Friday, December 30, 2011

Orange Butter Cookies

For wealth in the New Year. 
These cookies really made me think of the New Year when I was making them. It was as though oranges made me think of a new start or at least of January. Then it hit me why. In the building, I worked at in Arizona there would be bowls of oranges on desks for the calendar new year and the Chinese new year. I thought it was simply because oranges were the main fruit in season, until one day I asked. That is when I was informed that oranges are a symbol of wealth for the Chinese. I will be eating these cookies into the new year!

Orange Butter Cookies
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
Zest from half a large navel orange
1 large egg
orange juice from half of orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 Tablespoons milk
2 drops vanilla extract
couple squeezes of orange juice
zest of half orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or slipmat. In a bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. In a mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and orange zest at medium speed. Scrape down the sides of bowl frequently. Add egg and mix. Add vanilla extract and orange juice and mix. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined.
Scoop tablespoons of dough onto parchment, leaving more than 1 inch between cookies. Press each one down lightly with 2 fingers to flatten to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Leave any ridges and valleys on top of cookie intact, but smooth the edges.
Bake about 10-15 minutes. Cookies should be pale but baked all the way through. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack and cool before storing in airtight containers up to 1 week.
When ready to serve, make glaze: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Peel orange, being careful to remove only outer orange zest, and cut into thin strips. Blanch in boiling water 1 minute; drain.
Sift powered sugar into a bowl. Whisk in milk a Tablespoons before. Whisk in more milk if needed to make mixture thin enough to spread. Add extract, juice, zest, and whisk to combine.

Place cookies on a rack and drizzle icing over each one (make sure there is some orange zest in each spoonful). Icing will settle into cookie crevices; let harden.

Adapted from New York Times

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons

Crunch in a chocolate shell
I remember a younger version of my brother and myself rolling the peanut butter mixture into balls. He would eat 1 of about every 5 that he rolled, and I would eat none. Normally it would be that other way around, as he doesn't like sweets. In this case, I was not a fan of peanut butter. This is that cookie or bon-bon that just simply reminds me of Christmas. This is the first time that I made it on my own instead of just rolling for my mom. They are a great last minute make to set out for Santa, a no-bake cookie or truffle.

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons
2 cups chunky or smooth peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
3 cups rice krispies
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons shortening or butter

Mix peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter together and roll into small balls. Chill for 20 min- 1 hour in the fridge. Melt chocolate and shortening or butter over low heat, or in microwave for 15 second at a time until melted. Dip balls into chocolate mixture, covering completely. Lay on wax paper to cool completely. Move to fridge if needed to cool more. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Treats

The cookie tray is going to the dogs.
When making up Christmas cookies tray for friends and neighbors, I thought that I would add a little something for the woofs. Does anyone else give their pets Christmas gifts? We don't give Hayden anything big, just a bone and perhaps a toy. He always loves some treats though.
Hayden thinks that he should have a bite of our cookies so why not make something that is healthy and safe for him to eat. Due to the nutmeg in the cookies, I modified the spices to make it safe for dogs to eat. These would also make great fall treat but Hayden loves pumpkin anytime. Lip-licking good.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Treats 
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2-2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Combine pumpkin, oil, water, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir well and gradually add oatmeal and flour in 1/2 cups until a stiff dough forms. (I used 1 1/2 cups in the dough and then about 1/2 additional when rolling out). Roll dough to 1/4″ thick and cut with cookie cutters. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 40 minutes. If using smaller cutters like pie crust cutters (like the little man) bake for about 25 minutes. Treats are done with they are a bit crisp and have darkened slightly in color.

Note: Do not make a double batch of dough. As treats bake the dough will become very stiff and hard to knead/roll.
This recipe makes enough treats to fill 2 LARGE cookie sheets full.

Adapted from It's the Dogs' Life

Monday, December 19, 2011

6 Days of Xmas Meal Plan

I am not one of those last minute shoppers. I am usually done by the beginning of November, beginning of December at the latest. So this week I plan on soaking in the wonder of the season. Also do some fun winter or Holiday activities. It has been really cold here, so my meals will include lots of soup this week for dinner, with this Monday Meal Plan.
Meatless Monday: Broccoli cheddar soup with sourdough bread (repeat)
Tuesday: Meatloaf with roasted cauliflower
Wednesday: Chicken and shrimp tacos with lots of toppings
Thursday: Sausage and lentil soup
Friday: Out to eat
Christmas Eve Saturday: Potato soup
Christmas Sunday: Brunch: Baked French toast and Pineapple
Dinner: Cornish hens, salad, stuffing, veggie

Happy Holidays! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Usually Found in a Cup Cake

A bread that will warm you up like a cup of tea. 

This recipe, Honey-Spiced Chai Cake, was given to me by a friend that moved to Arizona from New England. Once she learned that my favorite hot drink was a chai latte, she made me this cake. It has become one of my favorites! It is great for a breakfast treat or an after dinner taste. Usually I would make it as a bundt cake, but I wanted to make mini loaves to put on my trays for the neighbors. However I knew I had to make myself a normal size loaf because I couldn't give it all away!

Honey-Spiced Chai Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup brewed chai tea
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Grease bundt pan or 2 regular loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, tea, buttermilk, honey, butter, eggs and egg yolk. Beat 1 minute or until just blended. The mixture will be really wet/thin. Pour batter in prepared pan(s).

Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Remove from pan.

If desired, sprinkle top with powdered sugar. Or make a glaze with a 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 3 Tablespoons of water and pour over top. (Glaze will help to give the cake a bit more moisture)

      Friday, December 16, 2011

      Chocolate Butterscotch Blondies

       So chocolately won't believe its a real blondie.
      When I was younger I was allergic to chocolate. My mom would try to be far and get me white chocolate, but I was still thankful when I outgrew that allergy. Today I still can't eat a long amount of chocolate without getting stomach aches. These blondies have enough chocolate to get in that fix, but not over the top chocolate. I think they are a great addition to holiday cookie tray. Even if they are a bar, have to change it up sometimes. 

      Chocolate Butterscotch Blondies  
      2 cups all-purpose flour 
      2 cups packed light brown sugar 
      2 teaspoons baking powder 
      1/4 teaspoon salt 
      1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled 
      2 eggs 
      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
      1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
      1/4 cup butterscotch chips
      4 Heath candy bars (1.4 ounces each), coarsely chopped or 1/2 cup Health baking pieces

      Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease a 13"x9" baking pan. 
      In a bowl, beat the butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir wet into dry ingredients until combined (batter will be thick and hard to stir).
      Spread batter into prepped pan. Sprinkle with chocolate, butterscotch, and Heath pieces; press gently into batter.
      Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Watch carefully after 25 minutes if not done, as not to overcook. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

      Adopted from Taste of Home

      Wednesday, December 14, 2011

      Blackberry-Orange Coffee Cake

      This is a leave on the counter all day and let people slice and eat kind of cake.
      My great-grandma used to tell me stories of getting oranges in her stocking at Christmas. Such a change from my childhood days where my stocking was stuffed full or chocolate and toys. Oranges around Christmas always remind me of my great-grandma and how much an orange would make her smile on those cold North Dakota winters. I think that oranges much a lovely addition to a Christmas meal or dessert. Simply some zest and orange juice can add a bit of brightness to a bite. Orange season is here! I am not sure where fresh blackberries came from this time of year, however the ones I got said California. With the limited or high cost of fresh, frozen blackberries also work wonderfully in this cake. 
      Blackberry-Orange Coffee Cake

      ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
      zest from 1 navel orange
      3/4 cup sugar
      1 egg, room temperature
      1 tsp. vanilla
      2 cups flour
      2 tsp. baking powder
      1 tsp. kosher salt
      2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen, chopped into pieces
      ½ cup buttermilk
      1 tablespoon sugar

      Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 9-inch square or circle baking pan. In a large bowl, cream butter with orange zest and sugar until light and fluffy.
      Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. In a side bowl, toss the chopped blackberries with ¼ cup of flour. In yet another bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
      Add the flour mixture to the wet batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blackberries, but don't be afraid if the batter turns a bit purple.
      Spread batter evenly into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick to come out clean. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes, may take up to 10 or 15 more just depending.
      Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

      Adapted from Alexandra Cooks

      Monday, December 12, 2011

      Almost Christmas Meal Plan

      Another week is already here. I am having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year, which isn't like me at all. But at least we have another Monday Meal Plan. I mean if I make it though this week for dinner, then it is almost time to just celebrate and relax.
      Meatless Monday: Broccoli Cheddar with Sourdough bread
      Tuesday: Penne arrabbiata with sausage
      Wednesday: General Tso's chicken with rice and zucchini
      Thursday: Roast beef with roasted cauliflower
      Friday: Panini night (use up randoms in the fridge)
      Saturday: Tacos with hard shells and refried beans
      Sunday: Out to eat before another week
      Hayden just wants to wish a Merry Christmas! Even though there are still a couple weeks.

      Monday, December 5, 2011

      Meals, Meal plan

      Really, I am trying to get back on track with things. I still think I should be on vacation or something. It is the season of so much baking! But today I have a meal plan to share, because we need to be prepared  this week for dinner, here is my Monday Meal Plan.
      Meatless Monday: Broccoli Alfredo

      Tuesday: Balsamic-garlic pork with potatoes
      Wednesday: Sesame ginger chicken with rice and zucchini
      Thursday: Out with friends
      Friday: Beef fajitas with peppers and refried beans
      Saturday: Roasted chicken and veggies
      Sunday: Whatever we can throw together, or leftovers