Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Recipe #103: Christmas Chocolate Bars...aka, Shortbread with a Filling of Cream Cheese, Chocolate, Almond Extract & Walnuts

I have had this recipe for 28 years, and it was given to me by my boss's daughter, who had just come on board with United Airlines back in 1987.   At the time, I was working in San Francisco at our maintenance base.  The recipe is not really holiday specific...I have made this at all times of the year.  It is a great cookie to bring to a pot luck, to a cookie exchange, to someone's house for dessert.  The filling is very rich...but rich, too me, is relative.   You can slice these as small, or as large, as you want to...they cut beautifully.  I have cut bars 3x4 inches and wrapped them in foil with a ribbon to give as gifts.  Except for making the filling, this is a one mixer bowl recipe...very easy, and very rewarding...you will really enjoy it...now, let's bake...

2 cups chocolate chips                                         1 cup sugar
8 oz cream cheese                                                1 tsp baking powder
1 small can evaporated milk                                2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts                                        2 eggs
2 tsp pure almond extract                                    3 cups flour 

Combine the chocolate chips, cream cheese and evaporated milk and cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and almond extract.  Combine rest of ingredients in large mixer bowl.  Blend until coarse crumbs.  Be careful with this...you don't want a dough...coarse crumbs the size of peas..give or take.  Press 1/2 mixture into a 9x13 pan (you don't need to grease it).  Spread with chocolate mixture.  Sprinkle rest of crumbs over filling.  Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, or until crumbs are just turning brown.  Bon appetit!  

this has gone almost too far for crumbs, but I can break up with my fingers...

first layer gets pat in with half the dough...pour the chocolate mixer and spread over whole pan next...crumble layer on top with other half of dough...no matter that it doesn't fill in everywhere...


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Recipe #102: Butternut Snowballs

Who doesn't like these cookies?  Well, I guess those who don't like nuts. This recipe came from a cookbook my mom had back in the early 60's, and I have made these cookies a zillion times.  The only expense is the pecans, as the recipe takes two cups, and not two cups of halves, but two cups after pulverizing them.  You can make the dough, flatten it on a piece of plastic, secure in a freezer Ziploc and throw in the freezer.  And, if you bake them and keep them in a container, they will keep at least a week.  They are a delicate cookie, and were a favorite of my late husband.   Now, let's bake...

2 sticks butter                                                      2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar                                                       1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped pecans                           2 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy.  Sift flour with the salt and add to the creamed mixture, blending thoroughly.  Add pecans and mix well.  For better results, place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a square and refrigerate a few hours.  Shape into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a slow oven...325, for about 20 minutes, or until JUST starting to brown.  Cool, then roll in powdered sugar.  If you would like to make the snowballs chocolate, add 1/4 cup cocoa to the dough and bake as directed.   Bon appetit!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Recipe #101: Toasted Cashew and Bacon Brittle...Totally Sublime!

I love cashews...have all my life.  I love bacon...have all my life.  This brittle recipe joins all the hype of putting bacon on everything.   It's addictive, that's for sure, and once you start, you won't be able to stop....

1 cup raw cashews                                                    8-9 pieces of bacon
2 cups sugar                                                              3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat oven to 400.  While oven is heating, place cashews on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until deep brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool slightly on a cutting board, then coarsely chop and set aside.  When oven is ready, place bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until deep brown and well done, about 15 minutes.  You can also brown the bacon the old fashioned way using a fry pan.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool.  Crumble.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.   Set aside.  Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (do not stir) until mixture is deep amber and registers 350 on a candy thermometer, about 10-15 minutes.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat.  Carefully add cashews, bacon and salt to the caramel and stir to combine.  Immediately pour mixture onto the center of the prepared baking sheet.  Let sit at room temperature until hardened, about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely, then break into shards.   Bon appetit!

Toast the cashews in the oven...

Cook the bacon on a large rimmed heavy cookie sheet...

No splatters from a pan...

OMG...This is great!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Recipe #100: Cherry Walnut Struesel Crumb Coffeecake

When I was a kid, as a special breakfast, my mom would sometimes make two cinnamon streusel coffeecakes.  I normally don't care for cinnamon in anything, but for a box mix, and I think it was Pillsbury, it was a really good coffeecake.  I will be featuring a cinnamon sour cream coffeecake in one of my future posts, but this one is for cherry, one I have never made.  Yes, you can substitute any canned fruit filling...I happened to use Solo Cherry pastry filling for this one.  You can also substitute vanilla extract for the almond.  Great for a dessert, luncheon or breakfast.  Please try it.  Now, let's bake...

2 cups flour                                                             3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar                                               3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt                                                              1 stick butter, melted and cooled a bit
1 cup whole or 2% milk                                         1 egg
2 tsp pure almond extract                                       1 can solo cherry pastry filling


1 cup flour                                                               1/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp butter                                                             1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 chopped walnuts, optional                                 2 tsp pure almond extract

In a medium bowl with a fork, mix all ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Heat oven to 350.  Prepare streusel.  Beat all coffeecake ingredients in a large mixer bowl on low speed or 30 seconds...increase speed to medium and beat, scraping bowl occasionally for 2 minutes.  Spread half of mixture in a tin foil lined pan that you have sprayed with cooking spray.  Make sure the foil goes up at 2" at either end so you can lift out.   Sprinkle with half the streusel, then carefully spread remaining batter over.  Spread cherry pastry filling over the coffeecake batter, then sprinkle remaining streusel over all.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking at the 30 minute mark to see if top is golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean, except for cherry filling.  Cool on rack for about 30 minutes, then remove from pan.  Cut into squares when warm or cool.  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Recipe #99: My Stuffed Peppers with Fresh Corn & Topped with Balsamic

When I think of stuffed peppers, I think back to the 60's, along with stuffed cabbage.  My mom made neither one, and I don't know if it was the process of boiling the peppers/cabbage before stuffing/rolling everything.  My friend, Kathy, said that when I gave her some of these to have for dinner, they reminded her of her school cafeteria.  This is a very homey dish, and quite simple to do, and so satisfying.  I also cut my peppers in half, because I like the same ratio of meat mixture to pepper.  I also use an array of red, orange and yellow peppers, not only for color, but because green peppers typically have more acidity to them.  In addition, this recipe usually calls for white rice, but I bought brown rice for this time around.  I also wanted to add something really out of the box, and who would have thought that a splash of white balsamic on top of the pepper when ready to serve would compliment it in such a way to tone down the tomato a bit, but add a complexity and depth.  The addition of the fresh corn adds another flavor, as well as crunch.  You will like this recipe, so please try it.  Now, let's cook...

6 peppers, all colors if you like                         2 tsp worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice                           1 lb ground beef
3/4 cup water                                                       1/3 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded cheese, your choice                 2 cans condensed tomato soup
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes                           1 cup fresh corn, or 1 cup frozen
1/2 cup celery, diced                                           white balsamic vinegar, or regular, if you
                                                                                     don't mind the color

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Slice the peppers down the middle and remove the stem and all the membranes, cutting around the stem to leave as much of the pepper intact as possible.  Cook peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain.  Set aside.  In a large skillet, cook beef and onion until the beef is browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomatoes, rice, corn, water and Worcestershire.  Cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until rice is cooked.  You will need to taste it and also add more water if need be, as you don't want the rice to be crunchy.  Also, you don't want your stuffing to be dry, but you don't want it to be soupy either, or it will spill right out of the pepper.   Heat oven to 350.  I line a lasagna dish (usually larger than 9x13) with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.   Dump both cans of tomato soup in a bowl, and whisk in just enough water to make it saucy.  I actually hold the pepper in my hand and stuff with a spoon, then place back in the pan.  When all the peppers are back in the pan, pour the tomato soup sauce over all and then top with cheese.   Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, and cheese is melted.  Take peppers out of oven, and after plating, put about a tbsp of balsamic over the top of the pepper.  Make sure to try the pepper before the balsamic, and then after...I think you will really notice a difference.  Bon appetit!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Recipe #98: My Own Version of Caramel Brownies...Ooey Gooey & Double Stuffed!!!

I have made the world famous caramel brownies many times...take a german chocolate cake mix, take a package of kraft caramels, etc.  "These" are absolutely sublime!  Not only are the brownies from scratch, but the caramel is from Recipe #41...and let me tell you, you have never had a caramel brownie so over top as this...the pictures speak for themselves...again, yes, you need a candy thermometer to make the caramel, but I guess if you wanted, you could cheat and take two packages of Kraft caramels and do the same thing...but, of course, it wouldn't be the same.  You will thank me, or curse me...one or the other....now, let's bake...


2 sticks butter                                                        1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups sugar                                                           1/2 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp salt                                                              1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder                                              4 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts


Please refer to Recipe #41..

In a saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate chips, stirring every once in awhile until fully blended.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs and coffee.  Add the melted butter/chocolate mixture.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Add to the chocolate mixture, stir, and then stir in the nuts.  Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Spread half of brownie mixture in pan.  Cover the other half..it tends to thicken up.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Take out of oven.  Pour caramel mixture over the brownies.  Now, if you can't pour the remainder of the brownie mixture over the caramel, you can add about 1/4 cup warm water to thin it out, or just take a little mixture in your hand, flatten and put over the caramel, or just spoon dollops over the caramel.  Continue to bake at 350 for another 15 minutes or so until top looks crackled...do not overbake as the first layer is pretty much baked in the first 15 minutes.  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Recipe #97: Cranberry Lemon Sugar Cookies with Lemon Zest Filling

I love lemon, almost as much as I love chocolate, and if there's zest in whatever it is, all the better.  Whatever a recipe calls for as far as lemon, I usually triple the amount I put in.  Sorry, I am not one of those who wants my followers to taste just a hint of lemon...I want a one, two punch.  And that said, I take my apology back.  This cookie is to die for...to die for.  You can even forgo the filling, if you want, the cookies are that good by themselves.  But, please don't do that the first time around.  Also, they freeze beautifully...I wrapped about 10 of these individually in plastic wrap, then put in a Ziploc freezer bag...fantastic.  I have to say, I think this is one of top 10 recipes...really!!!  Okay, let's bake...

1 stick butter, softened                                        1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar                                                        1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg                                                                        2 cups flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar                                        2 tbsp grated lemon peel (probably 3 large lemons)
1/4 tsp salt                                                             3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup sugar in a bowl

In a mixer bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add egg, beating well.  Combine the flour, cream of tartar, lemon peel and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in the cranberries.  Place in a large piece of plastic wrap, covering loosely and pounding into a square. Refrigerate at least 2 hours until firm.  Roll dough into 1" balls.   I usually do all of this first before I go on to the next step.  Place in bowl of sugar and roll until covered, then put on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.   Flatten just slightly with the bottom of a flat glass or vase.  Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Remove immediately to wire racks to cool.


2/3 cup butter, softened                                       2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk                                                        1/8 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp grated lemon peel

In a medium bowl, combine the filling ingredients; beat until smooth.   Spread on the bottoms of half of the cookies, trying to match them up as best you can according to how they baked up.  Any remaining filling...well, you know what to do.  Bon appetit! 



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Recipe #96: Chinese Chicken & Fresh Snap Peas...Fabulous!

I love snap peas, and I'm okay with chicken.  Quite frankly, I could make this recipe with snap peas alone, although I have added firm tofu.  That said, tofu lovers don't top the charts, so for this post, I didn't include it.  This dish has only two ingredients, but it's "so" tasty.  If you want something quick, packed with flavor, please try this.  By the way, this recipe is for one, and it's a healthy serving.  Time to cook...

1 chicken breast, sliced very thin                          1 tbsp dry sherry
3 tbsp soy sauce (I use low sodium)                     1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar                                                   2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp fresh diced ginger                                       1 small container snap peas, tipped
                                                                                   and tailed, vein off*

*for those of you who don't know what "tipped and tailed" means, it means cutting each end off of green beans, snap peas, etc.

In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, rice vinegar, cornstarch and ginger.  Add the chicken and stir until combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside...no need to refrigerate if you will be cooking within a few hours.  In a large skillet or wok on high heat, heat 1 tbsp canola oil with 1 tbsp sesame oil.  Add snap peas and cook just a few minutes, until some are just turning color.  Remove from pan and put on a plate.  Using a slotted spoon, add chicken, reserving marinade in bowl, and browning on high heat for just a few minutes.  Add snap peas back into pan and stir together with chicken.  Add marinade and stir until combined.  At this point you can mix 2 tsp cornstarch with about a 1/4 cup COLD water to thicken.  Serve over rice or just serve in a bowl.  Dinner is served.  Bon appetit!

the chicken in the marinade...just added the red pepper flakes, which I haven't stirred in yet...

the chicken in the marinade and the cut snap peas...

saute the snap peas until "just" turning a little brown...

 a little cornstarch and water just added to thicken the marinade...



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Recipe #95: Blueberry Elderflower Liqueur Pie With a Crust to Die For!

This pie was just featured in the latest Food Network magazine.  Why, then, did I choose to make it for the blog?  Because sometimes you need to have someone you know make a recipe before "you" actually make it.  This pie turned out wonderfully...my only change is using only 1 tbsp elderflower liqueur in the pie filling instead of 2..it was a little sweet.  If you don't have St. Germain, use the same amount sugar water or lemon juice instead.  That said, no complaints whatsoever.  This is a pie, though, you cannot serve warm...it really needs to cool to room temp.  But, it is "to die for."  Okay, let's bake...


3 1/4 cups flour                                                        3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt                                                                     1 1/2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into
1/3 cup very cold shortening, cut into                           small pieces
      small pieces                                                        2 tbsp elderflower liqueur (St. Germain)


8 cups fresh or frozen blueberries                       1 cup sugar
    (about 4 pints)                                                     1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp elderflower liqueur                                      1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg

For the crust..put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter and shortening; pulse just until the pieces are the size of large peas.  While pulsing, gradually add the elderflower liqueur and 1/4 cup ice water until the dough comes together.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth.  Divide the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; use the plastic wrap to form each half into a disk.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour or overnight.

For the filling;  toss the blueberries, sugar, flour, elderflower liqueur and salt in a large bowl.  Let sit until juicy, 30 minutes.  Position a rack with a baking sheet in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425.  Roll out 1 disk of dough into a 12" round on a lightly flour surface.   Ease into a 9" deep dish pie plate, pressing the dough into the bottom and up the side.  Roll out the second disk of dough on a lightly flour surface.  Toss the berries again and pour the mixture into the prepared crust.  Moisten the edge of the crust with cold water and lay the second dough round over the filling; gently press the top and bottom crust together around the edge.  Fold the overhanging dough under itself and crimp the edges.  Cut a few slits in the top crust to let steam escape.  Beat the egg with 1 tsp water.  Brush the pie with the egg mixture and sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Put the pie on the hot baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350.  Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 55 more minutes.  Cover the edge of the crust with foil if it is browning too quickly.  Transfer to a rack and let cool at least 2 hours before serving.  Bon appetit!

my dough never quite turns out to be a disk...I actually have a piece of parchment paper with a 12" circle drawn that I use as my template when it comes to rolling out the dough...