ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mississippi Mud Cookies

You just never know where the next recipe is going to come from. My mom gave this to me - it was on a Southern Living subscription tear-out card in one of her magazines. And I can see why they chose it to sell their magazine. Soft double chocolate pecan cookie with gooey toasty marshmallows on top? As long as these cookies were sitting around on our counter, which wasn't long, I ate a lot of these. I guess the baby was craving them.

It kinda makes me want to think of what else I can put marshmallows on before baking. Gingersnaps? Cinnamon rolls? Chocolate biscotti? Mmm... Ideas?
Mississippi Mud Cookies
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup milk chocolate morsels
1 cup plus 2 T mini marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 350. Microwave semisweet chocolate morsels in a small microwave-safe glass dish at HIGH 1 minute or so until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to chocolate mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in chopped pecans and 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips.

4. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheets. Press 3 marshmallows into each portion of dough. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes about 3 dozen.
Recipe from a tear-out Southern Living subscription card

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins

Yay, my first recipe from my new Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook! Ed chose this one as our maiden attempt at better muffins, and we would both call it successful.

Since it only makes 9 muffins I doubled it, all except the butter, cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Those still provide enough to top a double recipe.

This recipe is similar to a Younce family recipe called "Muffins that Taste Like Donuts." The cakey inside has a vanilla-nutmeg essence, and the outisde has a cinnamon sugar coating. Which, by the way, the girls loved helping me do (and eat.) They both said, unsolicited, that these muffins tasted like donuts. Seriously, what a way to sell a muffin. Then when Ginger exclaimed, "These ARE donuts!" I thought, hey why not? So around our house we have a new name for these simple classics: "Donuts that Look Like Muffins!"
Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins
(a.k.a. Donuts that Look Like Muffins)
7 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
6 T unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or nonstick cooking spray; fill the unused cups 1/3 full with water to prevent warping (this is for perfectionists; I never do this.)

2. To make the muffins, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating well until pale and smooth.

3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 increments, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

4. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it three-fourths full. Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

5. To make the topping, stir together the cinnamon and sugar in a small, shallow bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tapping it to remove excess sugar. Transfer to the rack, right side up. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving (or not.)

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Muffins

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peach-Blueberry Popover Pancake

I love popovers. They're little crusty/eggy/puffy rolls that are empty in the middle and delicious with butter and any kind of jam. So good. So a popover pancake - just a big giant popover - covered with syrupy peaches and blueberries sounded OK to me.

First of all, it was ridiculously easy. Easier even than regular pancakes because it's just one and cooks by itself in the oven. Second, seasonally friendly because it calls for frozen peaches and frozen blueberries. Of course if it's summer, you can by all means use fresh and it would be even better. But frozen fruit is good and worked well in for me in this recipe.

We had this for dinner so we had some fried ham on the side. Bacon and eggs would be good too. My only complaint was it wasn't quite sweet enough for me, so we drizzled a little maple syrup on to get it right. Blueberry or other flavored syrup would be good, too.

Peach-Blueberry Popover Pancake
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 T orange marmalade
3 T butter or margarine
1 T lemon juice
1 (16 oz) package frozen sliced peaches, thawed and drained
1 cup fresh blueberries or frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
Drizzle of maple syrup, optional

1. Place a well-greased 12-inch cast-iron skillet in a 425F oven for 5 minutes.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients (eggs through 1/3 cup butter), stirring with a wire wisk until blended.

3. Remove skillet from oven. Pour batter into hot skillet.

4. Bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes. (This resembles a giant popover and will fall quickly after removing from oven.)
5. Combine marmalade, 3 T butter and lemon juice in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add peaches, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon on top of baked pancake. Sprinkle with blueberries. Drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

Recipe from Southern Living, Jan 1996

Friday, February 19, 2010

Silver Dollar Pear Pancakes

Last year for Pancake Week my very favorite recipe was Double Coconut Pancakes with Vanilla Pear Sauce. I think pears naturally pair with pancakes beautifully. And these little loves are no exception. The coring/peeling was a bit of work (I used my twirly-whirly apple corer but the pears were a bit too soft and got lots of juice all over the place, but yummy juice) but it all paid off when we sat down to gobble them up. Delicious!

Silver Dollar Pear Pancakes
4 Bosc or Bartlett pears
3 T pure maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice for fun)
1/2 tsp unsalted butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 T sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 T unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 tsp for griddle

1. Core pears with an apple corer. Starting at the bottom, slice pears crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rings, and toss in a small bowl with maple syrup and cinnamon.

2. To make pancake batter, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 T melted butter; whisk to combine. Batter whouls have small to medium lumps.

3. Heat an electric griddle to 375 degrees or a heavy skillet until very hot. Brush with butter. Place a few pear slices on griddle, 2 1/2 inches apart. Let cook 1 minute. Ladle about 1/4 cup batter into the center of each pear ring. Using the bottom of the ladle, gently push batter over edges of pears. Let cook until pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes.

4. Using spatula, turn pancakes over; cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining pears and batter. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and extra syrup.Recipe from Martha Stewart Living, February 1998

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pretzel Pancakes with White Chocolate & Caramel Sauces

Um, yeah, these are just as indulgent as they sound and look. We had them for Mardi Gras dinner. I thought it would be appropriate.

The crushed pretzels do a nice absorbing number in the batter, and make the whole ensemble wonderfully sweet-and-salty. I know it's a bit over-the-top to make two special sauces from scratch for these. You could serve them with just maple syrup. But you'd be missing the full effect. The three flavors together are truly fabulous.
Pretzel Pancakes
1 cup crushed pretzels, divided (use small pretzel sticks or mini pretzels)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil

1. Whisk together 1/2 cup crushed pretzels, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

2. Using a mixer on medium speed, whip egg whites in a bowl to soft peaks; set aside.

3. Whisk together egg yolk, milk and butter milk in a bowl until frothy. Stir into dry ingredients only until ingredients are moistened. (Small lumps are OK.) Let batter stand for 10 minutes (this is when the pretzels do their magical absorbing thing.) Fold in whipped egg whites, stopping when thin, white streaks still remain in the batter.

4. Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush griddle with a thin layer of oil.

5. For each pancake, pour about 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle; sprinkle each pancake with some of the remaining crushed pretzels. Cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes, about 2 minutes. Flip pancakes; cook until golden, about 2 minutes more. Keep in 200-degree oven until ready to serve. Serve with white chocolate and caramel sauces. Makes about 14 pancakes.

White Chocolate Sauce
(Takes about 15 minutes)
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
4 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped

1. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk a little of the hot cream into the egg yolks, then return yolk mixture to simmering cream.

2. Continue cooking and whisking until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 1 minute.) Remove sauce from heat. Stir in white chocolate until melted. Set white chocolate sauce aside; keep it warm.

Caramel Sauce
(Takes about 15 minutes)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 T water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T unsalted butter

1. Boil brown sugar and water in a small saucepan 5 minutes, gently swirling occasionally to prevent scorching. Whisk in cream. (Mixture will bubble furiously and begin to harden into candy-like pieces; keep whisking and it will melt again.)

2. Boil mixture 2 minutes more, then whisk in butter until melted. Set caramel sauce aside; keep it warm.
Recipe from Cuisine at Home, February 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Banana Macadamia Pancakes with Orange Butter

Now here is a great pancake recipe. Different but not outrageous. Sophisticated but subtle. The bananas are soft and sweet, the nuts are buttery and gently crunchy, and the orange butter lends just enough flavor that you enjoy an essence as you exhale through your nose. And these are not a lot of work to make (though workwise, I prefer mashing bananas to cutting them into bits - they get a bit slippery.)

My girls informed me they wouldn't like these because there were nuts in them. They often tell me this, then eat whatever I was making without complaint. This was no exception, and in fact I think the mild flavor of macadamias was appealing to them. Ginger even asked for a handful on the side to eat with her pancakes.

Banana Macadamia Pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3 T unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ripe large banana
1/2 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts, chopped (plus more for garnish if desired)

Orange Butter
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
1 1/2 tsp fresh orange juice
1/8 tsp salt
1. To make orange butter, stir ingredients together in small bowl until well combined.

2. To make pancakes, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, 2 T melted butter, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Cut banana into bits and fold into batter along with the nuts. Batter will be thick.
3. Brush a 12-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet with remaining tablespoon of melted butter and heat over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. (*Careful - I didn't think about my cheap brush having synthetic bristles and the ends all melted and got frayed and tangly.) Working in batches of 3, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake into hot skillet and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes with a spatula and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm, then make more pancakes, brushing skillet with butter for each batch. Serve with orange butter and maple syrup. Garnish with chopped macadamia nuts if desired.
Recipe from Gourmet, December 2002

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lemony Blueberry Pancakes

Bisquick or Trader Joe's multigrain baking mix are my standbys for quick and good pancakes, so I was happy to find a new recipe that uses a baking mix. With just a few changes and additions it takes a mix pancake to the level of a scratch one. I was shocked at the perfect crumb and texture of these cakes, and the brightness and wonder of a little fresh lemon never fails to surprise me and please my palate. These pancakes are simply great.Lemony Blueberry Pancakes
1 cup pancake & baking mix (such as Bisquick)
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 tsp butter
Serve with: blueberry or maple syrup, fresh blueberries

1. Stir baking mix, egg, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and juice in a bowl until blended. Stir in berries.

2. Melt 1 tsp butter in a large nonstick skillet. For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter into pan.

3. Cook until bottoms are golden; turn over and cook until bottoms are golden again. Repeat with remaining butter and batter. Makes about 9-10 (4-inch) pancakes

Recipe from Woman's Day, January 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ebelskivers with Spiced Apple Filling

Ebel-what??? I know. It's OK. I didn't know what they were either, much less how to spell or pronounce them, until a few years ago when my sister-in-law Michelle made them for Christmas breakfast. I give you the blurb from the inside flap of Kevin Craft's book Ebelskivers:

Originally from Denmark, ebelskivers (pronouned "able-skeevers") are snacks or desserts traditionally served during holidays and at celebrations. Today, cooks offer these puffy, sphere-shaped pancakes with a wide range of sweet and savory toppings and fillings, varying them in countless creative ways.
You need a special pan first of all, but luckily my Mom got one for Christmas so I borrowed it along with Craft's book. Ebelskivers are like a cross between doughnuts and pancakes. They can be filled or not. Michelle usually puts apples or jelly inside. For this, my first attempt, I did a traditional spiced apple filling. But the sky is seriously the limit. Mom might not be getting her pan back right away.

Ebelskivers with Spiced Apple Filling
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 T granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 tart green apples such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup whole milk
2 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Finishing Touches:
1 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. To make the filling, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, just until bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the apples, reduce the heat to medium-to-medium-low, an cook, stirring often, until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.2. Preheat the oven to 200F.

3. To make the batter, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.

4. In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain. Use the batter right away.

5. Brush the wells of the ebelskiver pan with some of the melted butter and place over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add about 1 T batter to each well. Working quickly, carefully spoon about 1 tsp of the apple filling into the center of each pancake. Top each with another 1 T batter.
6. Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Use 2 short wooden skewers to turn all the pancakes and cook until lightly browned on the second side, about 3 minutes longer.
7. Transfer the finished pancakes to a platter and keep warm in the oven while you repeat to make 2 or 3 more batches. Dust the warm ebelskivers with confectioners' sugar and serve right away. Makes about 21 pancakes, 4 to 7 servings

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's Pancake Week! (Strawberry Pancake Roll-ups)

Finally, it's Pancake Week again! I've missed it, haven't you? And I've been having a lot of fun since Christmas doing my research and development for these breakfast/dinner/anytime goodies. A few didn't make the cut (Zucchini-Currant Pancakes just weren't what we hoped they'd be.) But for the most part it's been delicious and successful. Every day this week you'll find a new awesome pancake recipe, many of which you can make that night out of a decently stocked kitchen. It's my Valentine's Day gift to you. Enjoy.We start the week off with a good Valentine's dinner: crepe-like pancakes with strawberry cream filling and strawberry puree on top. For dessert, just drizzle with hot fudge and whipped cream or ice cream as well. So many ways to love a pancake...

But to be honest, my kids didn't like these much. I think it just confused them, and the filling was not quite sweet enough for me to tell them the lies I normally would, like "It's yogurt" or "It's just pink whipped cream." Ed and I loved them, but I either needed to put a little more sugar in for the kids, or in general I need to serve them more things rolled up in crepes or tortillas to widen their horizons. Either way, it meant more for me that night!
Strawberry Pancake Roll-ups
1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
6 T sugar, divided
2 T lemon juice
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup milk
Cooking oil or spray

1. Thinly slice 2 cups strawberries; set aside for serving. In a blender or food processor whirl remaining 1 quart strawberries until smooth. Press through a fine strainer into a bowl, extracting as much liquid as possible with a rubber spatula (I didn't feel like doing this so I didn't strain - just means more seeds but more strawberry goodness as well.) Whisk 1/4 cup sugar and the lemon juice into strawberry puree.

2. In the blender or food processor (no need to rinse), whirl cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the strawberry puree until blended and smooth. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until serving.

3. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt and remaining 2 T sugar. In another bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk and milk just to blend. Whisk milk mixture into flour mixture just until evenly moistened.

4. Place a nonstick griddle or a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat (350F); when hot, coat with oil or spray and adjust heat to maintain temperature (curse the electric stove!) Spoon batter in 1/2-cup portions onto griddle (if using skillet, swirl a bit to spread batter out to cover most of the pan) and cook until pancakes are browned on bottom and edges begin to look dry, about 2 minutes; turn with wide spatula and brown other sides, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. As pancakes are cooked, transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200F oven. Coat pan with more oil and necessary to cook remaining pancakes.

5. Spread each pancake with about 2 T cream cheese mixture and roll up. Set two roll-ups on each plate, top evenly with sliced strawberries, and drizzle with a little strawberry puree; serve with remaining puree to add to taste. Makes 4 servings of 2 roll-ups each.
Recipe from Sunset, May 2002

Friday, February 12, 2010

Red Velvet Cookies

I never really got the red velvet thing. I mean, it's just a slightly chocolate cake...with a ton of red food coloring. Why? Not sure. But lately I've had a really good red velvet cupcake (or two.) And I'm coming around to it, at least for Valentine's Day. Plus it's traditionally topped with a cream cheese frosting, and I'm all for more cream cheese frosting in life. So when I came across this recipe for Red Velvet Cookies, the week before Valentine's Day, I caved. Everyone in Carrot Cake Murder just loved them so I had to try it!

And actually they're totally good. The chocolate chips do a lot to enhance the flavor, but the cookie itself is good - mellow, dense, yummy. You might even say velvety. The frosting is to-die-for. And I did one batch with the kick-it-up-a-notch step of brushing the cookie with melted raspberry jam before frosting. My test-tasters said they liked that as much or better.

So here is the quintessential Valentine's treat - it's sweet, it's red, it's chocolate. (The only thing it's not is heart-shaped.) Share a batch with someone you love.Red Velvet Cookies
2 one-ounce squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 T red food coloring
3/4 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheets with parchment or foil sprayed with nonstick spray.

2. Unwrap chocolate squares and melt in microwave for 90 seconds on HIGH. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool while you mix the dough.

3. Combine butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat them on medium speed until they're smooth. This should take less than a minute.

4. Add the baking soda and salt, and resume beating on medium again for another minute, or until they're incorporated. Add the egg and beat on medium until batter is smooth. Add red food coloring and mix about 30 seconds.

5. Scrape down the bowl. Add melted chocolate and mix again another minute on medium. Scrape down sides again. At low speed mix in half the flour. When flour is incorporated, mix in the sour cream. Add the rest of the flour; beat until fully incorporated. Mix in chocolate chips by hand.

6. Use a teaspoon to spoon the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets (I used my small - 1 inch - cookie scoop.) Bake the cookies at 375 for 9 to 11 minutes, or until they rise and become firm (about 9 1/2 minutes for me.)

7. Slide the parchment from the cookie sheets onto a wire rack. Let the cookies cool on the rack while the next sheet of cookies bakes. When the next sheet is ready, remove the cooled cookies to another rack or the counter, and slide the parchment with the hot cookies on it to the rack.

8. Once cookies are cooled, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. (OR brush the tops with melted raspberry jam, let dry, and then frost.) Makes about 3 to 4 dozen (mine made 4 1/2 dozen with a 1-inch cookie scoop.)

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup softened butter
4 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Mix the softened butter with the softened cream cheese and the vanilla until the mixture is smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar in 1/2 cup increments until the frosting is of proper spreading consistency.

I decided to keep them simple and decoration-free, but you could certainly work some sprinkles onto the frosting. Hazel made this one special for me and Ed to share, and she watched us like a hawk after dinner to make sure we did:
Recipe from Carrot Cake Murder by Joann Fluke

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cinnamon-Candy Cider

One of my great childhood memories is making "cinnamon tea" at Grandma's house. My grandma kept a yellow sugar pot in her pantry - always within kids' reach - full of red hot candies. She smiled and looked the other way whenever a grandchild needed to sneak a few, and the pot always came out when we had dress-up tea parties. We filled a plastic teapot with water and a few spoonfuls of red hots, then stirred and waited for the candies to dissolve and the "tea" to turn pink. Then we would pour and drink; it was a little girl's dream.

Which is why I was thrilled to come across this slightly more grown-up version. It struck a deep chord in me, especially as I think of Grandma this time of year (she passed away 4 years ago last week.) Also, it's perfect for Valentine's because this is the best time of year to buy red hots. I think you can find them year-round if you look hard, but in February they're in every store. They turn your cider a deep rosy color and add just a hint of sweet-n-spicy heat to your morning cup.My kids don't generally like hot/warm drinks but my 4-year-old saw me drinking this and wanted a sip. She sipped and smiled, "Mmm, delicious! Can I have my own cup?" Nothing could have made me happier.

Cinnamon-Candy Cider
1 quart apple cider
1/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies

Heat apple cider and cinnamon candies in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until heated through and candies have melted completely, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.Recipe from Martha Stewart Kids

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Strawberry Flip Cookies

I am so embarrassed. But I have to admit it - I am on my third Hannah-Swensen-murder-mystery-with-recipes. The stories are horrible, really terrible. The dialogue no better. But the recipes are intriguing, and it's so funny how they get plugged into the stories. I allow myself to read fluff once in awhile.

But these cookies are not fluff. Obviously you can see what they are - lovely pinkish cookies (with seedless strawberry jam in the dough) with a strawberry half pressed on top to look like a heart. I made mine with frozen strawberries because that's what the recipe called for, and I wanted to see if they would really work. They do if you cut them while still mostly frozen. If you thaw them first they're too soft. I'm sure fresh strawberries would be even better. The final dusting of powdered sugar was a fun surprise because it makes the cookie powdery, but the strawberry is juicy enough to dissolve the sugar; thus, the red "heart" is in bright contrast to the white coating. So cute, so pretty, so perfect for Valentine's day.

Strawberry Flip Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
1 tsp strawberry extract (if you can find it; if not, vanilla)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (I did a combination)
3 cups flour
Small bowl of powdered sugar
1 bag frozen strawberries (or fresh if available)

1. Preheat oven to 375. Place oven rack in middle position.

2. Melt the butter and mix in the sugar. Add the eggs and strawberry jam, mixing in. When fully incorporated, add the strawberry (vanilla) extract, baking powder, soda and salt. Then add the chopped walnuts/pecans and the flour. Mix well.

3. Roll dough balls with your hands about the size of an unshelled walnut (if dough is too sticky, refrigerate for 30 minutes.) Roll the dough balls in powdered sugar and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Make a deep thumbprint in the center of each cookie.

4. While the strawberries are still partially frozen, cut them in half lengthwise. Flip the cut piece over and place it skin side up in the thumbprint you made on the top of each cookie.
5. Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Dust the cookies with powdered sugar and place on a pretty plate before serving. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

*In summer months, you can substitute seedless raspberry jam and fresh raspberries to make Raspberry Flip Cookies.
Recipe from Peach Cobbler Murder by Joanne Fluke

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blackout Cake

February is Valentine's month. It's also birthday month at my house, and depression month for a lot of people. (My sister told me it's dental hygiene month, but I'm ignoring that.) All of those mean it's chocolate month. Red and hearts also usually play a role in baking and decor in February. So I think the next couple of posts, assuming the recipes work out, will be loosely themed for Valentine's day. Let's start with chocolate and chocolate topped with chocolate.

I made this cake for my daughter's family birthday party but then she got sick so we had to cancel the cousins and grandparents coming over. Luckily the cake didn't go to waste. We kept it sealed under a dome and served it a few days later to dinner guests. So good.

The cake is great. The filling/frosting is like a dark chocolate pudding more than frosting. And one of
the cool things about this recipe that caught my eye is that you make 2 layers, cut them each in half so you have 4 layers, stack 3 of them with the filling, frost the whole thing, then crumble the last layer and top/coat the entire outside of the cake with the crumbs. My kind of decorating.

So sorry. For some reason I just couldn't get the lighting or photo vibe to do this cake justice. The pictures don't really meet my standards but what can I say - I need a better camera.
Blackout Cake
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1. Frosting: In a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk granulated sugar and cornstarch. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly to keep mixture from getting lumpy.

2. Transfer saucepan to stove, and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer, then add chocolate. Cook 3 minutes or until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours or overnight.

3. Cake: Heat oven to 350. Coat two 8x2 inch round baking pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms with wax paper; spray paper.

4. Microwave chocolate and oil for 1 minute; stir until smooth. If needed, heat an additional 15 seconds. Cool slightly.

5. In medium-size bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, beat with mixer on medium speed the butter and sugars until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla.

6. On low speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Spread into pans. Batter will be thick.

7. Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers tests clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool layers completely.

8. Cut each cake layer in half horizontally for a total of 4 layers. Crumble one cake layer into crumbs and set aside. Place 1 cake layer cut-side down on a serving platter. Spread with 1 heaping cup frosting adn top with another cake layer. Repeate with 1 heaping cup frosting and top with another cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs over top and sides of cake, pressing gently to adhere.
Recipe from Family Circle, Feb 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Almond-Cinnamon Cookies

Oh, man, these are all cinnamon and buttery goodness. Slightly crisp, definitely chewy, totally sweet, with that cinnamon-sugar love that snickerdoodles give you, only in a modified form. These were in the December line-up and just didn't get made in time for Christmas, but they would be great for it. A warm answer to a craving sweet tooth!
Almond-Cinnamon Cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup blanched almonds, ground (I use Trader Joes' Almond Meal)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Browned Butter Drizzle (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and cinnamon. Beat until comboned, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in ground almonds. Beat in flour (finishing with wooden spoon if necessary.)

2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls or scoop dough with a 1-inch cookie scoop (got one for Christmas!) Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake cookies for about 13 minutes or until cookies are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

3. Drizzle cookies with Browned Butter Drizzle. Makes about 45 cookies.

Browned Butter Drizzle: In a small saucepan, heat 2 T butter over medium heat until butter turns the color of light brown sugar, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and enough milk (about 2 T) to make of drizzling consistency.
Recipe from one of my many holiday baking magazines
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