Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hot Cocoa Mix

add instructions for mixing
What a treat to give someone homemade cocoa mix.  It looks great in a jar, is easy to do, and who can go through winter without hot cocoa?  I found this recipe from Alton Brown on food channel.  Hot Cocoa vs Hot Chocolate, in the USA we interchange these terms but cocoa comes from the powdered form as opposed to chocolate which comes from the bar form.  What is your favorite Hot Chocolate/Hot Cocoa memory?

Hot Cocoa Mix

2 c confectioner sugar
1 c cocoa (dutch processed)
2 c powdered milk
1 tsp salt
2 t cornstarch

Mix well and be ready for it to fly all over, I used a large bowl and wire whisk.

I layered it in these jars which I found at Home Goods and some at Sur La Table--2 very favorite stores!

To make a cup the recipe says 1/3 of the cup with mix then mix in hot water to fill mug.

I mixed in a small amount of water with my frother to blend it well then poured in the water to fill the mug.

This is a nice mix not overly sweet which I like.  If you like a little more zip you can add some cayenne to the mix which Alton Brown had done but was afraid to add that since I was giving it to other people.  Which by the way they have all liked it, so if you try it let me know what you think.

I layered the marshmallows and mini choco chips
for looks but you should mix them in when ready to use.

My best Hot Chocolate ever was in 2004 in Perugia, Italy at Caffe Di Perugia.  It was like drinking the best melted chocolate you could imagine.  I have never been able to recreate it--probably a good thing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

I am always trying new cut out cookies, while Martha's have been my favorite this recipe caught my eye.  I liked that it makes a large batch and also the lemon zest gives the cookie a  subtle fresh flavor.  These are usually a once a year venture for me, the time & mess involved can't get me to do them any more often.  I love the look of a beautiful decorated cookie but I just don't have the knack for that, so mine get a smooth coating of icing maybe a few sprinkles and they taste just as good......just not as artistic.  Found this recipe at one of my favorite sites , Faith Durand has so many great recipes and so far they have all come out as expected.  Nothing worse than doing all that work and not liking the end product.  This makes a lot of cookies, an average size cookie would have given me about 8 dozen, I did have to do some large ones for fun.

Cut Out Cookies

3 c unsalted butter softened at room temp about an hour
3 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
6 ounces cream cheese room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp lemon zest
9 c flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

In a bowl cream butter, gradually adding sugar continue till light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time mixing after each, add cream cheese and continue beating till well incorporated.  Add flavorings and lemon zest.

Mix flour, soda, salt in another bowl.  Gradually add into wet mixture until well incorporated---this is a bit of a workout till you get done.  I divided the dough evenly into 3 large ziploc bags and refrigerate the recipe says at least an hour I did mine overnight.

preheat oven to 350°

To roll out dough I divided each ziploc in half again to make it easier to work with, then rolled it out I use confectioner sugar to roll out my dough instead of flour either will work but the confectioner sugar leaves a nicer texture to the cookie.  I also bake cookies on parchment which makes the whole process go better.

After I have a cookie sheet full I put them back in the refrigerator for about 10 min to set them back up a bit.  Then bake for about 11 minutes depending on your oven.  Watch them closely as soon as you see the edge start to brown they are done.

Let cool before icing or decorating.

Royal Icing

3/4 c warm water
5 T meringue powder
mix till frothy about 30 sec.

add 1 t cream of tarter mix another 30 sec.
add 2 1/4 lbs confectioner sugar

Mix on low about 10 min.

Add more water to make thinner icing or more confectioner sugar for thicker.

Keep bowl covered as it dries out quick.

You need a really big bowl!

Parchment paper makes cookie baking so much easier.

Love my Pennsylvania cookie cutter!

These racks are stackable & work really well,
 from Pampered  Chef.

I use Meringue Powder instead of egg whites for Royal Icing.

Outlining can help icing go quicker,
but the outlining is a bit tedious for me.

Letting them dry takes a lot of counter space,
good idea to order dinner out that night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon or chocolate are the only two things I can't resist if I'm looking at a dessert menu.  This pound cake is heavy on the lemon and by baking some lemon curd into the batter it adds another layer of lemon also makes even moister.  I used Whole wheat white flour from my all time favorite King Arthur Flour so it gave it a bit of a grainier bread like texture which I liked but if you prefer the cake type texture you can use all purpose flour or a mixture will give you that.
 With a cup of tea this is perfect!

Lemon Pound Cake

2 sticks butter softened
2 c granulated sugar
4 extra large eggs
1/3 c lemon zest
3 c flour--I used whole wheat white
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon extract
3 T lemon curd

1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c lemon juice


2 c confectioner sugar
3 T lemon juice

preheat oven to 350°
Cream your butter and sugar in a large bowl, then add eggs one at a time mixing between each, add lemon zest.
Sift together flour, powder, soda, salt and set aside.
Mix together lemon juice, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon extract.
Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to creamed butter/sugar bowl mixing well between each.

Grease and flour two bread pans 8 1/2 x 4 1/2,  I also line bottom with parchment.  Spoon 1/4 batter into each pan, drop by spoonfuls lemon curd over the top of batter.  Spoon the rest of batter over the lemon curd in each pan.

Bake about 45 minutes till cake tester comes out clean.

Let cakes cool then set on wire rack over pan.  Meanwhile combine 1/2 c granulated sugar and 1/2 c lemon juice in a saucepan and stir till sugar dissolves.  Spoon over cakes.  Then allow to cool completely.

Mix confectioners sugar and lemon juice to form glaze, drizzle over cake allowing it to run down sides.

Lemon curd spread over batter.

cakes having just had syrup drizzled.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Spiced Nuts

These are great to set out before dinner, you can munch on a few and not get to full on appetizers.  They offer a little healthier option for munchies.

Spiced Nuts

2 T brown sugar
1 egg white--you can mix in a little water
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Spread on cookie sheet to toast.
Toss it all together, spread on cookie sheet and toast in 350° oven for 10-15 min.  Watch closely when they start to turn golden in color they'll go to burnt pretty quick.

You can add other spices if you prefer sweet or savory.

Old Bay
Italian Seasoning

Pumpkin Pie spice

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tiny Cheese Crackers

This Cheese Cracker recipe is from the Martha Stewart site where you can find directions for just about anything.  Lets face it you can't google to many foodie items without hitting the Martha site, she has it covered and covered well.  What a wealth of information.

Tiny Cheese Crackers

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 T ground flax seed
12-16oz grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c cold butter cut into cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
dash of pepper

Put all ingredients into food processor and pulse til it is a crumbly mixture.  Add a few Tablespoons of cold water a little at a time just till mixture holds together.

Remove and form into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and chill at least 30 min.

Roll out to 1/8 in thickness and cut with small cookie cutters.

Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 15-18 min.

Cool & serve.

You could add different spices if you wanted a variety of flavors.  I found this best baked the day I wanted to serve them, you could make the dough ahead then roll and bake the amount you need.

My cheese board is from "Jonathon Spoons" a local wood
artist that does amazing work!  He uses local Pennsylvania
Cherry wood and all pieces are made by hand.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Snickerdoodle Muffins

With extra people around over the holiday I like having breakfast options.  I love a snickerdoodle cookie so made into a muffin I justify this as a breakfast item.  The recipe can be found on many blogs, but this is the recipe I went with from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.  It is also a good recipe for making ahead and freezing.

Snickerdoodle Muffins


2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tarter
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 c sour cream
1 1/4 c all purpose flour

mixture for coating:
1/2 c sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon


Cream butter & sugar until soft about 3-5 minutes.  Add vanilla, then add eggs one at a time.  Mix dry ingredients together in another bowl.  Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately till all incorporated (don't overmix flour).

Using ice cream scoop dip into batter and drop into cinnamon/sugar mixture till coated then place into muffin cup.  I used my small cookie scoop so did 2 scoops per muffin which incorporated more cinnamon mixture.  Bake at 350° for 20-22 minutes or till golden brown tops.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Have ordered this out but had never made it so thought I'd give it a try.  This makes a great side dish with just about any entree, the sauce has a little bite to it and was very easy to make.  As usual I made a few adjustments and combined a few recipes to get the taste I thought I wanted.

Penne with Vodka Sauce


1/4 c butter
1 med onion chopped fine
1 head of garlic
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4-1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
3/4 c vodka
3 oz tomato paste (the tube style is more intense if you have it use that)
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2  (they called for heavy cream but I always substitute down with dairy)
1/4 c fresh grated Romano cheese
1 lb penne pasta (I used whole grain, extra fiber)


First slice garlic head off drizzle with olive oil wrap in foil and roast in oven till softened, squeeze out garlic & mash.

Melt butter in medium pan over medium heat, add onion saute till translucent, add rest of ingredients including mashed garlic down to 1/2 & 1/2 and simmer for 10-15 min till flavors meld.  Just before ready to serve stir in 1/2 & 1/2 bring back to temperature then stir in cheese till blended.  Serve over penne, top with additional cheese.


stir in cream, don't let it boil but bring heat back up

stir in cheese


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reindeer Crunch

Wow this showed up on Pinterest over and over, it is addicting but what a great snack to have on hand over the holidays.  Store it in a large ziploc to refill the bowl, I would advise hiding the ziploc bag though or it'll be empty when you go to get it.

Reindeer Crunch

1 box Rice Chex
1 pkg white chocolate (either melting buttons or chips)
4-6 candy canes crushed up


Pour chex into large bowl, melt chocolate in microwave about 1 minute stirring well till it is all melted or I prefer to do this in a double boiler.  Drizzle over chex and gently stir them till well coated, spread onto parchment or foil lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top and allow to completely cool.  Break up into chunks and serve.

stir gently to not break the chex to much
Spread on cookie sheet top with candy cane crumbs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mario Batali's Arista Toscana

Happen to catch a new show on in the day time called "The Chew", a fun cast with varied recipes throughout the program.  Mario Batali prepared this recipe for pork it looked so good and seemed pretty simple to do so that was dinner that night.  I find the biggest stumbling block to cooking is deciding what to make, many times I stare at what I have available and then figure out what I can make without going to the grocery store.  Although I am .7 of a mile to the grocery store there are times you just don't want to go out again.  This was simple & hearty, always great when you can throw something in the oven and then use that baking time to get things done.  I served it with Japanese Sweet Potato mashed with toasted pecans which has a dark purple skin but inside is almost white, it had a slightly milder taste than our traditional orange yam.

Mario Batali's Arista Toscana

---adapted slightly


Garlic Cloves (he calls for 24.....seemed a lot to me so I probably halved it0
2 Fennel bulbs sliced thin
    -----save Fennel tops (fronds), throw out ribs
4 large onions sliced thin
1/2 c olive oil
6-7 pounds Pork Loin Roast (he calls for bone in, I used boneless but would love to try it              again with the bone in cut just couldn't get it that day)  
salt & pepper
3 c whole milk


Preheat oven to 400°

Smash 1/2 of garlic into a paste and put in bottom of roaster pan, add onion slices, fennel.

Make slits into pork and stick garlic cloves into them, salt & pepper generously.  Pour milk, some oil onto onion mixture, then lay pork on top of onion/fennel mixture, lay fennel tops over pork.  Roast 60-75 minutes reaching internal temp of 145° then remove meat to carving board.
Blend 1/2 of onion fennel liquid mixture in blender adding a drizzle of olive oil to form a sauce consistency.
Arrange slices of pork over the rest of sliced onion/fennel and pass blended sauce in gravy dish.

I used the emersion blender.