Thursday, December 23, 2010

Emergency Treats

Do you still need another treat for your cookie tray? Or perhaps you skipped baking all together this season and now feel obligated to bring something tasty to the family Christmas gathering?

This is an easy, fun solution you can force the kids to do for you.

Of course, if you do that you’ll deprive yourself of the pleasure of pummeling out your holiday stress crushing that bag of mini candy canes.

There are so many options for these treats. White chocolate coating looks beautiful with colored frosting drizzle and candy canes are always striking and festive. Oooo or indulgent dark chocolate and caramel scattered with chopped nuts would be good.

Then there are countless dipping devices too. Pretzel sticks, mini pretzels, potato chips, Oreos, thin chocolate wafers and even dog bones for your favorite furry friend.

My personal favorite this year are Biscoff cookies. They’re a thin, crunchy cross between graham crackers and gingersnaps.

I know you’re busy and won’t stall you any longer. Let’s get started!

Emergency Treats
Switch up the colors and candy for other holidays, celebrations or game days.


1 bag white chocolate coating

Dipping Device Options (Pick one)
Pretzel sticks
Mini pretzels
Biscoff cookies
Thin chocolate wafer cookies
Sugar cookies
Ruffles potato chips
Candy canes
Dog bones (Don’t dip human treats with these please!)

Coating Options (Pick one or more)
Crushed Mini Candy Canes
Wilton Cooking Icing
Melted colored candy melts
Melted chocolate
Melted caramel squares (prepped as for apples)
Chopped toasted nuts

Lay out several feet of wax paper near your dipping area.

Melt white chocolate coating in a microwave safe bowl, or in a tall glass for pretzels on high for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave 30 more seconds. Repeat until melted.

Dip dipping devices into coating shaking off the excess. If using crushed candy canes or nuts sprinkle the base area on the wax paper. Lay the dipping device down and sprinkle the tops and sides. Let set.

If dressing dipping devices with icing, melted chocolate or caramel, first let the coating set then drizzle as desired.

By Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hershey’s Mint Chocolate Thumbprints

Help! Too many cookies! I need a salad stat! Unfortunately there are no salads to talk about in the near future because if I don’t share a couple more treats it’ll be next year before I get them to you.

As you can tell, I’m a bit behind. A way bit behind and I might be sharing holiday recipes until mid January. (You think I’m kidding don’t you?) Tis the season though and that has to be ok. Besides, I’m counting on you to be a bit behind too so I can feel better about my failure as a human to get my thousand item list accomplished.

I hope you’ll forgive another cookie recipe. This one I shared a year or so ago with a few MySpace friends (most of us are long gone from poor old MySpace now). Spastically, when I deleted the account I lost many of those recipes I’d shared. Though lucky for me, my friend Marina was on the ball and was able to give me back a copy of this one.

I’m so glad to have organized friends. Now if only they could get me organized!

Hershey’s Mint Chocolate Thumbprints

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1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg, separated
2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt
Hershey’s Mint Kisses
Wilton’s Mint Brownie Drizzle (Found at Michaels)

1. Beat butter, sugar, egg yolk, milk and vanilla in medium bowl until fluffy. Stir together flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. 

2. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Press thumb gently in center of each cookie. 

3. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until set. Remove wrappers from chocolate pieces. Remove cookies from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool 3 to 5 minutes. Gently press chocolate piece in center of each cookie. Cool completely.

4. Warm mint drizzle as directed if needed and zigzag over cookies. Let set and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from Photograph by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Buckeyes. Ooo Peanut Butter and Chocolate Oh My!

One peanut buttery chocolate bite in I knew I had to have this recipe! My neighbor Terri gifted me with a sack full of these no-bake candies and thankfully (yay for me!) was willing to drop off the recipe as well.

I’m so lucky to have nice neighbors who share their Buckeyes. If it were me, I probably would’ve horded the whole batch.

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These soft peanut butter candies coated in chocolate have proven popular with kids and adults alike around here.

1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.

2. Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

3. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.

4. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.

Recipe via neighbor Terri Guenthner. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Elves’ Favorite Dessert. Run Away!

Glancing through recipes for a winter photo assignment I spot something quite out of the ordinary. Fluff. What the heck is fluff? Isn’t that the stuff hidden in the back corner of salad bars old ladies eat?

So I make, style and shoot this fluff stuff, all the while sniffing my nose up at it. I do not eat fluff. No one eats fluff! In a hurry, I stuff strangely pale green fluff back into the Cool Whip container and get back to work.

After several more hours of shooting I start to crave something sweet. Peering into the fridge I sigh and gingerly take out the evil fluff container. I take a spoon and dip it into said crazy evil fluff.

It was there at that very moment something magical happened.

I liked it. Really, really liked it! Unfortunately, I "liked" it so well that I ate the entire container all by myself over the next several days.

So what do you think I did after eating an entire container of yummy pistachio fluff? That’s right. I made a whole new batch just for me.

Ah fluff, I love you. Wait a second... Does this make me an old lady?

Elves’ Favorite Dessert
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1 tub Cool Whip (thawed)
1 small box pistachio pudding
1 small can crushed pineapple

Mix pineapple with it's juice and pistachio pudding powder together in a medium sized bowl. Fold in Cool Whip. Store fluff inside the Cool Whip container and chill before serving.

“Yum Food and Fun for Kids”, Winter Issue 2010. Recipe from Menu Mom Christine Steendahl. Photograph by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gingerbread Cheesecake Bars

Man, this head cold has robbed me of my brain cells. I sit down to do something and can’t remember what it was. By the time I remember, I’m up and running to grab a tissue. When I return to my computer I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be doing again!

Since my brain seems to be taking a (hopefully short) hiatus, today’s recipe is one I’ve been meaning to share for awhile.

Wait, what was I doing? And where are my pants? Excuse me, I need another tissue.

Gingerbread Cheesecake Bars
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I can’t resist collecting those little holiday cookie pamphlets at the end caps of grocery stores. This recipe happens to come from one of my favorites, the 2008 issue of "Holiday Cookies".

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar, divided
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cups molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.

For Cheesecake Layer:
Beat cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon ginger; beat until well blended and smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For Gingerbread Layer:
Beat butter and 1/3 cup sugar in a large bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses and 2 eggs; beat until well blended.

Combine flour, baking soda, 1 teaspoon ginger, cinnamon, salt and allspice in a medium bowl.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until just blended. Spread batter evenly in pan. Top with cream cheese mixture. Swirl in the cream cheese with a knife until the gingerbread mixture starts to show through.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack. Store in the refrigerator.

Recipe from "Holiday Cookies", published by PIL 2008. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oven Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts

You need this Brussels sprout recipe in your life. Wait, stop! Don’t run away. I’m serious. When these odorous little vegetables are roasted with garlic and olive oil they turn into creamy umami heaven.

If you don’t already love Brussels sprouts please make this dish. You'll love me for it.

Oven Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Printer Version
I wrote the recipe for 2 lbs of Brussels sprouts, as that’s the size of the Costco bag. You can easily reduce or increase the amount, just use an appropriately sized baking dish.

2 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)
5 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Move oven rack to the upper third and preheat to 425 degrees.

In a 9x13 inch baking dish, toss together Brussels sprouts, garlic, water, oil, salt and pepper and spread out in a single layer.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until caramelized to taste, tossing once about 25 minutes into cooking time. Remove from oven and toss Brussels sprouts in the pan scraping up brown bits into the sprouts.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Buttermint Drop Cookies

Last week I was naughty and sent my husband to work with store-bought frosted sugar cookies. Sometimes these things can’t be helped. With only three days to scrub and paint the walls milk chocolate brown before Jesse arrived home, cookies were last on my to-do list.

I’m not sure City Hall has forgiven me yet, but hopefully today’s cookie will make them forget about this little faux pas.

Buttermint Drop Cookies
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These cookies aren’t named so because they utilize buttermints as an ingredient, but because they taste like them.

Heads up: This dough should chill for an hour or two before baking. You can skip this step, but your cookies will be prettier if you can wait. (Yes, you caught me, those are "I'm impatient and I'll just skip a step" cookies on the left.)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Green food color, paste or liquid
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups all purpose flour
12 ounce bag Guittard Smooth Melty Petite Mint Chips, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer beat together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt. Mix in eggs, green food coloring, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Mix in baking powder and baking soda. Mix in flour until just combined. Add 2/3 of a bag of mint chips reserving the rest for topping. Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 to 2 hours, or until chilled but not solid.

3. With a cookie scoop, scoop the dough 2” apart onto parchment. Press three chips into each cookie and bake for 9 to 10 minutes until edges are golden. Let set for 2 minutes and move to a cooling rack.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vegetable Fried Brown Rice

Healthy and easy, this is one of the most asked for meals around here. I’m always happy to oblige the request, since it means a simple night of cooking for me!

Just be sure to fire up your rice cooker ahead of time.

Vegetable Fried Brown Rice
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Rice Prep
If you like to eat a lot of brown rice, you might want to consider buying a fuzzy logic rice cooker. They make brown rice as soft and fluffy as the less healthy white variety.

4 rice cooker cups (3/4 cups each) medium grain brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sesame oil

1. Place the rice in a rice cooker and cover with water. Swish around a couple times and drain out most of the water. Refill and repeat 2 more times.

2. Fill the water to the 4 cup mark on the rice cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Hit the start button.

Note: If you don't have a rice cooker, cook rice according to package directions adding in the rest of the rice prep ingredients to flavor.

Fried Rice
1 recipe cooked brown rice
2 eggs w 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sesame oil
2 tablespoons light colored oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, cut into thin quarters
1 cup frozen super sweet white corn
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup frozen petite peas
Hot pepper sesame oil to taste

1. Mix eggs with 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper oil. Scramble in a small skillet, chop eggs into small pieces and set aside.

2. In a very large skillet heat the oil over high heat and add the onion, carrot, corn and salt. Sauté until nearly softened. Add the soy sauce and soften the rest of the way. Stir in onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and sesame oil.

3. Add the rice and cook stirring and flipping occasionally until fried and coated. Stir in frozen peas and eggs and cook until peas are warmed through. Taste and add more hot pepper sesame oil, regular sesame oil and/or soy sauce as needed.

Note: This recipe makes enough rice to feed about 8 people. Feel free to cut it in half for a smaller amount. For a vegan version leave out the egg.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eggnog Drop Cookies

Ok I admit it! I have an addiction to eggnog. You won’t need to worry about admitting me to rehab though since this sinfully rich treat will too soon be gone from store shelves. While awaiting its return, I’ll be left fighting delirium tremens for the next 10 months.

Until then, I’ll celebrate and make these eggnog cookies several more times to go along with my eggnog lattes and my eggnog eggnog.

Eggnog Drop Cookies
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These are wonderfully tender sugar cookies with a spiced eggnog background.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 scant teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup full fat eggnog
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat the butter, sugar, salt, mace and vanilla extract together until fluffy. Mix in the egg and eggnog. Mix in baking soda, and then beat in flour until just combined.

3. With a standard (size 50) cookie scoop, scoop the batter and place on sheets 2 inches apart. Sprinkle dough very lightly with mace and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Let rest for 2 minutes on sheets then move to cooling rack.

Makes 32 cookies.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Slow Cooker Pork Chops and Yukon Gold Potatoes in Dijon Sauce

Did you know if you drop a $3000 refrigerator from the bed of a moving van it will roll and roll and roll some more until it totals itself? Or that the best time to paint the kitchen milk chocolate brown is when the color phobic spouse escapes to Huntsville for a few days?

How about if you start a project, there will be 100 more little things you forgot in the process? Or that the coast of Japan has 450-pound giant jellyfish? Your daughter will then want to spend time before school looking at pictures of them with you, forcing you to use long forgotten math to figure out how many people and dogs she knows it would take to equal the size of one monster jellyfish.

Let’s just say it’s been a week and cooking has been fast and brainless. Much like me today.

Slow Cooker Pork Chops and Yukon Gold Potatoes in Dijon Sauce
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Please don’t be scared by the canned cream of mushroom soup. It’s really good. I promise!

6 to 8 Yukon Gold Potatoes (enough to line your slow cooker)
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can Campbell's Healthy Choice Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
About 1.70 pound Pork Boneless Rib End Roast (or 6 pork chops)

1. Grease the slow cooker with light colored oil. Scrub the potatoes and place them snuggled together in a large oval slow cooker.

2. In a bowl, mix together soup, wine or broth, Dijon, thyme, garlic, and pepper. Pour mixture over potatoes.

3. If using, slice the roast half. Then slice each half into 3 pieces. Set aside.

4. In a large skillet, melt the butter until the foam subsides over high heat. Place the pork chops in the pan and season with salt and pepper. Quickly sear the bottom. Turn chops over and season again. When finished place the chops on top of the potatoes. Scrape pan drippings into the slow cooker as well.

5. Cover and cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 1/2. Plate and spoon sauce over potatoes and pork chops. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Recipe adapted from "Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes". Picture by Laura Flowers.

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