Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Iced Soft Gingerbread Cookies

Growing up, one of my favorite store bought cookies was Archway's Iced Spice cookies (though for some unknown reason we called them "Icy Spicy"s).  It now appears that they may have stopped making them, though I thought I bought some maybe last year (I'm probably mistaken and had bought another iced variety).  When it was announced that this month's What's Baking theme was "Baking with Gingerbread" I knew I wanted to try to recreate my beloved spice cookie.

I had made gingerbread men in the past but those weren't the soft cookies I was going for.  I did a little Google search and the picture accompanying this recipe was exactly what I was looking for.  I set out to make them ,but I wanted to go a little more festive with them.  I was going to use these for my cookie swap I signed up for on my cooking forum, so I bought a snowflake cookie cutter and got to work.

I also used a trick I learned from watching Rachael (Rachael Ray's daytime show).  When using molasses or honey, line the measuring cup with plastic wrap.  Pour the sticky stuff in, then lift out the plastic wrap carefully, and while holding it over the bowl of batter, cut a hole in the plastic and let it drip through.  You can squeeze it out to make sure you get every last drop, plus you don't have to clean the measuring cup after!

The end result was exactly what I was looking for.  It tasted just like I remembered!  Of course they puffed a bit in the oven so the detailed edges of the snowflakes were a bit lost and after looking at the photos I realize I inadvertently made and sent iced Jewish star cookies.  Oops!  At least they were delicious Jewish stars!

Iced Soft Gingerbread Cookies (slightly adapted from

2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses

2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg until well combined, then stir in the water and molasses.  Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients.
- If you want regular cookies, roll into walnut sized balls, place onto a lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
- If you are going to use a cookie cutter, roll all dough into one large ball and wrap well in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least an hour in fridge.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4 in thickness.  use cookie cutter to make desired shapes, re-rolling excess dough  only once more.  Place onto a lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.  Add the additional tbsps of as needed to reach your desired consistency.  Carefully dip cookies in the icing and allow to harden before storing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Overnight Caramel French Toast

I love having people over for brunch.  Breakfast food is one of my favorite types of food, and any time I can get a bit indulgent and fancy I am in heaven.  

One dish that I love making is overnight caramel french toast.  My father makes this dish every year for his annual break-fast gathering.  About a year ago I asked him for his recipe, which he found online. (He doesn't remember the website but it is similar to this one.)  I knew it wasn't healthy, but his recipe was a bit much for me (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp corn syrup?!?!).  I did a little online search and came across a similar recipe from Betty Crocker.  I did a little back and forth between the two recipes and added a little bit of my own twist and settled on this delicious dish.

I have served this a few times now and it has always been received very well.  Plus, you prep it the night before so you don't need to worry about doing much the next morning.  It's great for a crowd as part of a brunch but also a few pieces reheated the next day (on the rare occasion that there are leftovers) make a perfect quick breakfast.  It's not something I would make just for my family, so makes me want to invite people over for brunch more often!

Overnight Caramel French Toast (adapted from a passed down recipe [source unknown] with inspiration from Betty Crocker)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 loaf french bread, sliced into 1 1/2 in pieces
4 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
cinnamon sugar

- Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
- In a medium saucepan, mix the butter, corn syrup and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until bubbly (do not boil).  Pour evenly into the baking dish.
- place the slices of french bread in a single layer over the caramel sauce, filling the baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bread.  Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
- Uncover, sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Tarts

When my cousin got married back in the early 90s our aunt compiled a booklet of family recipes for her.  At my bridal shower I was handed the booklet which my cousin lovingly passed down to me.  Considering our aunt had since passed away, this was even more special as it made me feel that the gift was from our aunt as well.

As I was deciding what treats to make for my family this year, I flipped through this booklet and came across this recipe for holiday tarts from my grandmother.  Because my grandmother passed away a week after my 11th birthday I don't necessarily remember her making these, but as soon as my mom opened her package she exclaimed "you made my mother's holiday tarts?!" so I knew I made them well.  My grandmother would make them as free-form thumbprint cookies but I made use of my mini muffin tin to make mini tarts.  What I love about her recipe is the "old school"ness of it.  She suggests using a thimble to make the nest.

I love family traditions, especially around the holidays, so it made me very happy to incorporate my grandmother's recipe this year.

Holiday Tarts (slightly adapted from my grandmother's recipe)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pastry flour
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup pecans
jelly (I used strawberry, but my grandmother used mint)

- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar.  Add slightly beaten egg yolk.  Gradually add flour.
- Roll into small balls by hand then dip in lightly beaten egg white.  Roll balls in chopped nuts.
- Press ball into greased mini miffin tin, shaping so the sides are higher than the center, creating a "nest".
- Bake for 20 min at 300 degrees.
- Let cook for 5 min before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
- Allow to fully cool, then fill centers with jelly.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Iced Pumpkin Cookies - Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

When I asked my uncle what I could contribute to our Thanksgiving meal, his response was "how about a cookie that is appropriate for little fingers?".  We had nine kids 5 and under (including my own) so I was happy to oblige.  And I knew the perfect holiday treat to make, too!

My dear friend Jessica over at Sunny Side Up had just made these Iced Pumpkin Cookies for her Blogger's Choice swap and raved about them, so they were the obvious choice for my Thanksgiving dessert.  To make them more toddler-friendly I left the icing off, but everyone still raved about them.  My sister-in-law even made them herself that weekend!  And bonus, the recipe Jessica had based hers on was actually dairy-free, so if you're looking to make them parve, just check out the post at Dough See Dough.

These cookies went over so well at Thanksgiving (and made so many - I got about 45 cookies with one batch!) I knew immediately that these were the cookies that I would send out this year for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

I love this cookie swap.  You send out 3 dozen or so of one cookie and get cookies in return from 3 different bloggers.  It always opens up my world of blogs to follow, as well!  I sent my cookies to Take a Bite out of BocaFlamingo Musings, and Shikha la Mode and in return I got delicious molasses spice cookies from Three Sixty Five Degrees, chocolate chip oatmeal hazelnut macaroons from My Upbeet Life and cranberry chocolate chip cookies from The Dreamery.

From the response I have been getting from everyone that tries these cookies, I know that they will be making a comeback next fall.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies (from Sunny Side Up)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup pack dark brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (I used fresh, but you can also use 100% canned pumpkin)
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 350f.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.  Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla.  Mix  until well combined.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients (I add 1/4 cup at a time), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Using a rounded tablespoon (or a cookie scoop), place the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Wet your hands with a little water (so the dough doesn't stick to them) and gently mold the dough into a more rounded circle, flatten, and smooth.
- Bake 13-15 minutes.  Allow to cool on teh baking sheet for 5 minutes  before transferring to a wire cooking rack.
- While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.  Add the additional tbsps of as needed to reach your desired drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over the cookies and allow to harden before storing.

It's noted that the cookies may become too moist being stored in tupperware or a ziplock bag.  If this happens, you can store them with parchment paper between each layer and leave a corner of the tupperware lid open.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

My annual tradition to kick-off to the holiday season is getting a peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks.  Yes, I know they are available all year around, but it doesn't seem right having one mid-July.  I always indulge in this treat Thanksgiving weekend.  Something about the minty chocolatey-ness (yes, that's a word) brings the cozy feelings of the holidays.

When Colleen from The Redhead Baker announced her Cupcake Day event I knew that I wanted to make a cupcake version of my favorite holiday drink.  After one more "research trip" to Starbucks I got to work.

I scoured the internet to find a good recipe for the cupcakes and came across one on 2Teaspoons, then added my own spin on the icing with adding a mint whipped cream.  Most recipes I found had a buttercream or marshmallow frosting, but when you order a hot chocolate they always ask if you want whipped cream.  The appropriate answer, of course, is a hesitant "ok, just a little".  That way you feel like you're not going to blow a ton of calories and can pretend they actually write "just a little" and not just mark it to get a huge glob of deliciousness added on top.

I have to say, this is maybe one of my favorite things ever to come out of my kitchen.  I ended up with some mint whipped cream left over and could probably adjust the measurements so you'd wind up with less, however it's so delicious that I could eat it by the spoonful or put on top of a mug of actual hot chocolate, so why would I deny you that pleasure as well?!

This is going to be a permanent addition to my holiday baking.  I already have ideas to make mini cupcakes if we need a treat for any holiday parties.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupakes with Mint Whipped Cream Frosting (slightly adapted from 2Teaspoons)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 1 heaping tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp peppermint extract, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, mix 1/2 cup milk and 1 tbsp white vinegar and let it sit for 5 min)
2 cups heavy cream

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt butter and chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl for 2 min, then stir to combine.  Add in the heaping tbsp of cocoa powder and stir.  Set aside to cool.
- In medium bowl, sift together remaining cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, which together eggs, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, light brown sugar, vanilla and peppermint.  Once that is combined, whisk the butter/chocolate mixture in.  Stir in the buttermilk.
- Gradually (I used 1/4 cup at a time) add in the flour mixture, stirring to combine before each addition.  The batter will be the consistency of a thick chocolate pudding.
- Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.  Divide batter evenly amongst the 12 liners.
- Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted, approx 18 minutes.
- Let cook completely before frosting.
- In a medium bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) whip heavy cream, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, and 1/4 tsp peppermint extract until it becomes a stiff whipped cream.  ***I love to use the whisk attachment that came with my immersion blender, otherwise it makes for a really great arm workout!
- Once the whipped cream is set, fill a frosting bag with it and pipe it onto each cupcake.

Full list of Cupcake Day participants:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

After a hiatus I am happy to say that the recipe swaps I used to participate in are back!  Now being run by Ashley from Cheese Curd in Paradise, this month was a Blogger's Choice theme.  I was assigned Eva Bakes.  After drooling over 99.9% of her posts, I finally settled on a recipe.  The added bonus was that we had just received some fresh apple cider in our CSA box last week!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

In December of 2012 for my office holiday gift exchange I was gifted several requested baking items, including a donut pan.  When I asked for it I had grandiose plans of making homemade donuts all the time.  Fast forward to November 2014 and you can tell by the packaging currently in my trash can how well that plan worked out!

It turns out that donuts are really not hard to make at all.  These are cake donuts so they are a drier consistency than a puffy yeast donut would be, but it does not take away from the taste at all.  I made two adjustments from what Eva did (though they both were done in the recipe she based it off of).  First, I used cardamom that she didn't use.  I love the smell of cardamom.  It's one of those spices that costs approximately $12 and you need about 1/4 tsp or less in most recipes that calls for it.  But once you have it in your pantry you don't want to leave it out!  I had purchased it for last year's Crunchy Molasses Cookies and have been waiting for a reason to use it again.

I also added a cinnamon sugar coating to about half of my donuts which I think added a nice touch (I left them off of some because I knew a little someone's nibbly fingers would be all over these donuts and didn't want the added sugar for him).

As Eva also realized, although the original recipe said it makes 6 donuts, I was able to make 11.

Baked Apple Cider Donuts (from Eva Bakes)

1 cup apple cider
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
3 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter optional
cinnamon sugar optional

Preheat  the oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare your donut pan by adding cooking spray to each of the wells.
-  Boil the apple cider down in a small saucepan until it reduces down to 1/4 cup. Set aside and let cool.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
-  In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl using a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugars. Add the olive oil, reduced apple cider, and egg. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, ending with the flour (dry) mixture.
-  Spoon the batter into the prepared donut pan and bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden.
-  Remove the donuts from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before glazing.

- If you want to add a cinnamon sugar topping, you can brush the donuts with melted butter and dip into or sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon.

Those are the flavors of fall to me.  I know it's fall when I break those ingredients out for my baking attempts.  When this month's theme for What's Baking was announced as "baking with pumpkin or squash" I was excited.  While I love a good zucchini bread, my favorite way to enjoy squash is in soup or just roasted with brown sugar, maple syrup, etc.  I think I made it known when we last had the pumpkin theme two years ago that I was never a big fan of pumpkin flavored things.  I realized after making Pumpkin-Parmesean Biscuits that I actually enjoy pumpkin when it's baked in with other ingredients.  I think I mostly am turned off by the over pumpkin-ing of everything lately.  I mean, there are pumpkin Oreos, and, of course, the beloved "PSL" (when did that become a thing?  Why can't people just say "pumpkin spice latte"?  I have no idea and I have no desire to try it).

With the theme in mind, I flipped through a few of my cookbooks for inspiration and came across this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bread in The Craft of Baking and set out to see if the pumpkin could, once again, win me over.

The end result is delicious.  It's easy to make (two bowls and a loaf pan, no mixers necessary) and there was no panic that it would be ruined after my son awoke from his nap earlier than planned.  In other news, the container of demerara sugar is a great toy that will provide enjoyment for as long as mommy needs to finish getting the batter ready.

Be sure to check out Carrie's Sweet Life for her upcoming round-up of all this month's submissions.

Pumpkin Spice Bread (from The Craft of Baking)

unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pan
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sour cream
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground white pepper
1 tbsp demerara sugar

- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line the bottom of an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 in loaf pan with parchment paper, and grease the bottom and sides with butter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg, egg yolk, and oil.  Add the pumpkin, sour cream, and vanilla and whisk well to combine.
- In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and white pepper.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, then whisk together gently to just combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the demerara sugar.
- Bake, rotating the pan once, until the bread is firm to the touch, well browned, and slightly cracked on top, about 55 minutes.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand for 5 minutes.  Then turn out the loaf onto the rack t cool.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.

*The bread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Brisket

If anyone wants to buy me a gift, just get me one of the Kosher by Design cookbooks.  Seriously, I only have the Short on Time book but everything I have made from it has been absolutely delicious.  And this latest endeavor did not let me down.

Over the summer we were down at the Jersey shore with friends.  While my husband and I do not keep kosher outside of our house, these friends do, so when we heard about a kosher sports bar in town we jumped at the chance to go (mostly because our friend was craving chicken wings).  Looking at the menu, the item that jumped out the most was the pulled beef sandwich.  I don't go out for BBQ often, but this just sounded so delicious to me.  And it did not disappoint!  I was thinking about this meal the other day when I was menu planning and I came across this slow cooker recipe.  How could I not make it?!

The end result was so tasty.  I served it with roasted potatoes and steamed green beans for well-rounded meal.  And I had plenty of leftovers so I stored the beef with a little bit of the au jus (or is the correct term "I stored the beef au jus"?  either way...) in one container and the BBQ sauce in another so it wasn't totally smothered in the sauce when I reheated it.  I got to enjoy the leftovers for the next several days, but could easily have frozen some for later use.

Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Brisket (slightly adapted from Kosher by Design: Short on Time)

3 lbs top cut brisket
fine sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1-2 tbsp canola oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp whiskey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cups beef stock
1 (18oz) bottled barbecue sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
crusty rolls cut in half horizontally for serving

- Line a slow cooker with a liner bag, if possible
- Slice the brisket into 2 pieces, season both sides generously with salt and pepper
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Sear the meat on both sides then place in slow cooker.
- In the same skillet, sauté the onion, 3 minutes, stirring frequently to pick up the bits of meat.  Top the meat in the slow cooker with the onions.
- In a large bowl mix the Worcestershire sauce, whisky, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and stock.  Pour the stock mixture around the meat (try not to wash the onions off the meat) until you just cover the meat.
- Pour the barbeque stock directly onto the meat.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  The meat is ready when it can easily be shredded with a fork.
- Remove the cooked meat from the slow cooker (reserving the sauce) into a large bowl and shred it by pulling in opposite directions with two forks.
- Pour the sauce into a medium pot (reserving about a cup if storing any meat).  Add the dissolved corn starch and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Mix the meat being eaten immediately with some of the thickened sauce.
- Make a sandwich with the crusty roll and the meat, topping the meat with extra sauce if desired.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Turkey Chili

I love the fall.  The cooler temps mean that I can turn to my favorite comfort food - chili.  My go-to recipe had been my slow cooker meatless three bean chili, with melted cheese on top and a dollop of sour cream.  But sometimes you just want a nice, hearty, meaty chili.

Last year I had been perusing my local library and found the book Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.  It's a combination cookbook and memoir about life in her kitchen and dining room, spanning the years from her single life to life with two kids (and two working parents) and how they made it all work.  And it's not about how easy life is and how she whips up 3 course gourmet meals every evening, it's about real life and the shortcuts she uses.  The book was so interesting and the recipes looked so good that after I read it cover to cover and returned it to the library, I ended up buying it for myself.  I find that it really gives a realistic view of family dinnertime with all the craziness, pickiness, etc.  Plus it provides a wide range of recipes.

In the book, Jenny has a quick and easy recipe for turkey chili.  We first made it last year and it's become a staple in our home during the cooler months.  It's got a nice kick to it (especially because I use some hot chili powder, not just regular chili powder), and served over a bed of brown rice, it makes for a delicious, filling meal.  Plus, it makes enough that my husband can have seconds and we still have enough left over for 2-3 more meals.  I probably could freeze the leftovers for future meals but I usually end up eating it for lunch or dinner over the next few days.

Another thing I have been trying to incorporate into my routine is one pot meals.  We end up cleaning a ton of pots, pans, and prep tools every night and don't have a lot of downtime before bed.  This chili is great because it is not only a one pot meal (well, one pot plus a rice cooker if you make rice as well but that's a quick clean) but also the only other things to clean are a cutting board and knife which you can clean while the chili cooks, then it's just the skillet and spoon.  Between the easy prep and quick clean up, this can be made and cleaned up in about an hour.  So simple, but so delicious!!

Turkey Chili (slightly adapted from Dinner: A Love Story)

1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves (or 2 large), minced
few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground turkey (dark meat is preferable)
salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp chipotle or hot Mexican chili powder
28oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 bay leaf
1/3 tsp cinnamon
14oz can black beans, drained
Brown rice, plus any toppings you want: avocado, tortilla strips, etc

- In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil about 3 minutes.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high and brown the meat until it loses its pink color.
- Add salt, pepper, and chili powders - let it sizzle a moment, then add the tomatoes and the rest of the spices.
- Turn down the heat, simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the beans and cook for another 5 minutes (until the beans are heated through).
- Serve over rice with any toppings you choose.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


G'mar tov!

I hope you all had a sweet Rosh Hashanah.  Ours was filled with family, friends, and food.  Lots and lots of food.  Especially being eaten by my one year old.  This kid packs it away and I have no idea where he puts it all since he's so small!  But now we know he likes matzah balls, gefilte fish and kasha.  He hasn't voiced his opinion on my gefilte fish vs my grandmother's, though.  He seems to enjoy them both equally.

As I was preparing for the holiday I knew I wanted to bring something to my grandparents'.  I have brought honey cake in the past but wanted to do something a little different this year.  So I turned to my trusty Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking for ideas.  Everything in their Rosh Hashanah section looked better then the last but the one that jumped out at me was teiglach.  I'd heard of teiglach before but had never had it.  It is basically hard dough balls covered in a honey mixture.  What's not to like about that?!  And this recipe calls for ground ginger which adds a nice kick.

The end result tasted great and was a hit with my family.  In the future I may try to make the dough balls a little bigger but I like that it's a bite size dessert that easy to share.  I didn't get fancy with my plating this time since I had to be able to transport it.  Next time I would try to put the balls in more of a shaped tower.

I wish all a happy new year and may you have an easy fast.

Teiglach (from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking)

3 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + more for dusting

Honey Syrup:
3/4 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup shredded coconut

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lightly smear with vegetable oil or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and salt.
- Blend in the flour to make a very soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, adding just enough flour, if necessary, to make it easy to roll.
- With your hands, roll the dough into long ropes, about 1/2 inch wide.
- Pinch or cut off 1/2 inch pieces (I used my pizza cutter for quick and easy cutting).  Place all the little pieces on the prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake, shaking the sheet occasionally, until the dough pieces puff and are golden brown (15-20 min).

- Once the dough is baked, make the syrup: In a saucepan, heat the honey and sugar together and boil very gently for 3-5 min until just amber colored.
- Lower the heat, then stir in the ginger, walnuts, and the baked puffs, tossing to coat them.
- Spread the mixture out onto a lightly greased baking sheet (using wet hands or a spatula) or arrange the teiglach in a tower formation.
- Sprinkle with coconut.
- Allow it to cool and harden (leave out or you could put it in the freezer for 30 min).
- This is a sticky dessert, so either pull off pieces to eat or you can use 2 spoons to take a section.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Butternut Squash Risotto

I posted the other day about roasted beet and goat cheese risotto.  Before I ever tried that out I made short-cut risotto using my slow cooker.  I admit that I started a blog post about it at the time, but hadn't finished writing it.  I revisited the incomplete post, reminding myself how delicious the end result was.  Now that squash season is coming back I look forward to making this again!

In an effort to cut down on cooking in the evenings, I try to maximize the use of my slow cooker.  But I usually ended up doing the same recipe over and over.  When I started hearing buzz about the new cookbook Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2 by America's Test Kitchen I knew it was something I needed to add to my collection.  I don't have Volume 1, but from what I've heard there is a LOT of prep work that goes into the recipes in there.  Volume 2 focuses on things with easy prep.  This doesn't usually mean just chopping veggies and opening cans which is what I was used to doing.  While the prep work is still pretty simple, you utilize the microwave and other shortcuts to making a great dish in the slow cooker both before and sometimes after the cook time is up.

Among the recipes that jumped out at me was Butternut Squash Risotto.  I like everything in that title, but I had never made risotto before because it usually was done by standing over a stove for a long time.  This recipe avoids that by microwaving the rice before cooking and adding hot broth to it from the start.  I will say, though, that this is not the dish to make on a day you are putting on the slow cooker and going off to work.  It only cooks 2-3 hours and I even if you have a timer I don't know how long it can be on 'keep warm' before it affects the outcome.

Of course I thought I had totally screwed up the whole thing because I hadn't read the blurb at the top of the page where it said to avoid the pre-cut chunks of squash and instead get a whole one or a halved & peeled one.  My supermarket doesn't sell halved ones and I'm sorry, but I have no patience when it comes to peeling a butternut squash.  I have other things I'd rather be doing (just about anything I can think of...).  I cut the pre-cut chunks down to 1/2 inch pieces and I think that it came out just fine.

And the official verdict on this is that it just might be my husbands #2 favorite dish I've made (after my poached flounder).  He would have to go back through everything I've ever made to decide if anything else was actually his second favorite, but this is definitely the best dish I've made in recent history.

Butternut Squash Risotto (from America Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution Vol 2)

6 cups vegetable broth
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup chopped onion
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 lbs peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch slices (***while they like pre-cut & peeled squash, they recommend avoiding the pre-cut chunks which they find dry and stringy)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp minced fresh sage

- microwave 4 cups broth in bowl until steaming, about 5 minutes.
- in a separate bowl, microwave rice, onion, and 1 tbsp butter, stirring occasionally, until ends of rice kernels are transparent, about 5 minutes.
- transfer rice to the slow cooker and immediately stir in wine, and let sit until wine is almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.
- stir in hot broth, squash, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cover and cook until rice is tender, 2 to 3 hours on high.
- after the cook time is up, microwave remaining 2 cups broth in bowl until steaming, about 2 minutes.
- slowly stream hot broth into rice, stirring gently, until liquid is absorbed and risotto is creamy, about 1 minute.
- gently stir in peas and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.
- stir in Parmesan, sage, and remaining 2 tbsp butter (adjust risotto consistency with extra hot broth as needed).
- season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto

I think I've mentioned before that I am on a cooking message board.  Each day those of us who have blogs post links and pictures to that day's blog posts.  Back in February 2012 Jill from JBeanCuisine posted a picture of her roasted beet risotto with goat cheese that was just gorgeous.  I bookmarked the page because of the picture but having never eaten beets it wasn't on the top of my list of things to make.

Then I joined a CSA this year and in our box we started getting beets.  My mind immediately went to that beautiful picture and I knew what I would do with the beets.  Plus. risotto has always been one of those recipes that I know is time consuming and hard to make but I still wanted to try at some point.

The first time beets were in the box they were golden beets, so they didn't give us that nice pinkish color, but were still super tasty.  Since then we have gotten red beets so I had to go back and make the risotto again!

The risotto is actually pretty easy to make, but it does require your attention.  I like to pour myself a glass of wine, pull a stool up to the stove and sip away as I stir in the broth.

One note when using red beets - the color will stain!  I use prep gloves (the same kind I use when touching raw meats) when handling them plus I use foil under them on the cutting board so I don't end up with a bright pink board.  I also rinse the knife immediately after use so it doesn't stain.

Roasted Beet Risotto with Goat Cheese (from JBeanCuisine)

4 medium beets, trimmed (leaving 1 inch of stems attached)
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock + 1tbsp for roasting beets
3 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp for roasting beets
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp  freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup goat cheese (plus more for garnish)

- preheat oven to 425'
- toss the beets with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp stock and a dash of salt & pepper.  Tightly wrap beets in double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender (about 1 - 1.5 hours depending on the size of the beets).  You will now they are ready when you can insert a knife through the middle without any resistance.
- Place the cooked beets aside (with the foil opened to allow steam to escape) to cool for about 20 minutes
- When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2 in cubes.
- When you are ready to make the risotto, bring the broth and water to a rolling simmer in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat and keep at a low simmer
- Preheat a wife (4-6 qt) pot over medium/medium-high heat.  Add in the olive oil and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.  About 3 minutes.
- Add rice to the onions and oil and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes
- Add the wine to the pan, simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute
- Add in 1/2 cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed.  Continue simmering and adding broth (about 1/2 cup at a time), stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 18 to 22 minutes (reserve leftover broth).
- Stir in diced beets, salt, and pepper (mixture will turn bright pink) and cook, stirring, until heated through.
- thin to your liking with some of the leftover broth, then stir in cheese and remove from heat.
- serve, garnishing with additional goat cheese if desired

Friday, September 19, 2014

Phyllo Confetti Tilapia

Now that my son is a year old and eating table foods, I have been looking for some good dinners that seem pretty easy to make and aren't too far out there.  Thankfully we have been blessed with a child who is not a picky eater.  This kid will basically eat anything we put in front of him, which lets us eat a wider range of food while trying to feed him what we are eating.

Over the weekend my husband and I were trading off watching the baby (or should I say, watching our toddler?!) as we tried to be a little productive, so I looked for a dinner with only a small amount of hands-on work.  This recipe had already jumped out at me because every ingredient is more delicious than the last.  Plus we had an overabundance of tomatoes thanks to our CSA share.  We also got to use our fresh parsley we are growing on our deck, which I always love incorporating into our meals.  The one change we made is that the original recipe calls for halibut.  They had it at our local store but it was about $26/lb due to overfishing, so in an effort to not spend an insane amount of money on a homemade meal we opted to use tilapia which is a comparable fish but about 1/5 of the price.

The end result was so good.  The honey mustard added a nice punch of flavor while the phyllo dough added some much needed crunch.  And our son loved the fish (which we took the phyllo dough off of).  He finished a huge piece!

Even reheated this was delicious.  I plan on adding this to our usual rotation.


Phyllo Confetti Tilapia (slightly adapted from Kosher By Design: Short on Time)

olive oil cooking spray
1 roll phyllo dough, thawed
6 6-8oz tilapia filets
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp whole grain honey mustard
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 pts grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced

- preheat oven to 375 degrees
- spray baking dish with olive oil spray
- take roll of phyllo dough, remove from the outer plastic bag.  Keeping it in a roll, use a serrated knife to cut 2in off the end.  (return rest of roll to fridge/freezer for another use)
- gently remove inner plastic sheet.  Re-roll the phyllo dough and, with a serrated knife, shred the dough into thin strips.  Fluff out the strips with your hands
- season the fish fillets with salt and pepper
- place fillets in the prepared baking dish
- spread an even layer of honey mustard on each piece
- arrange the shreds of phyllo dough in a pile over each fillet.  Sprinkle with parsley
- generously spray the olive oil spray over the fish
- toss the tomatoes with the extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic.  Add to the baking dish.
- Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 min, depending on thickness of the fish, until the phyllo is a light golden brown and the fish is white and slightly firm to the touch.
- transfer to plates or a platter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting Ready for Rosh Hashanah

We are a week away from Rosh Hashanah and I'm sure everyone is planning their new year menus.  I have placed my order for whitefish, carp and pike so I can make my gefilte fish on Tuesday.  I may also whip up some noodle kugel.

If you are in search of some new ideas on how to ring in a sweet 5775, I asked some blogging buddies for dishes that use honey and here are a few other recipes I'd like to share:

***All pictures belong to the blog I link the recipe to***

Start your day off with these delicious breakfast ideas:
Honey butter croissants (from Hop's restaurants)
Honey Butter Croissants from Eva Bakes

Honey Almond Granola from Books & Cooks

Grapefruit Honey Cereal Muffins from Adventures in My Kitchen

grapefruit scones 5

Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

And end your meal with some of these sweet treats:

Honey Cake that I posted in September 2012

 Karidopita (Greek Walnut Cake) from Elly Says Opa

Baklava from Elly Says Opa

honey ice cream 4

Honey Ice Cream from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

I hope these recipes help you have a sweet new year!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Can you believe it's almost September?  Where did the summer go?!  I know I have been MIA for most of this past year, but I thank you all for bearing with me.  There are some exciting things happening in my life right now - my little guy just turned 1 this past week, and as of a few weeks ago I am officially a stay-at-home mom.  What does that mean for you?  Well, hopefully I'll use my "extra" time (nap time and those few moments where he actually entertains himself without stirring up some trouble) to cook more and blog more!  If you've stuck with me during my crazy past year and a half (moving, new baby, etc) I assure you that I will be blogging more often now.

A few months ago What's Baking announced the theme of "Baking your Heritage", which ended up being sidelined for the summer produce theme back in June.  My original thought was to bake my own challah, which I've been wanting to do for a while.  But when the theme came back for this month's challenge I wanted to go a little crazier.  So I looked through a few of my Jewish cookbooks and had an "aha" moment.  What's more Jewish than bagels???!  I excitedly bought the few ingredients I needed (I had to replenish my whole wheat flour and buy bread flour and yeast, everything else was already in my pantry) and set aside a rare child-free morning to tackle this challenge.

It was surprisingly easy to make bagels.  I broke out the dough hook of my mixer to knead the bread which I think helped a lot (though you don't need to knead for as long, my mixer started smoking after 5 minutes!).  These were so simple that I think I'll try again with other kinds of bagels as well.  What I especially love about them is that I can make them whatever size I want.  We love bagels but try not to have them too often since the ones we buy at the local bagel store are approximately the size of my face (ok, I'm exaggerating - they are the size of my one year old's face).  So having these slightly smaller homemade ones are great to have on hand.  I ended up with 11 bagels of varying sizes so we'll have a few over the next day or so and can freeze the rest to enjoy in the future.


1 1/2 cups warm water
4 tsp dry yeast
pinch of white sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (use white whole wheat for a lighter texture)
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1 cup plumped dark raisins
1 egg white, beaten

for the kettle water:
6 qts boiling water
2 tbsp. brown sugar

- In a large bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and white sugar.  Let the mixture stand for a few minutes to allow the yeast to swell and dissolve.
- Whisk in the oil, honey, and brown sugar, stirring to blend.
- Stir in the whole wheat flour, cinnamon, and salt.  Blend well.
- Add 3 cups of bread flour and knead for 10-12 minutes, adding more flour as needed to make a firm but smooth dough (***with my stand mixer I only kneaded the dough for about 7 minutes and didn't need any additional flour).  Let dough rest for 5-10 minutes.
- While the dough rests, heat a small bowl of water (enough to cover raisins).  When water is hot, add in raisins and let them sit for a few minutes.
- Knead or press the raisins into the dough.
- Please the dough on a work surface and cover with a clean tea towel or plastic bag, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 8-12 portions (depending on desired size of bagels).  Form each portion into a rope about 10 inches long.  Form the ropes into bagels, sealing the ends by using wet fingers to press together, then roll on the work surface.
- Let the bagels rise about 20 minutes until they appear a little puffy.
- While the bagels rise, bring 6 qts of water with brown sugar added to a boil.
- preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Once the water is boiling and bagels are puffy, place a few bagels at a time in the boiling water.
- As the bagels come to the surface, flip them over and cook for another minute.
- Remove the bagels to the baking sheet and let them dry briefly.
- Brush each bagel with the beaten egg white for extra shine.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 425.
- Bake (turning once midway) until the bagels are medium- or golden-brown, 18-22 minutes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Summer is here!  I am so excited to use all the great produce out there.  Who doesn't want to enjoy some fresh berries?!  I was pondering what to make for this month's What's Baking for the summer produce theme when Jenn from Jenn Cuisine mentioned a blueberry coffee cake that was a family favorite from when she was growing up.  I love blueberries so this one jumped straight to the top of my list.

I had also recently received a wonderful gift of salts, sugars and other spices from One of the sugar I was gifted was a blueberry flavored sugar.  I ended up mixing this with the brown sugar in the topping which I think added a little something extra to it.

This was very easy to make, although I did have a little snafu with the topping.  In my head it said melted butter which wasn't the case, though in the end I think it tasted pretty good as I made it.  I used light sour cream, 1/3 less fat cream cheese and Skim Plus milk which made me feel a little better about the multiple slices I ate.  The cake is pretty big, so this is definitely one to share.

Blueberry Coffee Cake (from The Main Wild Blueberry Cookbook)

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
2 /3 cup milk
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups blueberries, drained
8oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2 in cubes

1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

- preheat oven to 350 degrees
- grease a 9 x 13in pan
- combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Set aside
- in a separate bowl, combine slightly beaten eggs, sour cream, milk, vanilla and melted butter.
- add dry ingredients and stir only until well mixed.
- fold in cream cheese cubes
- gently fold in blueberries.
- spoon into prepared pan
- in a separate bowl mix the topping ingredients
- spread topping evenly over the batter
- bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every Passover I like to make some treats to enjoy.  This  year I was, again, trying to avoid using boxed mixes.  This recipe for chocolate chip cookies caught my eye and I knew I wanted to try it.  I mean, who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies?!

In the end, the cookies were maybe a smidgen drier than I normally like, but they were in no way a "lesser" cookie that was obviously made for Passover.  I threw in some walnuts, as well, which I think added nicely to the flavor.  My husband and I really enjoyed these and I think they will make a return appearance in Passovers to come.

Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies (slightly adapted from The Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking)

1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla (must be kosher for Passover)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup matzah cake meal
1 cup potato starch
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

- In a large mixing bowl, cream the brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla with the butter.  Blend in the eggs.  Stir in the salt, matzah cake meal, and potato starch.  Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Chill the dough for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Scoop generous tablespoonfuls of dough and place them on the baking sheet.  Press down to flatten the dough a bit.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes to desired crispness.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Passover Favorites

With Passover a week away I wanted to re-share some of my favorite dishes I have posted about in the past two years.  My eating habits on Passover have changed a lot since I was a child (I used to think that it had to come from the Passover aisle or from the catalog of candy I would sell for Hebrew school) and I now realize that most of what I make during the rest of the year can still be eaten during this time.  However, there are some things that I make specifically during Passover, usually using matzah meal or the Passover cake meal as a substitute for flour.  I can't wait to try new things this year!

Here are links to some of my favorite Passover dishes:

Veggie Kugel

Gefilte Fish

Fudge Brownies

Geshmearto Matzah

Matzah Meal Pancakes

Matzah Ball Soup

What are your favorite dishes to make?

Friday, March 7, 2014

S'mores Pie

When I sign up for a recipe swap, I usually look through my assigned blog and try to find something that would fit perfectly into my week's menu plan, usually as a main dish.  This was not that kind of a swap.  I fully admit that this recipe choice is a case of "why not to choose a dish on an empty stomach".  As I looked through The Cookaholic Wife's recipe index this S'mores Pie jumped out at me.  I knew that I needed to make this immediately.

This pie was so easy to make and was just as delicious as I expected it to be.  I would be more afraid of just how much of the pie I'll end up eating if it weren't for the fact that my husband already ate 2 slices.  So I think my waistline will be just fine....until the next time I make the pie.

Thank you again to Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking for hosting the swap!

S'mores Pie (from The Cookaholic Wife)

1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (approx 10-11 sheets)
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
marshmallows (either 1 cup mini, whole or 16 large, halved)

- Preheat oven to 325
- Put the graham crackers in food processor and pule until crumbs.  Stir the butter into the crumbs until combined, then press the crumb mixture into a 9" pie plate.  Place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.
- Heat the heavy cream and milk in a saucepan over a medium-law flame until it simmers slightly around the edges.  Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until melted.  Whisk in the sugar and salt.  In a separate bowl lightly beat the two eggs, then add slowly to the chocolate mixture while whisking.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into the crust.  Bake for 25-30 min until set.
- Remove the pie from the oven and spread a layer of marshmallows on top.  Set the oven to broil and put the pie back in the oven until the marshmallows are toasted (approx 20 seconds).
- Let the pie cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
*** It's recommended to heat the pie in the microwave for about 10 seconds before eating for an extra gooey bite***