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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Molasses Sugar Cookies

Hello blogosphere friends and thanks for stopping by!

Okay, it's officially December 1, 2014...a new day so it doesn't appear that I have typed up three posts in the same day after not posting a darn thing in over a year. I found the recipe from our first cookie exchange back in 2011. They are "molasses sugar cookies" and if you like soft, chewy sugar cookies coupled with the spice of a ginger snap then you'll love this cookie! It comes from an old Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies and Bars magazine I often drag out this time of year. One year I spruced these up with a cinnamon red hot smashed right into the center of the cookie just before baking but they taste and look just fine following the recipe as written. So this is a snapshot of the picture as it appeared in the magazine, but mine turned out just as pretty...Honest!

Molasses Sugar Cookies

Yields: 4 dozen cookies

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger and ground cloves
*additional sugar

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, oil and molasses. Add egg , mix well. In a separate bowel combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves. Add to sugar mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or until easy to handle.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (I love my small cookie scoop for this part); roll in additional sugar. Place 3 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until tops are cracked and edges are set. Cool 2-3 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Enjoy!

Until next time...

Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies

Welcome and/or welcome back!

I guess I'll call this a "countdown to Christmas" theme. I'm trying to keep the posts short and sweet and maybe get around to blogging more often than once a year. I'm searching for a cookie recipe for a cookie exchange I do every year with a couple of my girlfriends. I think this year will be our "4th annual" get together. If I were an organized person, this is the point where I'd list the cookies I've made for the previous years and include the recipes or links to the recipes and photos. Alas, I am not that organized and my memory is not that great to remember that far back. I can tell you what last year's cookie was...Pistachio Cherry Meltaways. They turned out absolutely amazeballs! I made them for the cookie exchange and for my own holiday gatherings I liked them so much.
Here's the link for that recipe, complete with photos that I may or may not have on my computer somewhere : )...

This is a cookie from Betty Crocker I've tried for this year's cookie swap: Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies. They turned out great and they look perfect for a Christmas table. If you decide to make them, follow the tip of removing them from the oven after 8 minutes even if they don't look done! The first batch I made turned hard because I thought they weren't done and left them in the oven for 2 additional minutes. Check it out...

If you have a tried and true recipe you'd like to share, please leave a comment or a link.


Until next time,

Fool proof shortbread cookies

Greetings fellow bloggers!

It's been a year since my last post, so I figure it's past time. With the holidays coming up I have lots of "cookie baking" engagements to fulfill. I am always searching for yummy but not too labor intensive cookie recipes that look and taste great. One of my nursing instructors gave me a marvelous shortbread recipe but I don't know where my copy is. Here is the "replica by memory," if you will, of that recipe...simple and sweet.

Fool-proof shortbread cookies (Yields 3 dozen cookies)

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla (or flavor of your choice)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat softened butter and sugar together until fluffy; add egg yolk only. Mix well. Add vanilla. Mix in flour until well-incorporated.

Drop by rounded spoonful (or cookie scoop) onto ungreased baking sheet. Gently flatten with a glass dipped in sugar.

Beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. Brush on flattened cookies and sprinkle with chopped pecans (or sprinkles or colored sugar for the holidays).

Bake in 350 degree oven for 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 3-5 minutes on pan and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!!

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome Poppy & Apple Cider Sangria

I was downloading pics from my camera to the computer and realized just how many posts I've neglected to write about over the past few months. I'm off today with a quiet are at school. Hubs is at work. It's cold outside, so I'm none too anxious to get out if I don't have to. I'm trying to think of something to do besides crawl back in my bed and take a nap.
Just wondering what I should fix to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my brother & sister-in-law's house. Last year I made mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole & macaroni and cheese. I have to work Wednesday and Thursday this week which means whatever I do will have to be make ahead. There are recipes for Apple Cider Sangria all over pinterest, and I made a "test" batch last week, so I'll probably make that. Of course, with the weather being unseasonably cold for November (we Texans are used to playing football in the fall leaves in jeans and a sweatshirt on Thanksgiving Day...not temps in the 30's!), I don't know if folks will want cold spirits. I also found a recipe for sweet potato cookie pies which look tasty...a sugar cookie shell filled with sweet potato/cream cheese filling topped with a dollop of whipped cream, a pecan half and a drizzle of caramel. That's not really all that "make ahead" with the whipped cream topping, etc. *sigh* suggestions are always welcome.
On a completely different note, I am in love with a certain little critter that became part of our family on August 10, 2013. Her name is Poppy and she is an adorable guinea pig (even if she did bite my finger and draw a little blood yesterday when I was trying to corral her so I could clean her cage). Let me let you all see for yourselves...She's growing by leaps and bounds. I was kind of concerned about her and Missy the dog whose track record reveals, "does NOT play well with others."
Poppy loves her timothy hay!
Aren't her markings beautiful!
So far they get along just fine. Not fine enough for me to leave Poppy unattended with her favorite piggy-sitter, but fine enough as long as there's a cage between the two of them. She roams the house in her big plastic sphere while her cage is being cleaned. She has escaped before on a couple of occasions. She has this thing about the pillows behind the couch and in front of the fireplace, so it's pretty easy to figure out where she's gone when she gets loose. Who knew guinea pigs had such a vertical leap? She is very entertaining to watch when she gets excited (usually about a treat of some sort). She bucks like a miniature bronco and squeals excitedly while running around her cage at break-neck speed. Very amusing. She enjoys fresh fruits and veggies: apples, sweet potatoes, spinach leaves (well washed and in moderation, of course), carrots, oranges, etc. I fed her a couple sprigs of parsley which she appeared to enjoy immensely...until she started scratching her ears and rubbing her face. No more parsley for this little pig!
I took her to the vet for a nail trim & those suckers grow back fast. I guess I'll need to learn to trim them myself. Of course, she is Alisa's critter, so maybe she should be the one to trim the claws!
Let me post the recipe for the Apple Cider Sangria in case you all would like to add it to your Thanksgiving menu (and so I'll be able to get to it again since I can't remember my pinterest login info LOL). Here goes...

Apple Cider Sangria
One standard size bottle of Pinot Grigio
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1 cup club soda
1/2 cup ginger brandy*
3 honey crisp apples, cored and chopped or sliced
3 pears, cored and chopped or sliced

Combine all ingredients and chill several hours or overnight. This makes for a beautiful peach-colored beverage with fall fruits floating in it. I used one large honey crisp apple and two pears in my test batch and it yielded about 2 quarts.
*I could not find ginger brandy anywhere, so I substituted peach brandy and added some peeled, sliced fresh ginger with the fruit. This drink is only moderately sweet. If you prefer a sweeter drink, you may wish to substitute a sweeter white wine or add a bit of simple syrup (combine one part water to 2 parts granulated sugar. Microwave on high stirring every 30 seconds until sugar dissolves. allow to cool. It should be consistency of pancakes syrup. Store in airtight container) to taste.
When I make it again, I am going to substitute ginger ale for the club soda and see how that turns out! Let me know if you try a variation and how it works for you!
Until next time...

Carrot Cake as promised!

Well, I'm having a little technical difficulty copying and pasting the recipe for Awesome Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from so that I can tweak it and tell you what I did. I guess I'll just go for it and re-type the whole thing. I made some adjustments based on others' reviews that the cake was too oily and too sweet. Here goes...

"Carrot Cake a la E"
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp apple pie spice*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups grated carrots (about 6 medium carrots)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 individual cup natural apple sauce (about 1/3 cup)
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple with juice
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Cream cheese frosting
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (about one pound)
1 8-oz pkg Neufchatel cheese (or regular cream cheese if you're not worried about calories)
1 stick butter, softened (not melted)
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit (reduce by 25 degrees if using a dark pan). Grease & flour a 9x13 inch baking dish (or 3 8-inch pans if you want a layered cake). Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spice & salt. Add remaining dry ingredients: sugars, carrots. Stir in oil, apple sauce, eggs, pineapple, vanilla and nuts until well-combined.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.
If using 8-inch round pans reduce baking time to 25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into center of cake. It should come away clean if cake is done. Adjust cooking time as needed.

*apple pie spice is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You may use whichever spices suit your taste. Original recipe called for 1 tsp cinnamon but many reviews said it wasn't enough.

For the frosting, combine room temperature cream cheese, softened butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until well-blended and desired consistency. You may add the nuts to the frosting. I frosted the cake and then pressed the nuts to the sides of the cake. Frost completely cooled cake(s).
According to my family, not too sweet, not too oily but just right!
Until next time!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hot chocolate for Fall!

Moving right along with my Friday Night Football feeding frenzy. The Hubs and I ate big bowls of hot and spicy chili before leaving for the game. And was I ever glad I did! It was cold out there (okay, so I know the 50's isn't exactly what some folks would call "cold" but remember it's still in the 70's & 80's during the day, so we thin-blooded Texans notice that 20 degree drop when the sun goes down!)
 The game was nonstop suspense! 7 to 7 in the first quarter. Then 7 to 14 followed by 7 to 21 (started to sweat just a little in spite of the cold north wind) and finally 14 to 21 at half time. We moved up 21 to 21in the 3rd quarter (I think) and made a field goal in the 4th quarter. Our opponent got the ball in the last 54 seconds of the game, and the running back was about 10 yards from scoring a winning touchdown when he was tackled and the buzzer sounded announcing "game over"! Our team beat the undefeated team 24-21 and won themselves a chance at the play offs! Woo-hoo! Go Team Go! It was so cold at the game I just knew I would need a cup of hot chocolate once I got home. The kids would probably appreciate something to warm their tummies as well. I popped a pan of sugar cookies in the oven (okay, so I cheated on the cookies. They were the pre-made break apart & bake variety from the grocery store) and went to my favorite to see what I could see. I started with "creamy hot cocoa recipe" but tweaked it a little. I'll post mine below.

Hot cocoa
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 t. instant coffee
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk

In a 2 quart saucepan combine cocoa, sugar, salt & instant coffee. Add boiling water and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly for two minutes. Slowly stir in milk and heat, stirring occasionally until heated through but not boiling. Serve with marshmallows or whipped cream if desired. Makes four servings.

The original recipe called for 3/4 t. pure vanilla extract, but I forgot it and it tasted fine without it. The original recipe also called for 1/2 cup cold half & half divided evenly between four mugs before adding the hot chocolate. Maybe that would have cut the sweetness a bit, too.

I think if I make this again, I'll try reducing the cocoa to 1/4 cup and the sugar to 1/3 cup and see what happens. Or perhaps adding 4 cups cold milk vs 3 1/2 cups. The above version was still very sweet in my opinion even after drinking it with sugar cookies on the side. I'll keep you posted. Until next time...

Almost Homemade Chili

On this my first day off in an entire week (see older post, "Oh me, oh my" for more on that), I woke up excited about (1) a day off, (2) carrot cake, (3) high school football, and (4) fall weather.
Earlier this week the Hubs went to the grocery store for wings (Wings are one of his favorite "meals" parked in front of whatever sport just happens to be on television. I would complain, but at least he only spent $10 in the grocery store deli vs $20 at Wing Stop for less food. I've learned to choose my battles! LOL). Anyway, while he was cruising through the store he spotted a carrot cake on sale for $4.99. He was tempted to get the cake but his will-power (read: voice of wife angel on shoulder) kicked in and he left it there. Just the power of suggestion, however, remained with us both. Hmmm...carrot cake does sound good. I was at the grocery store getting the last couple of items needed to make a homemade carrot cake (like grate-able whole carrots vs the baby carrots I had in the frig) when I was called in to work. So, this being my off day, I whipped out the box grater and shredded carrots and sifted together flour & get the picture. I'll share the recipe I used a little later (in my next post after I actually taste the cake and make sure it turned out okay).
Today was also Friday as in Friday night high school football. I wanted something besides fast food for dinner before the game. A big pot of chili sounded just right. Before I started the carrot cake, I started a pot of chili so it could simmer while I baked the cake. I usually make chili by "feel"since it can be adapted to suit anyone's taste; however, I'll try to recall what all I used this go round.

Almost Homemade Chili
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1/2 of medium bell pepper, diced
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (15.5 oz each) chili beans**, undrained
1 T. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin*
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 to 1 t. black pepper (to taste)*

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with about 1/2 of the chopped onion (I do this because I dislike the smell of raw meat when it's cooking). Drain.
Spray a dutch oven (large pot) with cooking spray and add remaining chopped onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper. Cook over low heat until onion is translucent. Add ground beef and remaining ingredients to large pot. Mix well and bring to a boil stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 45 min to an hour. Top with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh chopped onion or sliced green onions if desired. Serve with corn chips, corn bread or crackers.
*I sometimes use about a tablespoon of whole cuminos and black peppercorn mix in place of the ground cumin & black pepper when I have them on hand. Not a substitution for the faint of heart (or tongue!)
If you prefer a thicker chili you could always drain one or both of the cans of tomatoes and use the juice for another recipe. **You may like "western-style" beans or plain pinto beans instead of the chili beans.
This is easy to turn vegetarian, too. Just add a drained can of whole kernel corn and rinse a can each of a variety of beans in place of the ground beef (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc.). Diced zucchini added with the onion, garlic, celery would be tasty, too. Bon apetit! Until next time...