Friday, December 30, 2011

Cheesy Olive Bread

Belated happy holidays, from Angel in the Kitchen, the hubby, and the little man!

I hope you can tell who's who in this pic.

We've been busy, to say the least. But we had a wonderful Christmas, and it was so much fun now that Jack is getting old enough to understand more. Jack loves Santa. Jack loves carols. Jack loves Christmas cookies. And Jack loves opening presents.

We're all in withdrawal now.

But back to the food! I'm always on the lookout for easy bread recipes to go with soups and such, and I've been eying this Taste of Home recipe for the hubby. He loves mayo-based cheese breads, and this one looked especially ooey and gooey.

I don't care for mayo, and the spread was a bit too strong for me from that standpoint. But the hubby is a mayo fan, and he really enjoyed it.

Note that this makes a ton of bread, and it's pretty rich. And this is only half the recipe. I did leave off the onions and mushrooms, as per the hubby's wishes, but if I were a mayo and cheese spread kind of person, I think I'd prefer them on.

Cheesy Olive Bread
Serves 8-12

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 scallions, thinly sliced
4 ounces canned mushrooms, drained and chopped
1 4.5-ounce can chopped olives
1/2 loaf (1/2 pound) unsliced French bread, halved lengthwise

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Combine cheese, butter, mayonnaise, scallions, mushrooms, and olives in a medium bowl. Spread on bread.

I actually had help with this part. Meet Kitty.

Kitty keeps Jack company while he's sleeping. Jack also sleeps with a second kitty, aptly named Other Kitty. Other Kitty did not join us in the kitchen this evening.

3. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted. (Pop it under the broiler if it needs some help.)

4. Cut into slices to serve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Baked Chicken Drumsticks

This is a very quick, extremely economical, and tasty dish that the hubby really enjoys. I don't eat a lot of chicken drumsticks (I'm a white meat gal), so I had a reverse case of sticker shock when I picked them up at the supermarket. They're unbelievably cheap.

The hubby loves chicken legs, and we thought the little man might enjoy these, too, because he likes food on sticks. And this is food on a built-in stick.

This recipe came from one of those packets that you sometimes get in the mail where they give you a few free recipe cards and try to get you to pay exorbitant sums of money for the remaining recipe cards. (I fell for this once.) But I still sort through the freebies for something that catches my eye, as this one did.

Baked Chicken Drumsticks
Makes 12 drumsticks

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix
1 tablespoon paprika (I used smoked paprika)
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
12 chicken drumsticks

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pour vegetable oil over the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet (preferably 15 inches by 10 inches) and heat in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine Bisquick, paprika, Creole seasoning, seasoned salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and black pepper in a resealable bag or a paper bag.

3. Remove pan from oven.

4. Add drumsticks to bag, a few at a time, and shake to coat. Arrange on the hot baking pan.

I learned this trick a few months ago. Heating the oil beforehand helps start crisping up the bottom of the chicken immediately.

5. Baking chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Shortbread

I pulled this recipe out of one of my cooking magazines a few years ago, and it's been sitting around in my "recipes I'd really like to try" stack for a while. (It may have been
a Better Homes & Gardens holiday special, but I can't be sure.) Anyway, my holdup was that it looked pretty labor intensive, and I couldn't find a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter anywhere.

Four years later, I still haven't had much luck on the cookie cutter front. But a few weeks ago, I was at a craft store and I wandered into the clay aisle. I had never before been to the clay aisle. I'm still not even sure what it's for. But they DID have a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter.

It's a flower. But flowers can be holiday-ish, too, right? If they're drizzled in chocolate?

Peanut Butter Cup Shortbread
Makes 3-4 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
3 ounces finely chopped peanut butter cups
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until combined, and then beat in flour.

3. Add peanut butter cups, and gently knead the dough until it clings together.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Using a floured 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out pieces and place them 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.

5. Bake about 20 minutes, or until bottoms are just starting to brown. Cool completely on cooling racks placed over waxed paper.

6. Combine chocolate chips and shortening in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook and stir until chocolate melts.

7. Drizzle shortbread with chocolate, or use a pastry bag. (Or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off, in my case.)

8. Let chocolate harden before serving.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I made these cookies for my sister-in-law, who loves chocolate and mint, to hopefully cheer her up after a hard week. They're like basic chocolate chip cookies, but you add a bit of mint extract and swap in chopped Andes mints and chocolate chunks for the chocolate chips.

You can substitute a 17.5-ounce sugar cookie mix, if you're crunched for time. You can also add a few drops of green food coloring, if you want to emphasize that these are indeed no ordinary chocolate chip cookies. (I only had green paste food coloring, and I didn't want my dough to turn Play-Doh green.)

Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter-flavored shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon mint extract, depending on how strong you want the mint flavor to be
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2-3 cups flour
1 cup Andes mints baking pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine brown sugar and shortening, and then stir in vanilla, mint extract, and eggs. Add baking soda, salt, and flour, and mix until well combined. Stir in Andes pieces and chocolate chunks.

3. Form dough into balls and flatten slightly, and place on baking sheets.

4. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are just starting to turn golden. Cool slightly before serving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Swirl Fudge

The hubby loves fudge at Christmas, and he loves chocolate and peanut butter (you know, like most normal people), so it should stand to reason that he should love chocolate and peanut butter swirled together in fudge, right? Right.

There's no surprise twist to this story. The hubby does like peanut butter swirl fudge.

Okay, there's a bit of a twist. This Hershey's recipe was supposed to be two-tone fudge -- peanut butter on the bottom and chocolate on top. But even though I actually followed the recipe to the letter, there was no way this recipe was going to work without the peanut butter layer setting up first. And by then, the chocolate layer would have been too set up to spread out. So, I attempted to save face by swirling them.

And I think it's purty.

Peanut Butter Swirl Fudge
Makes 25 pieces

1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. In a medium bowl, place peanut butter chips. Add chocolate chips to a second medium bowl.

2. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, marshmallow creme, evaporated milk, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

My saucepan seemed a wee bit too small, and my mixture almost boiled over. That would have been quite messy.

3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

4. Divide the mixture among the medium bowls with the peanut butter and chocolate chips.

5. Stir peanut butter chips until creamy.

6. Pour into prepared pan.

7. Stir chocolate chips until creamy.

8. Pour over the peanut butter layer.

9. Swirl mixture with a knife.

10. Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until firm. Use foil to lift fudge out of pan, and cut into squares.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rudolph Cookies

I made these simple cookies for Jack to take to daycare recently, and they were a huge hit. They're quick, they're easy, they're super-cute, and they taste good. And they have red noses. What more do you need?

To make these even easier, go ahead and substitute a 17.5-ounce package of peanut butter cookie mix for the peanut butter, brown sugar, and egg.

Rudolph Cookies
Makes 24

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
24 red M&Ms
48 chocolate chips
24 pretzel sticks, cut in fourths

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine peanut butter and brown sugar. Add egg and mix thoroughly.

3. Divide dough into 24 balls and place on baking sheets.

4. Dip a glass in sugar and flatten each dough ball to about 1/2-inch thick.

5. Slightly pinch in the bottoms of each cookie to form the chins on the Rudolph faces.

6. Add the M&Ms as the noses, and the chocolate chips for the eyes. Poke 4 pretzel pieces into the tops to form the antlers.

7. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown. Let sit on cookie sheet until cookies are sturdy enough to be moved to cooling racks.

8. Let cool completely before serving.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Caramel-Pretzel Truffles

These truffles could be one of my favorite recipes ever. And I don't say that lightly.

I must've seen a recipe like this at some point that registered in my brain on some level, because I recently had a dream about these (and they just sounded kind of familiar). Caramels wrapped around pretzels and dipped in dark chocolate. YUM. These are tough to beat.

In fact, just yesterday I visited a local candy shop and sampled a dark chocolate-covered caramel. It was good. But too simple. I longed for the missing pretzels inside it. (Maybe I should have said something?)

In my dream, I sprinkled these truffles with sea salt. In reality, I sprinkled a few of the truffles with sea salt, but I thought it took away from the appearance of the truffles. And because the pretzels have enough of their own salt, it didn't really add anything. You know, in case you were wondering.

Caramel-Pretzel Truffles
Makes about 4 dozen

1 package caramels (about 4 dozen), unwrapped
4 dozen pretzel sticks
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon shortening

1. Using a rolling pin, roll caramels into large, flat squares, just a fraction of an inch thick (and a few inches square).

This is a great stress reliever. It's also hard work. My shoulders, arms, and hands ached for days. I'm clearly out of shape and need to make these truffles more often. I could have flexor carpi ulnaris of steel!

2. Break pretzel sticks into four pieces, and stack them in the middle of the flattened caramel.

It's a bit like stacking firewood. And you don't have to be terribly precise.

3. Seal caramel around pretzels, and roll into balls.

The caramel is terribly sturdy, so these can hang around for a while. They're not like most truffles, where they have to stay cool or they'll turn to mush. (This also makes them much easier to dip.)

4. Heat dark chocolate and canola oil over low heat until smooth. Dip truffles in chocolate and let set on waxed paper.

5. Heat milk chocolate chips and shortening until smooth. Add mixture to a zip-top bag, snip off a small corner, and drizzle milk chocolate over the truffles.

6. Let set until chocolate is firm.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Korean Steak

Every once in a while I have to take a break from holiday baking to cook some real food for the family. This is a variation of a recipe that I found on, and I've been anxious to try it because I really like Korean beef. The marinade has a longer list of ingredients, but it really does come together quickly.

I've read before that adding Asian pear to the marinade helps soften and tenderize the beef, but I'd never before seen an Asian pear in my grocery store. Luckily, kiwi can be used as a substitute (but just use a very small amount, like a fraction of a teaspoon). However, when I went to my supermarket to grab a kiwi, what should I find next to the kiwifruit, but Asian pears! (Actually, the sticker on the fruit said "Apple Pear," but the sign said "Asian pear.") I just grated up enough of the peeled fruit to make 1/4 cup of mush to add to my marinade.

I made a few other changes, as well, and I really liked how this turned out. My only complaint is that I typically like more vegetables in my stir-fry, so I think I'd add some next time. I served this with fried rice, in the meantime, and ended up sort of stirring it all together like a Korean beef-fried rice.

Korean Steak
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup shredded Asian pear
2 pounds thinly sliced steak
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I had to leave these out)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
5 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon sriracha

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced lengthwise

1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but not more than 24 hours.

2. Before cooking, sprinkle meat with sesame oil.

3. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Stir-fry onion and beef (discarding the marinade) until beef is no longer pink, about 5-10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ghirardelli Thumbprints

I found a recipe similar to this one in a Betty Crocker cookbook, and thought it would be the perfect use for one of my weaknesses: Dark chocolate and caramel Ghirardelli squares, preferably salted.

Alas, I could not find my salted caramel squares, so I had to add my own salt. Which wasn't exactly a hardship.

Alas alas, I also had to skip the nuts again. I didn't really miss them.

Alas alas alas, I should call these Square Peg Cookies. Unless you have square thumbs, candy squares don't fit so well in thumbprint cookies. So they don't look perfect. They're "artisan."

Ghirardelli Thumbprints
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely chopped cashews
9 Ghirardelli squares with caramel filling, unwrapped and cut in quarters

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Beat butter and powdered sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and egg and beat until mixed. Beat in flour, baking powder, and salt, until dough forms.

I loved how silky the dough was with the powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. That's all. Thanks for letting me share.

3. Stir in cashews. (Again, I skipped this part.)

4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheets, at least 2 inches apart.

5. Press thumb in the center of each cookie to make an indentation, but don't push all the way to the bottom.

6. Bake 7-9 minutes. Quickly remake the indentations with the handle of a wooden spoon, if necessary.

I found this necessary. I also didn't think to use a wooden spoon, so I used to my thumb. Not my finest moment.

7. Move cookies to cooling rack, and add one piece of chocolate to each thumbprint. Let stand 3 minutes to melt.

8. If desired, use the tip of a knife to swirl the melted chocolate and caramel together. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rogue Recipes: Cocoa Kisses

I started my holiday baking recently, but I'm trying to do it in small snippets because it's tough to find an entire day to devote to the cause. And I was really, really excited to try this Hershey's recipe because I've been drooling over the photo for months. Chocolate kisses, wrapped in a chocolate shortbread dough, baked in perfect little balls, and then rolled in powdered sugar.

Perfect, right?

Except this is one recipe that did not turn out at all as planned. I think there was just way too much butter in the dough for this to ever work out.

Disclaimer: I can't eat nuts at the moment, so I didn't include the pecans in the dough. Would this have made all the difference? I think someone should give it a try!

Cocoa Kisses
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup finely chopped pecans
About 4 dozen Hershey's kisses, unwrapped
Powdered sugar for rolling/sprinkling

1. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Stir together flour and cocoa,and gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended.

2. Add pecans, beating until blended. (This is the step I skipped; instead, I added a bit more flour.)

3. Cover and refrigerate dough about 1 hour, or until firm enough to handle.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

5. Take 1: Mold a scant tablespoon of dough around each Hershey's kiss, covering completely. Shape into balls and place on a cookie sheet.

6. Take 1: Bake 10-12 minutes, or until set. Now, at the 10-minute mark, I peeked into my oven and was horrified to discover that instead of cookie balls, I had beach hats. (Some of which I sprinkled with powdered sugar, which then looked like sand.)

5. Take 2: Roll tablespoons of dough into balls. Place balls in a mini muffin tin and flatten to create a crust. Add a Hershey's kiss to each.

6. Take 2: Bake 8-10 minutes, or until set. Now, I had little Hershey's kiss tartlets, with slightly browned tips on the kisses.

Both tasted great, but neither was ideal in looks. I had to hurry up and eat most of them so no one else would see them.

Let me know if you try these and get a better result!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick and Easy Caramel Rolls

This Betty Crocker recipe has been a longtime favorite of mine, when I'm craving some warm, homemade caramel rolls, but I don't have the time to deal with actual dough. And I love the uber-creamy caramel.

No, these aren't the best caramel rolls I've ever had in my life. But they're still quite good, and they're definitely the best homemade caramel rolls I've had that only take a few minutes to throw together. I recommend serving alongside some bacon, as I recommend serving almost anything.

Quick and Easy Caramel Rolls
Makes 8 rolls

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cream (either whipping cream or heavy cream)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 11-ounce can refrigerated soft breadsticks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine brown sugar and cream in an 8-inch round pan. (I use a silicone spatula so I don't scratch the pan's coating.)

3. Combine sugar and cinnamon.

4. Unroll breadstick dough.

(I put these on waxed paper for easier cleanup.)

5. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

6. Roll up dough from the short end, separate into rolls at the perforations, and place in pan.

7. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

8. Cool 1 minute, and then invert onto a plate and serve warm.