Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup (or Dumpling, if you like)

Here is my chicken soup recipe, a truly nourishing meal for keeping your health up. As before, read this broth information if you are interested. The stock recipe immediately below is from that link.

When I make soup, I start in the morning with the chicken stock and then by 5pm or so, the chicken is cooked, the broth is dark golden, and I am ready to assemble a soup. The soup recipe follows the stock recipe. As soon as you do it once, it is much easier to remember and make.

Chicken Stock:

1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional) I cannot find these anywhere, so I omit
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar I use raw apple cider vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Chicken Noodle Soup:

chicken meat from 1/2 whole chicken, reserved from making chicken stock, shredded
reserved broth from making chicken stock
2-4 T. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly crosswise into rounds
4 celery stalks, sliced thinly crosswise
4 T. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

dumplings (or noodles, if you want to roll them out):
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 eggs
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Melt 2-4 T. butter in a stock pot. Add onion and saute until soft. Add all chicken stock and bring to a simmer. While heating up, add carrot, celery, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 30-60 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
2. Start making noodles/dumplings: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with your hands in a large mixing bowl, measure out flour and salt. Add eggs and oil and combine until dough forms. If making dumplings, stop here and spoon directly into soup (about 1/2 tsp. each--I use a small ice cream scoop). If making noodles, continue: On a lightly floured surface, knead for 10-12 minutes until dough is elastic. Roll out and cut into 2 inch strips. Add to soup pot.
3. Cook for about 30 minutes, until noodles/dumplings are cooked through. Serve with whole grain bread, sourdough if you can find or make it, toasted with butter. Can also sprinkle additional parsley on top.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Potato-Fennel Gratin

My mom's ward (the congregation I grew up in) is full of the most fabulous cooks. I had inklings of what people typically thought of Mormon cooking (think Garrison Keillor's descriptions of meals done by the Lutheran congregation at Lake Wobegon) when I heard disparaging remarks made about lime jello salads and funeral potatoes. But, I never tasted such cooking until I went away to college; the ladies I grew up around just didn't do things that way. As an adult, I always thought funeral potatoes were pretty tasty until I got this recipe that my mom's ward used in the last two Christmas parties they put on. This is my THE potato gratin/funeral potatoes dish.

Seriously, you'll never want funeral potatoes again...

Potato-Fennel Gratin
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

2 small fennel bulbs
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 T good olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
2 pounds russet potatoes (4 large potatoes)
2 C plus 2 T heavy cream
2 1/2 C grated Gruyere cheese (1/2 pound)
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter inside of a 10x5x2 (10 cup) baking dish. I just used a 9x13 pyrex.

Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. REmove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making approximately 4 cups of sliced fennel. SAute the fennel and onions in the olive oil and butter on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender.

Peel the potatoes, then thinly slice them by hand or with a mandoline. Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups of Gruyere, salt, and pepper. Add the sauteed fennel and onion and mix well.

Pour the potatoes into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Combine the remiaining 2 T of cream and 1/2 c of Gruyere and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Check on this; I've had to cover the pan with foil with 15 minutes to a half hour to go to prevent the top from getting burned. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

It just seems more like Christmas if you eat a delicious cinnamon roll, even if you have been eating cookies all week. I can say from recent personal experience that if you even try to eat more than one of these, you may risk heartburn!

I sneakily stole this recipe from someone two years ago, so it somehow makes them taste even better. The extra ingredient would seem to be Sneakiness. Oh wait, it is actually all that cinnamon. Or maybe that it takes one pound of butter to make a batch? You tell me.

Cinnamon Rolls

2.5 teaspoons yeast (1 pkg.)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons wheat gluten
4 cups flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix 1 cup flour with yeast and wheat gluten in a mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan and then add milk. Add sugar and salt until just dissolved. Heat through until warm and add to mixing bowl (the flour mixture).
3. Mix on high for 3 minutes. Add eggs and mix until blended. Add vanilla. Add flour gradually until dough is pliable and can be kneaded (you may need to add another cup or so of flour).
4. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 6-8 minutes, or until dough is elastic. Put into a large, greased plastic bowl and let rise until double, about 1 1/2-2 hours. Once dough has risen, roll out to the size (about) of a cookie sheet and about 1/8-1/4 inch thick (aim for 1/8 inch thickness).

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 Tablespoons cinnamon

1. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl and set aside. Spread butter evenly on dough and then sprinkle with sugar mixture. (You can leave one end plain--about 1/2 inch edge--to make the log stick together.) Roll dough into a log and cut every 2-3 inches. You can use a serrated knife or dental floss to avoid smashing the log.
2. Place on cookie sheets 1-2 inches apart (they will grow a lot in the oven!) Let rise on cookie sheets for about 1 hour. Bake at 335 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove when tops begin to brown (to avoid dryness).

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon lemon flavor

1. Cream butter and cream cheese together at low speed for 6 minutes. Switch to whisk attachment and whisk on high for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup sugar on low speed, and then go back to high speed for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla, lemon, and remaining sugar on low and then return to high speed for another 3 minutes, or until creamy.
2. Keep leftover frosting in fridge. Store extra rolls at room temperature, covered. Don't ice the rolls until just before serving.

(*note: when I made these, I kept my oven at a low temperature (around 150 degrees) while the dough was rising. Then I put the bowls (when the dough ball was rising) and the cookie sheets (when the rolls were rising) on top of the oven to make sure they were warm enough to rise properly. It worked like a charm!)

(If it is really cold in your house, heat up the oven and then turn it off, putting the dough to rise inside the warm oven. Put a ceramic bowl of boiling or very hot water in the oven as well, to keep the air moist.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Classic Sugar Cookies

This is a recipe from my MIL, who makes excellent sugar cookies. They have lemon extract in the dough and icing, which is probably why I am so partial to this particular recipe. I have not made a different recipe than this for a few years now. I love it! It also works well with whole wheat pastry flour.

(Later next week I am going to try it with sprouted flour, whole cane sugar, coconut oil, etc. for a healthy version. I will post my results!)

Classic Sugar Cookies
from k's MIL, modified

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. lemon extract
3/4 cup milk (I use whole)

powdered sugar
lemon extract

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer on medium with the paddle attachment until pale and fluffy. Add egg and lemon extract. Gradually add flour and milk, alternating by switching 3 times or so. Mix until just combined.
  3. Divide in thirds, flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on lightly floured board. Cut out shapes and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer to cooking rack and let cool completely before decorating.
  7. Make icing. Use a few cups of sugar, add about 1 tsp. of lemon extract, and then stir in milk until desired consistency is reached. You can also add food coloring to the icing at this point. Decorate cookies and let dry until icing is hardened.

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Gingerbread Cookies

Today I made a classic, and I love this version with pepper in addition to the usual gingerbready spices. I made mine into different shapes, and also am not going to make the royal icing. I made sugar cookies today as well, so I will just use that icing for both recipes. Look at the sugar cookie post for the recipe. Enjoy! (I got the recipe for these cookies from M*rtha Stewart.)

Gingerbread Cookies

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  5. Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Pipe designs on snowflakes; immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand 5 minutes; tap off excess sugar. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Store cookies between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Chocolate Lump Cookies

I love these simple almond-milk chocolate ball cookies, since I was a little k.

Chocolate Lump Cookies

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 ½ cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 bars (5 oz. each) Cadbury “Dairy Milk” chocolate bars, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and blend completely. Add flour, salt, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Combine. Add chopped chocolate bars and mix by hand with a wooden spoon.
  2. Scoop out by the tablespoon and roll into 1 inch balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely brown on the bottom. Do not over bake.

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

These cookies are a satisfying blend of chocolate and peanut butter, even better than those peanut butter cookies with kisses in my opinion! Here is the original recipe, exactly the same as below but linked to give credit where credit is due.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
from Martha Stewart

½ cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar, for rolling out the dough
36 mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped and chilled

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add brown sugar; beat until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture in two batches.
  3. Scoop off the dough in tablespoons; roll into balls. Place granulated sugar on a plate; roll balls in sugar, coating completely. Place two inches apart on a parchment-lined nonstick insulated baking sheet.
  4. Bake until cookies begin to puff up slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Press one peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. Return to the oven; continue baking until cookies are golden brown and chocolate has begun to melt, about 6 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Shortbread (with variations)

I love shortbread: it tastes amazing, always impresses a crowd, and turns out to be very versatile if you try different mix-ins like the ones below. For Christmas this year I have settled on these four flavors to take to neighbors and family:

Shortbread with variations:

Classic Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with rack in upper third. Sift flour and salt into a bowl; set aside. Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl. Gradually add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture all at once; mix until just combined.
  3. Butter a 10-inch round springform pan or cake pan. Using plastic wrap, press dough evenly into pan. With plastic on dough, refrigerate 20 minutes.
  4. Cut dough into 8 wedges with a paring knife. Using a wooden skewer (not a fork, it’s tines with pull at the dough), prick all over at ¼-inch intervals.
  5. Bake until golden brown and firm in the center, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack. Recut shortbread into wedges; let cool completely in pan. Can be stored in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.
Coconut-Macadamia Fingers Variation:
Follow classic shortbread recipe, mixing in 1 tsp. vanilla at end of step 1. Add ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut and ½ cup finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts; mix to combine. Proceed with step 2. Butter an 11½-by-8½-inch rimmed baking sheet, and line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang on long sides; butter parchment. Using plastic wrap, press dough into prepared pan. Leave plastic on dough, and refrigerate 20 minutes. Cut into 32 rectangles (about 3 by 1 inch each); prick top all over with a wooden skewer. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown and firm in center, about 40 minutes. Lift out by overhang; transfer to a wire rack to cool. Recut into rectangles.

Lemon Shortbread Variation:
Follow classic shortbread recipe, mixing in 5 tsp. finely grated lemon zest and 1 T. fresh lemon juice at end of step 1. Proceed with step 2, then halve dough, and shape into disks. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thick. Cut out rounds with a 2-inch fluted cutter. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Bake until pale golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Walnut-Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Variation:
Follow classic shortbread recipe, mixing in 1 tsp. pure vanilla at end of step 1. Proceed with step 2, and then stir in 5 oz. (1 cup) finely chopped semisweet chocolate. Halve dough. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper, and shape into a log. Roll in parchment to 2 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow the log and force out air. Unwrap, and roll each log in 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Cut logs into ¼-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Cadbury Christmas Mini-Egg Brownies

You know how Cadbury Mini-Eggs are amazing? Well, they have started putting out a Christmas version only the candies are round and colored with green, red, and white. I made Mini-Egg brownies a few Easter's ago, and thought, why not Christmas brownies?

The reason any version of these brownies are good is due to the original recipe by Nick Malgieri. He makes a Pecan Brownie recipe to die for. These candy versions are the same recipe but with pecans omitted, and candy pieces replacing them. I put half the bag in the dough, and then sprinkle the other half on top so you can see the colors.

Cadbury Christmas Candy Brownies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ¼-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
one bag (10 0z.)Cadbury Mini-Eggs, or Cadbury Christmas candies, divided in half

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes, and then whisk smooth. If all the chocolate has not melted, return to very low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate melts.
  3. In a large bowl, use a rubber spatula to stir one egg into the brown sugar. Make sure any lumps in the sugar are dissolved. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, stirring each in with the rubber spatula in the same way. Stir in the granulated sugar, then the vanilla and salt. Stir in the chocolate mixture.
  4. Finally, fold in the flour, then half of the candy.
  5. Prepare a 9x13x2 pan by buttering it and then lining it with parchment paper and buttering the parchment paper at the very last. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Scatter the remaining candies over the top of the batter.
  6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or a small knife inserted into the center emerges clean. Cool completely on a rack.
  7. Wrap and refrigerate the pan so that the cake solidifies completely, at least 4 hours but overnight is best. This also makes the cake easier to cut.*
  8. Transfer the whole cake to a cutting board and slide a long knife or spatula under it to loosen the paper, and then pull it away. Use a ruler to mark, and then cut the cake into 2-inch squares.
  9. For up to several days, store the brownies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover. Freeze for longer storage. If you plan to keep the brownies for any length of time, it is better to wrap them individually.
*I really do this step, and it makes a BIG difference in how they taste.

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2009: Checkerboard Cookies

Checkerboard Cookies
by Nick Malgieri

French Vanilla Sables

12 Tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1½ cups all-purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth, until well mixed, light colored, and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and egg yolk. Continue beating until very smooth, about 2 more minutes. Scrape the bowl and beater well and beat in the flour.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a 1 inch thick square and chill for several hours and up to several days.

Dark Chocolate Sables

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder, sifted after measuring
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

In bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until well mixed and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, then beat in vanilla and egg. Continue beating until very smooth, about 2 minutes more. Scrape bowl and beater very well and beat in flour mixture.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a 1 inch thick square the same size as the vanilla dough, and chill for several hours.

Checkerboard Cookies

1 batch French Vanilla Sables
1 batch Dark Chocolate Sables
1 egg white for adhering the dough

  1. Remove vanilla dough from refrigerator and roll out to an 8x12 inch rectangle on a floured surface. Slide onto a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill again until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with chocolate dough.
  2. Remove vanilla and chocolate doughs and uncover. Paint entire top of vanilla dough with egg white and then place chocolate dough on top, pressing with cookie sheet, gently, to adhere completely. Immediately cut dough in half and paint one half with more egg white, then stacking other half on top and pressing gently again with a cookie sheet to adhere completely. Wrap completely in plastic wrap and chill again for several hours. At this point you may double wrap and freeze, only to be defrosted in the refrigerator when you are ready to continue.
  3. Remove the dough and unwrap. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough across the 6 inch side into sixteen 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place one slice cut side down and paint with egg white. Stack a second slice on top making sure that the vanilla and chocolate doughs are lined up oppositely. For example, if the first slice was vanilla, chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, then the second slice should go chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, vanilla. Continue painting the second slice with egg white, adding a third slice, painting the third slice and topping off with a fourth slice. This stack is finished once there are 4 slices adhered together. Start a new stack exactly the same way, ending with 4 slices adhered together. You should end up with 4 stacks of 4 slices adhered together, since you started with 16 individual slices. Wrap the individual stacks tightly in plastic wrap, taking care to gently press them together. Return to refrigerator to chill for another several hours. At this point they may be double wrapped and frozen, only to be defrosted in the refrigerator in order to continue when you are ready.
  4. When you are ready to bake, get your parchment-lined baking sheets ready and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make sure the racks in the oven are placed in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  5. Remove dough from fridge and unwrap. Cut with a sharp knife into ¼ inch thick slices and place immediately onto sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed somewhat and dull and firm to the touch. Slide the papers from the pans onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Store between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

I started Cookie Baking Extravaganza this afternoon, and what Christmas cookie plate would be complete without Mexican Wedding Cookies? This year I used this Martha Stewart recipe, and it is great! I could not find the recipe I used two years ago, so I put my trust in Martha, and she did not disappoint. I love the cinnamon-almond combination, and the finely ground almond meal that goes into the dough. Yum!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies

1 cup almonds, plus 40 more for decorating
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 large egg white, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1 cup almonds on a baking sheet; toast until fragrant, about 12 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Put toasted almonds, flour, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor; process until almonds are finely chopped, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle, cream butter and 1 cup confectioners' sugar on medium until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla and almond extracts, and mix until combined. Add the almond mixture, and mix on low until dough just comes together.
  4. Roll dough into twenty 1 1/2-inch balls; place on ungreased baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with your palm.
  5. Toss 1 tablespoon beaten egg white and remaining 40 whole almonds in a small bowl to coat. Press two almonds into each cookie.
  6. Bake cookies until lightly browned around the edges, about 25 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to a wire rack; let stand until cool enough to handle.
  7. Place remaining 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Roll warm cookies in sugar, reserving any remaining sugar. Return cookies to baking sheets. Let cookies cool 15 minutes, and roll again. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Gift 2009: Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

Every Christmas, I try to make a treat for neighbors who help me make it through my day-to-day life. However, I am not a baker, and though I LOVE it when others bring me cookies and treats, some days around the holidays, I think it would be so handy to have a quick homemade dinner (that I didn't have to make).

This year, I wanted to make pesto because it can be used for so many things, but when pine nuts cost $7.99 for a little over a cup, plus the copious amounts of good quality olive oil and parmesan cheese, I decided that may be a little pricey.

Then, inspiration hit...I could make this tasty tomato soup and put a little pesto on the side. Have you tried 1 (or 2) teaspoons of pesto in tomato soup? DELICIOUS!

And, it's a gift that has red and green! How festive! I know, I know, just call me, "Martha."

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
Cook's Illustrated

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling I only use about 2 T at the beginning; the recipe says to add more as you're blending the tomatoes, but I haven't found that to be necessary to the creaminess or flavor-enhancing
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional) I haven't done this
1 bay leaf
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice I buy mine diced
1 T brown sugar I do 1 1/2 T brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces I measured 3/4 c of fresh bread crumbs that I've run through the food processor and keep in the freezer
2 C low-sodium chicken broth I think homemade stock makes the difference here because there are so few ingredients
2 T brandy (optional) I haven't done this
Table salt and ground black pepper I left out the pepper for purely aesthetic reasons and thought it still tasted fine
1/4 c chopped fresh chives I think this is unnecessary when adding the pesto

Heat 2 T oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain (this is why I just buy the tomatoes already diced).

Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely staurated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Transfer half of soup to blender. Add 1 T oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Sometimes, I add this, but often, I don't. There's usually a little fat in the chicken broth, so I count that instead. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil.

Rinse out Dutch oven and return soup to pot. Stir in chicken broth and brandy (if using). Return soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup in individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with pepper and chives and drizzle with olive oil. I omit this last sentence and instead add 1-2 teaspoons per bowl of this pesto. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches for an easy dinner.

Christmas Gift 2008: Red Lentil Soup

I LOVE this soup. So, last year, I put together all the dry ingredients as a gift for our neighbors during the holidays. It does involve a lot of chopping, but it's well worth it. (Oh, another task that's well worth it--hunting down those 6 whole cloves!)

I make it throughout the year, but it’s great at Christmas—the cinnamon, allspice and cloves make the whole house smell like the holiday season.

Bob’s Red Lentil Soup
Bob Adams

3 C red lentils
1 C chopped celery
1 red pepper, diced
1 C chopped ripe tomatoes
9 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 onion chopped
1 c sliced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 t thyme
½ t allspice
dash cinnamon
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
dash flaked red pepper
2-3 t vinegar
1 lemon juiced

Simmer lentils in broth with spices and garlic until lentils are soft. Add vegetables and simmer 10-15 minutes. Blend/puree soup in blender. Add vinegar and lemon juice. Serve with plain yogurt or sour cream on top.

Gingerbread People

I've never tried another gingerbread recipe because I love this one so much that I've never felt the need. These are decadent with just the right amount of spices. Mrs. Fields has a recipe for icing, but the thing I love most about gingerbread people is that they can be decorated with red hots, sprinkles, and chocolate chips BEFORE they're baked.

I'm so lazy that I just never do icing or frosting on cookies.

On a completely unrelated note, will they take away my feminist card if I call them "gingerbread men?" :)

Gingerbread Men
Mrs. Fields' Cookie Book

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1 c salted butter, softened
3/4 c dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1/2 c unsulfured molasses

Whisk together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in medium bowl.

In mixer, cream butter and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add egg and molasses, and beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape bowl and add the flour mixture. Belnd on low speed just until combined; do not overmix. It will be magically clear when you've mixed enough.

Separate dough into 2 balls and flatten into disks. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap or a plastic bag, and refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. With floured cookie cutters cut into gingerbread men. Gather scraps and reroll dough until all dough is used. Place on ungreased baking sheets 1/2 inch apart. This is where I decorate with the above mentioned items.

Bake 9-11 minutes being careful not to borwn. Transfer to cool flat surface with spatula.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Biscuits (soaked and yummy!)

This very morning I finished making biscuits. It is from one of my favorite blogs: The Nourishing Gourmet. She bases most of her recipes on the food philosophies of Sally Fallon, the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, and the Weston A. Price foundation. I am not a big fan of the book itself (poorly edited, but informative; get it from the library), but I do frequent this blog for recipe ideas. (I will soon try making her sourdough recipe, once my starter arrives in the mail!)

The recipe below is written with the specific ingredients I used. I made two batches at the same time, one with butter and milk, and one with coconut oil and coconut tonic. I had to do both because my DH does not like coconut, but I am currently experimenting with (virgin organic) coconut oil due to all of it's health benefits. If you want pictures and more information on the biscuits, click here for the original recipe. Here is my version, which is barely different.

Fluffy, Whole Wheat Biscuits
Makes 20 small biscuits

Coconut oil melts at a low temperature, so keep this dough “soaking” under 76 degrees so the oil will stay solid.

    2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
    6 tablespoons coconut oil
    3/4 cup of coconut milk tonic*
    1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

    (*one can coconut milk, 17 oz. coconut water (or plain water, I used coconut water from a coconut we had drained earlier that day), and 1 tsp. vanilla, whisked together)


2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
6 tablespoons organic, pastured butter
3/4 cup of raw milk
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1-The night before, measure the flour into a medium size bowl. Using a pastry cutter, or a fork and knife with a cutting motion, cut in the coconut oil/butter into the flour. When the oil/butter is the size of peas or smaller, you are done. Add the coconut milk tonic/water/milk and vinegar, and mix in until just combined. Leave overnight at room temperature, well covered. You can cover it with a towel and then put a plate on top to hold it down. This mixture will be wetter then your average biscuit recipe. This is so we can more easily mix in the salt and rising agents the next day.

2-The next morning, place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450. Press down the dough a bit right in the bowl. Sprinkle the baking soda, baking power and salt on top of the dough, then fold it in half, top to bottom and press down firmly. Fold in half again from the side, and press down firmly again. Starting at the top, repeat this process until you have folded the dough about 10-15 times (do so until you feel assured that the rising agents and salt have been well mixed in).

3-Now it’s ready to roll it out! Because the folding process develops the gluten a bit, you may not need any flour. But if you do, feel free to use some more whole wheat pastry flour or arrowroot flour when you roll this out. Place on a clean surface, and roll out into a rectangle. It should be about 1/2 an inch thick.

4-You can use biscuit cutters to get nice round biscuits, but I like to simply cut it into squares as there is no waste this way.

5-Place on a parchment-lined jellyroll pan and pop it in your preheated oven. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the top and bottom is lightly browned and the middle is cooked all the way through. Remove to cooling racks when done. Biscuits are best warm, we enjoyed ours with a little butter and local raw honey on top.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicken, Ham and Swiss Roll-ups (cheater Chicken Cordon Bleu)

I love this easy dinner recipe for when you are craving a satisfying meat dish, but also short on time. Plus it is really good!

Chicken, Ham and Swiss Roll-ups (cheater Chicken Cordon Bleu)

from Everyday Food

6 chicken breasts, thawed
6 T. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
6-10 slices deli ham
12 slices Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350.
Pound each chicken breast very thin and lay out flat. Spread one tablespoon of mustard on each chicken breast and season with salt and pepper. Layer ham on each breast, making sure each is covered completely. Then layer cheese over ham in the same way.
Roll each chicken breast jelly roll style and place seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink. Let rest 5 minutes and then serve.

Lemon Cream

Another great Kate H. recipe.

Norma Gillespie

1 pkg lemon jello
1/2 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 c boiling water
6-oz frozen lemonade concentrate (thawed)
1 c whipped cream I whipped cream for a total of 2 cups. Why? Because I wanted the color of the lemon cream to be lighter. Only after I put it in to set did I realize that doubling the whip cream may have made the lemon cream not set. Fortunately, it did set, but it didn't keep the shape of the mold quite as well.

Whisk jello, sugar, salt, and boiling water until dissolved. Stir in 6-oz frozen lemonade concentrate. Chill until jelly-like consistency. Fold in 1c (1/2 pt) whipped cream. Lightly spray mold with Pam. Fill mold and refrigerate until set. I let mind sit overnight. To remove from the mold, I placed it in hot water for about 5 minutes, and then, inverted the mold on the plate. (ok, I made my friend, Kirstin, do this because I was too nervous) Serve with seasonal fresh fruit. Blackberries and strawberries are delicious with this!

Breakfast Pizza

We had lots of great neighbors when we lived in Boston. Some of our favorites were Dave and Geri who would host a bi-annual LDS General Conference breakfast. Their breakfast pizza and Swedish pancakes were staples at these events, and I remember counting down the days until a Zollinger breakfast.

The pizza is great--so easy and such a crowd please!

Breakfast Pizza
Geri and Dave Zollinger

1 package crescent rolls
5 eggs
1 c hashbrowns, thawed
12 oz sausage
1 c cheddar cheese
¼ c milk
½ t salt
1/8 t pepper
2 T Parmesan cheese

Brown sausage and drain.

Roll out crust on an ungreased pizza pan. Layer sausage, then hash browns, then cheese.

Beat the eggs milk, salt and pepper together.

Pour over pizza. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Coconut Bars

This past summer I did an Easy Breezy Summer Recipe night and this was my favorite recipe from the whole night. Thank you Heather J!
Coconut Bars

1 & 1/2 C Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/2 C Butter melted
1 can (14oz) Condensed Milk
1 package (7oz) Coconut
2 C Chocolate chips
1/2 C Peanut Butter

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter and press into 9x13 pan. Combine coconut and milk and spread over crust. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until slightly browned. Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter and spread over bars. Keep cool in refrigerator.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tortilla Soup

This is another soup I make with homemade stock/broth. Here is the link again, with the health benefits and recipe on one page. (I find I crave this for mineral content and especially calcium now that I am no longer drinking milk.)
Tortilla Soup
(my mother-in-law's recipe)
1 pound cooked chicken, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz. can diced green chiles
15 oz. can stewed tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. lemon-pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon hot sauce
4 tablespoons flour
½ cup water

  1. Boil water with chicken and bouillon until cooked. Save 4 cups broth and cube chicken. (I don't do this part, I make stock that morning and use the broth and chicken from it. If I am in a pinch and do not have time to do that, I will use bouillon but from the Better Than Bouillon jars, NOT the cubes. (They contain MSG.))
  2. In a large stockpot, sauté onion, garlic in oil. Add green chiles, tomatoes, saved broth, lemon pepper, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, and hot sauce.
  3. Add flour and water and cook until thickened. Add chicken and stir to combine.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips, guacamole, sour cream and grated cheese on top.

Cheese and Vegetable Chowder

This is, without a doubt, my favorite soup of all time. Seriously. It is good with store bought stock, but I highly recommend buying an organic, free range chicken if you can find a decently priced one (I go to Sprouts), and making your own stock that morning. Then you just use the stock that night for dinner. The reason I go through the trouble is for the massive health benefits from one single recipe and made all in one pot: Broth is Beautiful (recipe included).

Cheese and Vegetable Chowder
2 T. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, split lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 T. whole wheat pastry flour
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 turnip, finely diced
1 large potato, finely diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1½ cups light cream or half-and-half
10½ oz. mature Cheddar cheese, grated
fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
salt and pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan or stockpot over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, leek and garlic. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Stir the flour into the vegetables and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add a little of the stock and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix in the flour. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and slowly stir in the rest of the stock.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, turnip, potato, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme branches.
  4. Stir in the cream and simmer over a very low heat for 5 minutes. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring constantly for 1 minute after each addition, to make sure it is completely melted. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, adding salt if needed, and pepper to taste. Ladle immediately into warm bowls, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vegetable Soup

Now that cold weather has finally turned cold I thought I should share this recipe:
This basic soup can be made with any combination of fresh or frozen vegetables, so you can switch it up and it will taste different each time.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 C chopped onions or leeks
1 C thinly sliced celery
2 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cans (14.5oz) vegetable or chicken broth
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsp tomato paste
8 C mixed fresh or frozen vegetables (I like to do carrots, potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans but really the sky is the limit. I've also done cabbage and cauliflower.)

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, and 2 1/2 C water to pot; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce and heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes.
Add vegetables to pot, and return to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Now I know I got this off of a recipe blog 2 years ago but for the life of me don't remember where so special to the mysterious blogger who gave me this recipe.

This recipe is also great to freeze and save for later!

Fresh Mushroom Soup

So, mushrooms were the last food I have taught myself to, if not like, at least appreciate for their "mushroomyness." (I've hated mushrooms for as long as I can remember.)

They were the only food that would make me gag (well, that an gristle, but is gristle really a food?). Still
, over the past two years, I've been trying to incorporate them into our meals, and now, I can say, "Mmmm, that's a good mushroom dish." Notot my favorite food, but mushrooms and I get along better now.

I think there's a metaphor for life somewhere in there, but I'll spare you those thoughts.

Really, the ultimate triumph is that I can enjoy this mushroom soup. Not that this is a hard soup to like. It's rich and creamy. Seriously, it could be a sauce over a poached egg and an English muffin for a decadent breakfast or dinner.

Fresh Mushroom Soup
Gourmet Cookbook

2 cups half and half
1 medium onion
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 pound mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced I used 2 8 oz boxes of creminis with the stems removed because they were looking a little yucky
4 t all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock or store-bought broth I used the stock left over from this dish
1/2 Turkish bay leaf or 1/4 California bay leaf
1/4 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground pepper
2 t fresh lemon juice I had the lemon, but forgot to add it

Bring half-and-half just to a boil in a heavy sacuepan, then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, cut a 3/4-inch-thick crosswise slice from center of onion; reserve remainder for another use I'm not sure why or how they thought of this, but I'm glad--it would have been weird , kind of disturbing the texture of the soup, to have diced onions floating there, which is what I was tempted to do until I realized this would save me work!

Heat butter in a 6-quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion slice, then sprinkle mushrooms with flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add stock in a slow stream, stirring constantly, then add half-and-half, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Discard onion and bay leaf and stir in lemon juice.

Add a loaf of French bread to dip in this soup and a salad for a quick easy dinner!

Escarole, Sausage, and White Bean Stew

My family doesn't like spicy food, but I think the heat here is important to the overall flavor. I found a sprinkling of cayenne did the trick; kids would still eat it and the heat was still there albeit slightly muted. With a loaf of bread and a side of apple slices, this was an easy dinner.

With some minor modifications (dairy-free sausage, no butter or cheese), I think this dish would still be quiet good, definitely lower in calories, and a top-8 allergy-free dish.

Escarole, Sausage, and White Bean Stew
Gourmet Cookbook

1 t olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (sweet and/or hot) broken into 1-inch pieces I used Trader Joe's chicken sausage with fontina cheese and garlic
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste I sprinkled a bit (less than 1/8 t) of cayenne pepper instead
1 head escarole, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces couldn't find this anywhere! I used 1 C thawed frozen spinach instead
3 c cooked or canned white beans, such as great northern or navy, drained and rinsed if canned I used 2 15 oz cans of great northerns
3 c chicken stock
1/2 stick (4 T) unsalted butter
1/2 c finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or a combination of Parmigiano and pecorino Romans
2 plum tomatoes, diced I drained a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 T choped fresh flat leaf parsley not a bit fan, so I left this out

Kosher salt and pepper

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown sausage, stirring, for 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until garlic is softened, about 2 minutes. Add beans and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add stock and beese, tomatoes, and hal Stir in butter, cheese, tomatoes, and half of parsley and cook, stirring, until butter is melted and stew is heated through.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Magical Mint Kiss Cookies

I didn't know this was a Hershey's recipe until I bought a bag of Mint Kisses two years ago. I thought my mom made it up! Either way, a delicious chocolate-mint recipe for those who are partial to the combination. I know I am.

Magical Mint Kiss Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
48 mint kisses, unwrapped
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixer fitted the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, blend flour and cocoa together; gradually add to butter mixture on low speed. Mold a scant tablespoon of dough around each individual mint kiss, covering completely. Shape into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool about 1 minute and then remove from baking sheet to cool completely. Roll in powdered sugar once and then roll a second time just before serving.