Almond-Chocolate Cookies

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Before.

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After.

Some time ago, I worked with a woman who would sometimes make these and bring them in for the team. I believe she got the recipe from Crisco by the name “Chocolate Filled Bon Bons”, but I haven’t been able to find it on their site to link to. I am not a fan of Crisco and generally only use it for this recipe, as they are so good I am willing to forgive it. It’s that yummy.

As usual, I alter the recipe a bit, but only a bit… the last bit of rolling it through sugar and almonds. This time around I decided to try out less flour to get it crispier, which worked and came out beautifully; however, the cookies are definitely more fragile. Normally they maintain their ball shape. While this makes for a softer cookie (or bon bon), it does allow the recipient to enjoy the cookie and Hershey Kiss all in one bite.

I made these as a thank you gift to Dave’s office for the beautiful baby gifts they gave us.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening (I prefer to use plain, but you can also use butter flavored)
1/2 cup white sugar, plus about 1/3 cup more for rolling
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (if you prefer, just use more vanilla)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
24 milk chocolate Hershey Kisses, unwrapped (note: the original recipe calls for 48, but I have never been able to squeeze nearly that many out of the amount of dough made from quantities above. Always 24)

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a mixer, cream shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and extracts and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and mix well. On a plate, combine the extra 1/3 cup of white sugar with the sliced almonds and mix. I usually crumble up half of the almonds.

Form into 1 inch balls. Press a Hershey Kiss into the ball so that the Kiss is completely enrobed. Roll each ball through the sugar/almond mixture. Bake for 12-13 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. It is worth mentioning that when baking with Crisco, they often look undercooked when they are in fact done as it should not brown, so be careful not to over bake. Cool on a wire rack. They will need to cool for 5-10 minutes before firming up.

Makes approximately two dozen delicious cookies.

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Vegan Minestrone & Crostini with Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip

The title sounds all crazy and challenging, but really…it was just dinner.  A dinner that involved a little chopping and a little blending, but no big deal.  In the end we had a beautiful, healthy, filling, home cooked vegan dinner and that feels good.

The minestrone is based on a recipe I found here.   I changed it up a little, but not much.  Here’s the scoop on the soup:

Minestrone Soup Serves 4

Olive Oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can stewed tomatoes  (15 oz)

6 baby carrots, diced

6 c. vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp celery salt

1 c. small shell macaroni

2 c. kale, chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 c. frozen peas

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped

1/4 c. red wine

1 T. balsamic vinegar

Black Pepper

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot that has a lid.  Heat oil and add onions.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  In the last minute of cooking, add the garlic.

Add the tomatoes to the onions and garlic and simmer for another 4-5 minutes.  Add the carrot and the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the bay leaves, and celery salt cook until the carrots begin to soften.  Add the wine and the kale.  Then add pasta and garbanzo beans and stir often.

Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.  Simmer, uncovered, until the pasta is cooked.  Add the peas and the balsamic vinegar.  Stirl.  Turn off heat, add fresh herbs.  Stir again.  Ladle in to bowls.  If you aren’t concerned about the vegan status of the dish, some fresh parmesan grated on top is delicious, too, but completely unnecessary.

Here’s mine, simmering away and smelling scrumptious…

Soup

In the meantime, I was also working on the toasted bread with white bean spread.  Grab a baguette from a local bakery, and slice it up.  Put it on a baking sheet, rub or brush a little olive oil on to it, and pop it in the oven at around 425 until it begins to get lightly browned on the edges.  Take it out and top it with some dollops of this yumminess that I found here.  I love her stuff, by the way….

Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip (from Kitchy Kitchen)

2 cups cannelini beans (canned or cooked)
1/2 cup reserved liquid (from cooking or the can)
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1 head, roasted garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
To roast garlic, cut the top off of the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Wrap in aluminum foil and roast in a 425 F oven for 45 minutes, or until tender and golden brown.
In a food processor or blender (I used my regular old blender), combine the beans, rosemary, roasted garlic, and balsamic until pureed.  To make the texture looser, add a little liquid a little at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

beandip

And so, dinner was complete.  Packed with the superfoods of kale and garlic, I’m sure this dinner could cure anything.  Maybe.  Since I have a decent cold right now, I’ll keep ya posted on that….

Macaroni & Cheese

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Caution: macaroni and cheese is not that appealing close up and under bright lighting.

If there is something every human should master, it’s a handmade macaroni and cheese. My general rules for a great mac are that it must:

– use a bechamel sauce base,
– have goat cheese for a little tanginess,
– have more than one kind of cheese,
– must have something of the onion family in it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I still buy Annie’s boxed mac ‘n cheese from time to time for Nevan – but if you’re going to make it from scratch, you may as well take your time and go for gold.

My method is a bit of combination of two of Martha Stewart’s mac ‘n cheese recipes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, but mostly it’s the “Macaroni and Four Cheeses” recipe. Here is my little version with proportions halved from her recipes. Serves 5-6 people.

4.5 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing casserole dish
2.5 cups milk
1/4 plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups grated extra sharp or sharp cheddar
1/2 cup Gruyere, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese
10 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced OR 1 leek, white part minced
5 oz goat cheese
1/2 -3/4 lb your favorite mac ‘n cheese pasta
1 cup panko (optionally, you can make your own buttered breadcrumbs)

Optional:
1/2 cup blanched broccoli, run under cold water and chopped
1/4 cup diced turkey ham or bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

If you are using leeks instead of scallions, cook lightly in a little butter until soft and set aside. If using scallions, they do not need to be cooked.

Warm your milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture is thick and smooth. Whisking constantly, gradually add the warm milk, allowing a portion to absorb before adding more. Cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.Remove the white sauce from heat, add salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg.

While you are making the white sauce, boil your pasta half way in salted water, then rinse under cold water.

Gently stir in half of the cheeses into the white sauce. Fold in your scallions/leeks and optional broccoli and meat. Stir in the boiled pasta, then turn out into your prepared casserole dish. Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top, sprinkle remaining grated cheeses, and cover with panko.

Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Used the recipe exactly as found here.  I really like Claire Thomas.  I think her food has a simplicity that makes it doable, and yet everything is balanced and lovely.  D.Jones made fun of me when I told him we were having pasta with squash and potatoes.  I believe he said “Nice!  How about some starch with your starch?”  The truth is, we both ended up loving it.  The final splash of balsamic brings out all of the flavors and the basil…oh yum, the basil.  I love basil and this gave me an excuse to use an entire bunch of it.  Yum~

Roasted Vegetable Pasta
For 6
1 cup roasted butternut squash (1 inch chop)
1 cup roasted potatoes (yukon gold, 1 in ch chop)
1 cup roasted red onion (1 red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick circles)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 oz dry pasta
This is meant to be a left overs meal, but if you’re roasting your veg from scratch preheat your oven to 425 F.  Start with a cup and a half of each vegetables and rub with a heavy drizzle of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread out over a baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets to ensure that the the vegetables aren’t touching).  Roast for 25-45 minutes, depending on the vegetable (less time for red onion, more time for potatoes).  Halfway through roasting, flip the vegetables to make sure both sides are cooking evenly.  Once the vegetables are crisp at the edges, remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water per manufacturer’s instructions.  While the pasta cooks, heat up a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and then cherry tomatoes.  Let the tomatoes cook for about one minute, and then add the garlic.  Add the roasted vegetables, stirring to combine.  Add the basil and stir.   When the pasta is done, add it to the  sauté pan straight from the pot with a slotted spoon.  The residual water on the pasta will create a sauce.  Stir and finish with balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

 

Hearty Curried Farro Salad

I love a good, nutty, wonderful salad that I can tote along to class with me on busy days.  I just made this for the first time today and it quickly moved to the top of my grain salad faves.  I found it here and changed very little, but I’ll post my version none the lexs.

Hearty Curried Farro Salad

1 cup farro (I measured 1 cup of dry, so I probably made more than intended by the recipe)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pecans halves
Salt and Pepper
1 large handful arugula
Curry Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon balsamic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chutney
1/2 tsp hot curry powered
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F. Thinly slice the fennel and place on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast for 20 minutes at 400 F,
or until golden brown and crisp at the edges. Cook farro per manufacturers
directions. Combine farro, fennel, red onion, raisins, pecans, and arugula.
*I ended up making slightly more dressing than the recipe suggests, probably because of my use of so much farro.
This salad is lightly dressed so the peppery arugula comes through, the nutty pecans and raisins are perfect, and the hint of curry spice to go with the chutney in the vinaigrette is just excellent. Even with so much flavor, my daring 2 year old dug in and declared “In my tummy this makes me giggle!”  I think that means she loved it as much as I.   This will be on my regular lunch rotation, no doubt!

Red Velvet Cake

This recipe is the real deal. Red Velvet should have a subtle chocolate flavor from the cocoa, but mostly be all about an incredible velvety texture… something missing from the ones I’ve tried from many cupcakeries. This comes in part from using superfine (or ultrafine) sugar, taking your time to properly cream the butter and sugar, and the unmatched moisture imparted from the buttermilk. This recipe is from Warren Brown’s United Cakes of America.

Nevan and I made these for Dave for Valentine’s Day.

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Dry Ingredients
2 1/4 cup cake flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Creaming Ingredients
8 US oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
2 eggs
1 US oz red food dye

Yield: One 9 inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

Preheat your oven to 335F. Line the bottoms of two 9X2 inch round cake pans with parchment paper or spray your cupcake pans with non stick and line each cup with cupcake liner.

Measure the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls and whisk each to combine.

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Cream together on low speed for five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time to the well-creamed butter and sugar. Beat in the dye. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes for the cake (seems to take an extra 10 minutes if I use a Bundt pan), or 20-24 minutes for the cupcakes. A wooden toothpick should come out clean and the surface even but not very dry in appearance.

Cool the cakes for about five minutes before inverting them onto a flat surface. Allow them to cool to room temperature before attempting to assemble or frost.

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Frosting note: Most people put cream cheese frosting on red velvet, but if you want to go hardcore old school then go for buttercream frosting, which was one of the original frostings used for it. You can actually taste the cake if you use buttercream. This time, however, I made cream cheese frosting because I thought Dave might like it more. I used this simple recipe from allrecipes.com.

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How To: Tomato Sauce

I’m sure we’ve all heard that the BPA in the plastic liner of cans is bad for you – and apparently canned tomatoes are the one of the worst because of the acidity of the tomatoes. Once every few months, I try to be good and make a large batch of tomato sauce from scratch to portion and freeze. Spaghetti sounded good tonight, so that’s what I spent part of my afternoon doing.

Here are my two go-to tomato sauce recipes. The first one is inspired from Donna Hay’s Classic Tomato Sauce recipe (found in New Food Fast), but I’ve altered many parts of it and so I’m officially  (and very loosely) declaring it mine. It’s a nice fruity sauce that is pretty much all purpose. It may be a little light for something like lasagna, but anything else will go with it. This is the one I made today.

The second one is my dad’s go-to sauce, and is from The Classic Italian Cookbook. It’s a little bit of a sweet sauce, thanks to the butter, and is especially good with things like ravioli or tortellini, although you can use it with anything. I love this sauce not just for the flavor, but because it takes only a few ingredients and minimal effort.

1) Tomato Herb Sauce with Wine

12 large tomatoes or (4 1-lb cans peeled tomatoes lightly crushed, if you prefer canned)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup red wine (white will do if you don’t have red)
A large handful of chopped oregano, basil, marjoram, or thyme (or any combination of them, whatever you have)
A few sprinkles of dried, crushed red pepper flake (optional)
Sea salt and fresh pepper

You have two options here: you can opt to peel the tomatoes, or you can put them in the blender. The peeling approach leaves you with the option to make chunkier sauce, if desired. Some people really don’t like seeds in their sauce, so strain the tomatoes if that is how you like it.

To peel: Place whole tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for one minute. Drain and peel skins off and chop them up, reserving all liquids. It gets very wet so it’s best to chop them in a container like a casserole dish.

To blend: Halve your tomatoes and place in a large pot over medium heat. Turn over the tomatoes every once in a while until they are hot and start to fall apart. Place in a blender and puree (in batches if needed).

Heat oil in the pot and sauté onions and garlic over med-high heat until soft.

Add tomato, wine, herbs, red pepper flake, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Bring down to simmer for 30 minutes if using fresh tomatoes (20 minutes for canned). You want to reduce it to the consistency you like. Can be frozen for 4-5 months, or refrigerated for three days.

To make this base a delicious soup, add 2 cups of vegetable broth when adding tomatoes back to the pot. When done simmering, stir through an additional 1/3 cup chopped basil. Top with pepper and Parmesan. Can likewise be frozen.

2) Tomato Butter Sauce

6 servings

2 lbs fresh tomatoes
1/4 lb butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved or quartered
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

Cut tomatoes in half and place in a pot or large pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Take tomatoes out, purée, and put back in the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook at a slow simmer for 45 minutes uncovered. Season additionally if needed. You can remove the onion if you prefer, but it gets nice and soft in stewing and tastes good. I highly recommend not throwing it out.

Egg and Cheese Bake

My mom makes it for Christmas morning every year, Doug and I make it for Sunday brunch, a weeknight dinner, or any other time it occurs to us.  You can change it up every time and add or remove ingredients based on your own taste.  Here is one of my favorite combinations.

Egg & Cheese Bake

10 eggs

1/2 loaf of white or white wheat bread or the equivalent in baguette

2 c. shredded cheese (1/2 cheddar, 1/2 pepperjack is my fave)

2 c. 2% milk

1 1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence

1 finely diced shallot

pinch of red pepper flakes

S&P

butter

___________________________________

Butter a casserole dish.

Take bread slices and slice off crusts.  This doesn’t have to be perfect.   Then cut into cubes.  You can also employ kids for this step.  Cooper and Soph never mind sitting at the table and tearing up bread for me.  Toss the bread in to your buttered casserole dish.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly.  Add the milk, shallot and Herbs de Provence, red pepper flakes and S&P.  Whisk them together.  Add the cheese.  Pour this mixture on top of your bread, cover with foil and put it in the fridge for a few hours.  Overnight works perfectly, or make it in the morning to have for brinner.

Remove from fridge and let it sit on the counter for about 20 min.

Bake at 350* uncovered for about 45 min or until center is cooked through completely.

Let it sit again for about 5 or 10 min and then cut in to squares and serve.  Yum.  Plus, your house will smell fabulous!

Doug likes his served with a 1/2 of a sliced avocado on the side which is a lovely addition~

Baby Potatoes with Asparagus and Caper Dressing

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Another test recipe from my new cookbook, What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Pieces.

10 small/medium sized baby potatoes
1 tsp fine salt
1 large bunch thin asparagus (about 10 spears), woody ends removed, spears cut into 3/4″ pieces
Handful of watercress leaves, washed and torn

Caper Dressing

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 c salted capers, rinsed and finely chopped
Handful of dill fronds, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Half-fill a large saucepan with cold water and add potatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are just cooked through. Drain and leave to cool completely before cutting into halves or quarters (depending on their size – you want bite sized pieces).

Meanwhile, half fill a medium sized saucepan with water, bring to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain and plunge into a bowl of iced water.

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Place the potatoes and asparagus in a large bowl, then coat with half the dressing. Turn out onto a large, flat serving platter. Dress with the torn watercress leaves, drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve.

Final Thoughts:
I thought it was a nice, simple, low effort side dish. A little fresh parmesan on top would have been good, but really… what isn’t a little fresh parmesan good on?

Pinterest Challenge: Doughnut Muffins

I found this recipe on Pinterest. I hate deep frying anything because it’s just so smelly and messy, so baked doughnuts? Yes, please.

Nevan was home sick today, so it seemed like the perfect activity to fill some time and make him feel better. He was a great helper and we both declared these ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY DEEEEELICIOUS. I am not ‘fessing up to how many I’ve had already.

Her recipe calls to use a regular muffin pan, but I decided to use my mini muffin pan to make them more doughnut hole like, increasing the cinnamon sugar dusting to muffin ratio. I ended up making 28 muffins using the mini muffin pan, and with the increased surface area I had to double the amount of cinnamon sugar. With the pan size, 13 minutes was the perfect amount of baking time. Next time? Half recipe. You hear me? HALF. They will be my death.

Thank you, lululu, for a wonderful recipe! We will be making them again in the future. Here are some photos from our doughnut muffin escapades:

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