushki

Place oil in a very large skillet or dutch oven. Heat oil and add onion and cabbage. Stir on high heat making sure cabbage and onions do not burn. Turn heat down to low and simmer to cook cabbage. Stir often. As soon as the cabbage is tender, add salt and pepper to taste and dill. Stir to season. Saute' for one more minute. (If you are adding noodles, do so at this point.)
Serve hot.

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."
~ Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

252. This is a beautiful and fantastic side dish. It is easy with only a few steps involved.
This recipe is a Rachael Ray recipe called "Brussels Sprouts with Bacon", recipe here.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, small sprouts left whole, larger sprouts halved
  • Salt and pepper, to your taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Brown half the bacon in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, 1 turn. Add remaining bacon and shallots to the pan and saute 1 to 2 minutes. Add brussels sprouts and coat in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook Brussels Sprouts 2 to 3 minutes to begin to soften, then add broth. Bring broth to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook 10 minutes, until tender. Transfer sprouts to a serving dish and top with cooked bacon bits.
Brussels Sprout Trivia:

For a few days around Christmas 2010, UK Burger King restaurants offered a 'Sprout Surprise Whopper'. It was a classic Burger King Whopper with Brussels sprouts and Emmental cheese.

"Brussels Sprouts were first grown in quantity around Brussels, Belgium, hence the name.
They may have been been grown there as early as the 12th century, other sources say the first recorded description of Brussels sprouts dates to 1587 by Dutch botanist Rembertus Dodonaeus. Many sources say they were known in ancient Rome."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spritz Cookies

251. Traditional Spritz Cookies are a family favorite in our home. This recipe is my mom's original recipe. I sat and copied it onto a notebook page back when I was 9 years old. Cookie baking day was always a favorite time for me, not only for the cookies but to spend time baking with my mother.
This year, my daughter and I baked a large batch of Spritz Cookies. These cookies are tender and delicious and they look wonderful on a cookie tray.
Over the years I have collected 5 different kinds of cookie presses. Three of them were from Tag/Garage Sales and Second Hand Stores. The metal plates that come with the press each have their own character. I used these four metal plates this year, the round spiral one, to the left is my absolute favorite shape.
Some cookie presses are electric and others are hand crank. I also have one that is trigger release. They all work differently and each press has it's positives and negatives.
One of the knacks to using a cookie press is to establish a rhythm so each cookie is the same size and shape. The longer you hold the cookie press on the cookie sheet the larger the cookie will be.
I have also learned that the dough will cooperate with you better if you press the dough onto a cold baking sheet, un-greased and unlined with parchment paper. The dough lightly adheres to the baking sheet, and you are able to stop, pull up and move on to the next cookie. Make sure you wash the cookie sheet between batches and setting the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to chill is a tremendous help.
Spritz Cookies

2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large mixing bowl combine butter and sugar and blend for 3 minutes, till color lightens. Add egg and vanilla. Mix till combined. Add salt and flour and mix till dough comes together into smooth ball. Do not chill this dough!
Prepare cookie press with desired metal attachment plate. Fill cylinder with dough by pressing down tightly. Place on top and begin ejecting cookies onto cold baking sheet. Repeat till all dough has been used.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or till light brown around bottom edge. Always bake a test cookie to test the desired time necessary. Do not bake too long...under-baked is always better than over-baked.

You have the option of sprinkling the tops of the cookies with colored sugar crystals before baking or decorating when cookies are cooled.

Store in air-tight container up to two weeks.

"I've never felt like I was in the cookie business. I've always been in a feel good feeling business. My job is to sell joy. My job is to sell happiness. My job is to sell an experience."
~Mrs. Fields Cookies

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Bliss Bars (Starbucks)

250. Each Christmas Season, I wait in anticipation for Starbuck's delicious "Cranberry Bliss Bars". Beautiful white and red triangular cut Blondie bar, filled with cranberries and chunks of white chocolate. They come nestled in a paper cup, a perfect pairing with a cup of Pike Place, hot and steaming.
Recently, while on Pinterest, someone pinned a picture of, what they called, a "White Chocolate Cranberry Blondie". AAAAAHHHHHH! It was a Cranberry Bliss Bar! I did a little searching and voila', the recipe! And, it seemed to have all the ingredients as the Starbuck's Cranberry Bliss Bar. Only one ingredient seemed different...cinnamon in the Blondie (blonde brownie).
So, I stopped at Starbucks...for research sake, of course. And picked up a Cranberry Bliss Bar, brought it home, and we dissected it, tasting each little part and divulged that it was very close to this recipe.

Now, if you do any searching on-line, you will find there are "copy-cat" recipes for these treats. Like the "Top Secret Recipes" by Todd (recipe here) but it is not the same. There is no crystalized ginger in the recipe but a hint of ginger. Or, "'s " recipe, (recipe here) . But, there is no orange zest in the brownie, only orange zest in the frosting. Now, Starbucks posts the nutritional information for their Cranberry Bliss Bar and you can see the bakery ingredients they use towards the bottom of the page. (Information here).

Choose which one is to your pleasing and try this recipe. Here is the one I made:

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Blonde Brownie
3/4 cups
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup flour
(1/8 teaspoon ginger or cinnamon - Starbucks does not use cinnamon - optional)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, (Craisins by Ocean Spray are too sweet. Look for a natural dried cranberry)
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoons grated orange peel
6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Melt butter and stir in brown sugar and cool. Transfer to a large bowl and beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup cranberries and chopped chocolate. The batter will be thick.
Spread into a parchment lined 13x9inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-21 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cool on a wire rack.
In a large bowl beat cream cheese, confectioners sugar and orange peel. Add half of the melted chocolate and beat till blended. Frost the cooled brownie
and sprinkle the top with chopped 1/2 cup cranberries.
Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

Fantastic!!!! Now, I don't have to wait all year for this delectable treat...I'll just make my own!

"Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee."
~Howard Schultz

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Cordial Cherry Cookies

249. This is a beautiful recipe and the cookies taste like chocolate covered cherries!

Chocolate Cordial Cherry Cookies

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup All Purpose or Unbleached Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 (16-oz.) jar maraschino cherries, well drained, reserving 2 to 3 teaspoons liquid
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
Heat oven to 350°F. Melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. In small bowl, beat brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter until fluffy. Add egg and cooled melted chocolate chips; mix well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Stir in flour and baking powder; mix well. For easier handling, refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes.
Wrap 1 teaspoon dough evenly around each cherry to completely cover. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 14 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheets; cool completely.

For frosting, in small saucepan melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 2 teaspoons oil over low heat until smooth, stirring constantly.
Add enough reserved maraschino cherry liquid until frosting is of desired dipping consistency; beat until smooth. Dip tops of cooled cookies in frosting.
Sprinkle tops with chopped almonds.
Allow cookies to dry in single layer on waxed paper.
What a nice addition to a cookie platter. These would also be a great cookie for Valentine's Day.

"Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies."
~ John Q. Tullius

GingerBread Cheesecake Bites

248. I saw this recipe while on Pinterest one day and it looked I bookmarked it for my Christmas baking.
I organized all my recipes and began to read the recipe on "Created By Diana" Blog for Gingerbread Cheesecake Bites. My dissapointment came when I read the ingredients: 1 30oz package Pillsbury Gingerbread Cookie Dough. Awe! really??? I can do better than that!
So, I went to work developing a gingerbread cookie dough that would be more like a crust and less of a ginger snap. And here is what I came up with:
GingerBread Cheesecake Bites

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powder sugar
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup flour

4 oz cream cheese
2 cups powder sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix butter and powder sugar together and cream for 3 minutes. Add the molasses, spices and flour. Mix till dough comes together and forms ball.
Roll into 2 teaspoon size balls and place into a paper lined mini muffin pan. Make an indentation with a cookie press dipped in flour.

Mix the next ingredients together, cream cheese, powder sugar and vanilla, till smooth. Place in a piping bag. Pipe 1 teaspoon filling into each of the cookie cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes. Cream cheese filling will begin to rise. Then remove to a rack to cool. Store refrigerated in a sealed container.
The cookie dough is so delicious, it would make yummy gingerbread ball cookies too!

"Had I but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for gingerbread."
~William Shakespeare

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Polish Filled Cookies

247. A favorite cookie at Christmas is the Polish Filled Cookies. Light cream cheese and butter pastry with a sweet bite of jam. This recipe has been a very reliable one for me for many years. You can fill these pastries with any type of fruit preserve or jam.
The apricot preserves worked beautifully and tasted delicious. The fruit in preserves is thicker and has more fruit pieces.
Whereas the raspberry jam has more of a tendency to liquify and has less fruit bits.
This recipe calls for an egg wash to wipe on the tips of the joining edges. This is very smart to do. When I wouldn't use the egg wash the cookies would burst open during the baking process. The egg wash seals the edges together.
Makes 64 small cookies 2 1/2" size.

  • 2 stick(s) (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 brick (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • Filling: about 1 cup canned ready-to-use fruit and/or nut pastry, cake or dessert filling
  • Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 2 tsp cold water
  • Decoration: confectioners’ sugar

    1. Beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with mixer on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.
    2. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour, beating just until dough comes together.
    3. Divide in quarters; shape each portion into a 1-in.-thick square with even edges.
    4. Wrap each airtight; refrigerate at least 1-1/2 hours or until firm.
    5. Heat oven to 350°F. Have baking sheet(s) ready.
    6. Tear off a 12-in. sheet of wax paper.
    7. Working quickly, generously sprinkle wax paper with flour and top with 1 square of dough (keep rest refrigerated); dust dough with flour. With a rolling pin, roll dough to a 10-in. square (see Tip). Cut in sixteen 2-1/2-in. squares, making 3 evenly spaced cuts horizontally and vertically. Place 1 slightly heaping teaspoon filling in middle of each square. Lightly dab egg wash onto 2 opposite corners, bring corners together over center of filling and pinch to adhere.
    8. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Immediately remove to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

    Store airtight with wax paper between layers at cool room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.

    This is a beautiful recipe. It may be tedious but the time and effort spent are worth it.

    "On an exhausted field, only weeds grow."
    Polish quote ~ Henryk Sienkiewicz


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