Straggler holiday recipe roundup

Brownie pie (the only recipe in this list I have a picture of) – I made this for no particular reason in December and it was really delicious. The only drawback is that it’s incredibly rich. You really only want to eat a few bites at a time. So maybe this recipe isn’t for you anti-chocoholics out there, but if you’re looking for something dense and fudgy, look no further. This is definitely the simplest pie I’ve ever made (and practically foolproof).

Eggnog cookies – I can’t recall exactly when I made these cookies (since I don’t have a picture for reference), but I figured nothing was more seasonal than eggnog, so why not make eggnog cookies? If I remember correctly these cookies were pretty tasty, but not really that outstanding.

Gingerbread blondies – I was so excited to make these blondies that I bought a brand new jar of molasses this year, but the end result was a big disappointment. They were too cakey for me (which might have been my own fault) and the spices were too strong (which might also have been my fault). I have a feeling there’s a good recipe in there somewhere, especially since this was originally a Martha Stewart creation, but I didn’t find it on my first attempt. Maybe I’ll try it again next Christmas.

Eggnog bread – After making the eggnog cookies I had almost an entire quart of leftover eggnog sitting in my fridge with no purpose whatsoever. And since I wanted to bring some sort of seasonal baked goods to my parents in Tallahassee I made two loaves of eggnog bread. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly – I added an additional 1/3 c of eggnog and a package of instant vanilla pudding to make sure the bread wasn’t dry, and I substituted 2 Tbsp rum for the rum extract (since I didn’t have any). With those changes this bread was seriously delicious. And I don’t even like eggnog!

Cinnamon bread – I made this bread to take home to Tallahassee as well, but it was just fair. It was definitely better the day after baking when the spices have had time to mingle, but I’d say this bread as I made it was forgettable. I’d like to try a variation to see if I can make a good loaf of cinnamon quick bread sometime in the future, but I’m going to have to consult some other recipes for ideas first.

Candy cane blossoms – I was so rushed to finish these cookies for one of my last holiday potlucks of the year that I didn’t take a picture of them. These sugar cookie blossoms topped with candy cane Hershey’s Kisses got rave reviews at the potluck, but I’m still partial to the peanut butter variety with milk chocolate Kisses. They sure looked pretty, though.

Foodie Friday – Fifty-fourth new recipe

To continue my obsession with soup, I offer this recipe for a simple and incredibly delicious tomato variety. I couldn’t believe how much flavor this soup developed using canned tomatoes and just a few other ingredients. I love it so much that I’ve already bought all of the ingredients to make it again next week. Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you have a perfect meal. Yummy! The original recipe added half & half at the end to make this a tomato bisque, but I really didn’t think it was necessary. It’s definitely healthier without the creamy aspect, but you can use your own judgement. Either way, I know you’re going to like this recipe as much as I do. I can’t wait to make it again!

1/4 c butter
1 c chopped celery
1 c diced onion
1 c shredded carrot
1/3 c flour
1 can (28 oz) or 2 cans (15 oz) diced tomatoes (I used a variety with roasted garlic)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
3 c chicken broth
1/2 heaping teaspoon curry powder

In a stock pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Stir in celery, onion, and carrots and sauté until veggies are soft, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until well incorporated. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, cover and simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. If desired, you can add up to 2 cups of whole milk or half & half to the soup at this point, but I thought it was perfect (and healthier) as-is so I left it out. If you add the milk or half & half just make sure not to boil the soup afterwards. Serve hot with a grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy!

Based on Lauren’s Latest Creamed Tomato Bisque recipe.

EDITED on 4/6/12: I reduced the amount of chicken broth in this recipe because my last batch was a little thin. I also increased the amount of curry to a heaping 1/2 tsp for more flavor.

365 days later

I did it! I successfully posted a webpage update every day of 2011. However I’ll be the first to admit to backdating some of those posts because I published them after midnight. In most cases it wasn’t too long after midnight, but at least once I didn’t post anything at all until halfway through the next day. That was an extenuating circumstance, though, involving getting paged in to work at 9 PM and having to stay until 6 AM. Other than that I’ve been successful and I’m pretty pleased with myself. And believe it or not I’m ready to sign up for another year of this post-a-day challenge because I’m just that crazy. As boring as my life is most of the time, I like how well 2011 was documented due to my frequency of updates. So here’s to 2012 and all of the inevitable ups and downs it brings! I’ll make sure to write about all of them.

Foodie Friday – Fifty-third new recipe

I’m going to honor the last Foodie Friday of 2011 today rather than finishing up my “How I spent my Christmas vacation” posts. I hope everyone’s OK with that. (I suspect my faithful readers are breathing a sigh of relief because they don’t have to read another boring blow-by-blow description of my days off – until tomorrow, that is.) I more than met my New Year’s resolution of trying a new recipe every week in 2011, but I haven’t had a chance to post all of them yet. I’ll get caught up in January.

If you’ve read all of my posts this fall (who hasn’t?) you know I’ve been on a serious soup kick. I’ve even written more than one post dedicated to it! After eating so many delicious soups at restaurants these last few months I decided to try making some homemade versions. The first one I tried was this relatively simple acorn squash soup. It only has a few ingredients, and besides the time spent waiting for the squash to roast, the preparation time is minimal. When I first tried the soup was I very happy with the flavor. Dan, however, was skeptical. He reluctantly tried a bite when I offered it to home…and then went to the kitchen and served himself a large bowl! Dan liked the acorn squash soup so much that he ate almost all of it over a two-day period – including the bowl I set aside for my lunch. I only got one small bowl myself (which is why I don’t have a good picture to share)! Considering how opposed to cooked vegetables he is this recipe is definitely a winner. And it’s healthy too!

1 acorn squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 c (1 can) chicken broth, or less
Dried rosemary, salt and pepper, to taste

Stab the squash all over with a fork and place on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 2 minutes and let cool slightly. This makes the next step MUCH easier. Cut off the stem, then cut the squash in half lengthwise (after it’s cooled enough to not burn your fingers) and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves on a foil-lined cookie sheet (I’ve tried this cut side up and cut side down and it doesn’t seem to make much difference). Bake the squash at 400 deg F for 40-50 minutes or until a fork goes in easily. Remove the skin from the squash (it should pull right off, but don’t burn your fingers) and purée the flesh in a food processor or blender until smooth, in batches if necessary. In a sauce pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes (but don’t burn it!). Add the squash purée and just enough broth to reach the desired consistency. The end result should be on the thick side so don’t add too much broth. I made that mistake on my second batch and it was not nearly as good. Season the soup with a generous amount of dried rosemary, salt, and pepper, tasting it as you go. Cook until heated through and serve warm. Enjoy!

Based on Sugarcrafter’s Acorn Squash Soup recipe.

(Belated) Foodie Friday – Christmas Eve edition

Happy Christmas Eve everyone! Since I don’t have a photo to go along with this week’s recipe I’m including a great iPhone 4S commercial featuring Santa instead. Looks like he’s going to be busy tonight! I was so focused on getting my annual holiday care packages ready to mail last weekend that I forgot to take a picture of these delicious and incredibly simple glazed mixed nuts that I made. This recipe doesn’t require any butter or oil, making it much healthier than other alternatives, plus you make it in the microwave rather than the oven so its a lot faster and easier. This would be the perfect recipe to make for a Christmas party because It takes almost no time at all, transports easily (if the party isn’t at your house), and is a great finger food. I highly recommend it. I’ll definitely be making this again next year!

1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 c unsalted mixed nuts (I used almonds and pecans)
4 1/2 tsp water

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the first seven ingredients (spices and nuts). Stir in the water, coating the nuts with the spice mixture as evenly as possible. Microwave uncovered on HIGH for 1 minute then remove and stir. Continue microwaving for 1 minute and stirring until the syrup begins to boil and harden. This should take a total of 4 to 5 minutes of microwaving. Immediately pour the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray and separate the nuts as much as possible (without burning your fingers!). Cool completely on the cookie sheet and then separate the cooled nuts as needed. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Based on Taste of Home’s Spiced Mixed Nuts recipe.

Foodie Friday – Fifty-second new recipe

Have you ever wondered why cookies you make at home are so small but bakery cookies are so huge? Me too! Bigger is definitely better as far as baked goods are concerned. So when I saw this recipe for giant peanut butter cookies I knew I had to try it. I just wasn’t prepared for exactly how big the cookies were going to be. I figure I’d make two cookies, one for me and one for Dan, but two cookies ended up being enough for a whole family! They were seriously gigantic. See that photo above? That cookie is sitting on a dinner plate. Yeah, they were that big. They tasted pretty good too. So if you have craving for a humongous peanut butter cookie, look no further!

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp egg substitute
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 heaping Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c Reeses Pieces
1/4 c chocolate-covered peanuts

In a medium bowl whisk together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg substitute, vanilla, and peanut butter, whisking until well combined. Add the flour, baking soda and salt, whisking again until well combined. Stir in the Reeses Pieces and chocolate-covered peanuts until. Scoop all of the dough in one big blob onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg F for 20-22 minutes, until cooked through. Let the giant cookie cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Based on Picky Palate’s Peanut Butter Reeses Pieces Giant Cookie for One.

Foodie Friday – Fifty-first new recipe

Out of the two maple cookie recipes I made the weekend after Thanksgiving, this was by far the best. I had a lot of maple syrup left over from a chicken recipe I made a while ago so I figured using some of it to make maple cookies was perfect for the holiday season. The first recipe I tried yielded crisy, spicy cookies that I wasn’t particularly fond of. Luckily, this second recipe was a vast improvement. These cookies are soft and they taste like pancakes! What’s not to like? So if you’re looking for something a little different this year I’d definitely recommend this maple cookie recipe. These might even make an appearance in my annual Christmas care packages!

3/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c maple syrup
1 tsp maple flavoring, optional
2 1/4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Colored sugar for decoration (optional)

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla, maple syrup, and maple flavoring (optional). The original recipe called for Grade B or Grade C maple syrup, but I only had a bottle of the paler and less flavorful Grade A in the house so I added the maple flavoring for good measure. Add the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt and beat until combined. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the cookies are golden around the edges. Enjoy!

Based on Cakespy’s Vermont Maple Cookies.

Foodie Friday – Fiftieth new recipe

About a month ago I made a batch of these M&M sugar cookies, but after discovering that I was completely out of white sugar, I used brown sugar instead. They turned out really well, but since I’d made such a drastic substitution I didn’t want to post the recipe until I tried it as written. So when one of my DC co-workers heard about the cookies and requested a batch when she was in town, I took the opportunity to be true to the original recipe. These M&M sugar cookies were definitely a hit when I brought them to work on Wednesday. I’ve even had several other co-workers as for more yesterday and today. They seem to think I bake cookies every day! It’s always nice to get compliments like that. I have to say, though, that I like these M&M sugar cookies better with brown sugar instead of white! I guess that makes them brown sugar cookies, but they’re delicious no matter what you call them. Customizable recipes are great so I listed the option to use your favorite sugar (or whatever you have in the house) in the ingredients below. And with the addition of red and green Christmas M&M’s these are a simple and tasty holiday treat!

1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar (white or brown)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz M&M’s candies

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt) and mix until well combined. (The original recipe asked you to mix the dry ingredients together before adding them to the butter mixture, but I’m a one-bowl-cookie kind of gal.) Stir in the M&M’s. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg F for 8-9 minutes or until the cookies start to brown on the edges. Remove from oven, wait 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Based on Jamie Cooks It Up’s M&M Sugar Cookies.

P.S. I’m only two recipes away from my goal of trying a new recipe every week in 2011! They might not have been evenly distributed, but I figure fifty-two recipes within the calendar year is quite an accomplishment.

(Belated) Foodie Friday – Oatmeal cookies revisited for Halloween

Dan and I checked out of the Days Inn Maui Oceanfront and checked in to the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea Resort today, but not until after spending the day on a snorkeling trip to the island of Lana’i. It was really beautiful, but we’re trying to get to bed early tonight so I don’t have time to write a more detailed explanation, So for today enjoy this belated Foodie Friday post that is more than a week overdue!

Caramel apple cookies. These were the surprise hit of our Halloween party! I wanted to make a seasonal cookie (hence the apples) but also unique so I got the idea to make something I’d never heard of before – caramel apple cookies. Turns out there are actually a lot of caramel apple cookie recipes floating around the internet, but I decided to start with one that I made as wedding favors back in 2007. It was just a basic oatmeal cookie recipe with chopped dried apples, but I took a chance and added some Kraft Caramel Bits for that extra dimension I was looking for. Well, they didn’t look pretty when they came out of the oven (the caramel bits near the edges melted and oozed a bit), but they tasted great. I couldn’t believe how many of our Halloween party guests told me they were the best dessert we served. I figured the red velvet brownies with homemade cream cheese frosting would be the biggest hit (they were definitely my favorites), but the caramel apple cookies took the top prize instead. Maybe the trick to making them less messy is to add the caramel bits to the middle of the unbaked cookies just before they go into the oven. I bought an extra bag of dried apples so I’ll have to give that a try later this fall. Until then I would still recommend this caramel apple cookie recipe – just don’t expect them to be pretty!

1 c butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used a little more)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 c oats (I used quick cooking oats)
1 c chopped dried apples
1 bag (11 oz) Kraft caramel bits

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a medium bow combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in oats, dried apples, and caramel bits. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for a couple of minutes (they need to firm up a little) before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Based on Taste of Home’s Chewy Apple Oatmeal Cookies.

Foodie Friday – More Nutella brownies

Before I made my first batch of Nutella brownies (my forty-seventh new recipe) I searched food blogs far and wide for the perfect recipe. Most of the ones I found were fairly similar, but I ran across one that was so simple that I had to bookmark it for future use. I was actually pretty skeptical that a brownie recipe with only three ingredients could work at all, but I was too curious not to try it. So on Tuesday night I mixed together some Nutella, a little flour, and an egg, threw it in the oven, and crossed my fingers. And what do you know, they turned out great! This recipe only makes a dozen mini brownie bites so I only got to try one of them, but they tasted delicious. And I got a lot of good feedback from my co-workers who ate the rest. If you have a jar of Nutella in your cabinet I highly suggest whipping up a batch of these brownie bites.

1/2 c Nutella
1 egg
5 Tbsp flour

Ready for some complicated instructions? Well, too bad because this recipe is insanely simple! Mix all three ingredients together until smooth. Evenly distribute the batter between 12 cups in a mini muffin tin, filling each one about 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes or until cooked through. Cool on a qire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Enjoy!

Based on Haute Apple Pie’s Nutella Brownies.