Sunday, October 28, 2012

Iced Sugar Cookies

'Tis the season for sugar cookies isn't it? This is my new favorite recipe for sugar cookies. I went to a kitchen meeting at the end of summer and they demonstrated how to ice cookies... you know the kind that look hard to do and too pretty to eat? That's what they did, and they handed out this recipe, I LOVE it and the glaze frosting. To learn how to outline and flood the cookies go here. They are fun to do and this recipe is yummo! They are lots of fun to make with kids too!

Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter (no substitutions), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy--about 2 minutes. Add egg and flavorings and mix to incorporate.
In a separate bowl whisk together  the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add slowly to the butter mixture and mix to combine.
When your dough is made, instead of putting it in the fridge, immediately roll between 2 sheets of waxed or parchment paper until it's about 1/4 thick. Place on a cookie sheet and then put in the fridge. Chill for about 20-30 minutes. This way it chills faster and the bonus is that you don't need to add extra flour to roll it out. Just remove the top layer of wax paper and cut with your desired cookie cutter. Move from the wax paper to another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for baking with a spatula. Continue until your cookie sheet is full (you can roll out the scraps again between the two pieces of wax paper.)
Bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes. The baking time really depends on how you like them and how thick your dough is. If you like  them slightly chewy, about 8 to 9 minutes does it --this is what I do. If you like them slightly crisp and buttery, then go for 10 to 12.
Cool completely before icing.

Glace Icing
1 pound powdered sugar (about 3 and 3/4 cups)
6 Tablespoons whole milk
6 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A Dash of salt

With a whisk or electric mixer, combine sugar and milk until smooth (no lumps!) Then stir in corn syrup and extract and dash of salt.
You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing (or flooding). It's smooth and thin. It easily runs off the whisk in a pretty thin drizzle.

To prepare the icing for piping (or outlining) you just add more powdered sugar. Just eyeball it. You can't really mess it up because if it's too thick you just add more milk and if it's too thin, you add more powdered sugar. I add it in small amounts until it's a good consistency. For me it's when it gets to a point where it's relatively hard to whisk by hand. When I pick up the whisk, it still runs off, but in a very slow, thick stream.... also you should almost be able to count to ten when you run a spoon through the middle of it by the time it runs back together.
Take your glazing icing and color to whatever colors you like. I use colored piping icing in decorator bags for adding details after the cookie has been flooded and allowed to dry for about half an hour. For Jack in the above picture I outlined and piped white, then let dry for about 1/2  an hour and then I outlined and flooded the eyes and used a decorator bag with a really small round tip to pipe his mouth. For the leaves below, I piped and outlined them in all orange and some in all yellow. Then I added a little brown and piped on the leaf veins after they had set for a 1/2 hour. Then I got Wiltons food-coloring-in-a-can in green and red and sprayed different colors on them so they looked like autumn leaves. I did the same for the pumpkins in the above picture.
 These Daisy and Sunflower cookies were the first cookies I tried... simple because I didn't try too many colors.
Enjoy! and have fun!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Toffee Apple Dip

One of my favorite things in the fall is caramel apples, apple pie, caramel apple bars.... any thing with caramel or cinnamon or apples. YUM! A friend that I work with brought this apple dip to an office party, (yes, any reason we get to have an office party we do!) and it was yummy! I needed to make something for a treat the other night and I remembered this recipe. I looked it up on the Internet and there are LOTS of different ones out there, but I don't like using too much sugar, it's kind of grainy, so this is what I did. Slice up some of your favorite kind of apples and dip away!
Toffee Apple Dip
2- 8-oz packages Cream Cheese, softened (or brought to room temperature)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla (yes, that's 1 Tablespoon vanilla, love it!)
3/4 cup Toffee bits (found by the chocolate chips in most grocery stores)

In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla together until it's combined smooth with no lumps. Stir in the toffee bits.
Serve with sliced apples. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Knorr Spinach Dip

I LOVE Spinach Dip! I think I could eat a whole batch if I let myself. I love to make this for parties or special occasions. This is the recipe that is usually found on the back of the Knorr Vegetable soup mix and it's my favorite.  I took it to my office one halloween and served it in a glass bowl which I put on top of ice in a witches caldron... you could think of lots of fun ideas on how to serve this dip I think. I enjoy it with crackers best but it's also good with veggies and slices of bread. You might want to make some for a Halloween party or a football after game party and enjoy!
Knorr Spinach Dip
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach , thawed and squeezed dry
1 container (16 oz.) sour cream
1 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise
1 package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix
1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts (optional)Sliced
3 green onions (optional)

1.Combine all ingredients and chill about 2 hours. Serve with your favorite dippers to your favorite people.

A new serving idea: Hollow out cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes. Fill vegetables with Knorr Spinach Dip and garnish with a sprig of dill.

Here's another way you could serve it for a Halloween Party!! how fun is this!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Panini Croutons

Autumn time just makes me feel like soup. It's been colder out and freezing at night, so when I got my new Food Network magazine and saw this recipe I had to give it a shot. Who doesn't like soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a chilly evening?? This gave it a little twist other than your usual soup and sandwiches which was fun I thought. I tweaked the recipe a bit to make it my own by substituting a few things for what I had on hand, and I added a few more spices to the soup. We LOVED this recipe. Enjoy!
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Panini Croutons
Prep Time:10 min
Cook Time:40 min
Serves: 4 to 6 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onions, chopped (1 large onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock
2(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (helps with the acidity of the tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 pint heavy cream

Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)


In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, sugar, Italian seasoning, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, crushed red pepper , 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (may add more to suit your taste). Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup after that first 15 minute simmer is done. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
                         Serve hot in individual bowls with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Panini Croutons
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread (I like to use California Sourdough bread)
2 tablespoons butter
Your favorite Cheese, sliced (I used half Pepper Jack and half Medium cheddar)

Heat a panini grill. Or if you don't have one, this is what I do. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. While the skillet is heating; place 2 slices of bread on a cutting board and place the cheese slices over the bread (I like to alternate between the 2 kinds). Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the cheese. Butter the top sides of your bread. Then place butter side down in your hot skillet.
Butter the top sides after the bottom is golden brown. Flip your sandwiches and place another heavy skillet over the top, (this presses them like a panini grill)
Grill until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese is melty.
Or if you have a panini grill, grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Sprinkle on your soup and enjoy! YUMMO!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini

I walked out to my garden the other day (before it froze) and no matter how good you keep checking your zucchini, there are always some that hide and get away from you. I like to pick mine when they are still on the smaller side, like you find in the grocery store, but I had about 3 that were twice the size that I usually like them to get. I thought I would try making some Stuffed Zucchini. I had made some last year and Jim didn't like the recipe I used, so I looked up other recipes and then ended up doing my own thing. This is what I came up with... It was yummy and yes my hubby liked this recipe. It takes a little time, I cooked my zucchini a few minutes before stuffing to get some of the water out. Enjoy!
Stuffed Zucchini
3 large Zucchini, cut in half with the middle and seeds scooped out (save this)
1 pound hot sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1 green Bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
2 tomatoes, diced 1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 Tablespoon chopped, fresh basil) 1 egg 1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 to 2 cups grated Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice your zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the middle (making a canoe) You can also cut them in half or thirds for better serving sizes. Place on a cookie sheet that you line with parchment paper, scooped side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.
After it's cooked, remove from oven and blot the moisture with a paper towel. Set aside.
While the zucchini is cooking, chop up the middle of the zucchini; then saute in a medium frying pan that has been drizzled with olive oil over medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes, this will remove the extra moisture out of the filling. Set this aside to cool.
In a larger skillet, cook the sausage, hamburger, onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium heat until the meat is browned and the onion is translucent. Then add the tomatoes and basil;  cook about 5 more minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg, then pour into your slightly cooled zucchini filling and stir briskly so the egg doesn't cook. Next, add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese to this mixture; stir to combine. Then add this mixture to the meat mixture and stir to combine. (The breadcrumbs help soak up the juice from the tomato and help bind everything together.) This is what my filling looked like...
Add Salt and Pepper to taste to the meat at this point. Then scoop the filling into your zucchini boats, heaping it as full as possible so all your meat mixture is used. Sprinkle each with grated Mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes... something about zucchini, it holds the heat and it's really hot when coming out of the oven and you don't want to burn your mouth!!! Serve with a steamed veggies and crusty french bread! yum!!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Maple Bars

I am re-posting this recipe as I have tweaked it just a bit. I decided adding the cinnamon to the milk isn't the best thing to do, it clumps. Instead, whisk into the flour and then add to the yeast mixture. Also I'm increasing the flour to 5 cups... seems I always have to add more. And I'm adding 1/8 teaspoon salt to the frosting.... Salt enhances flavors and takes that "too sweet" out of the frosting just a bit. I made these for work yesterday and added diced cooked bacon to the top! Delicious!
I was snowed in yesterday morning and couldn't go to work!! So I thought 'why not bake?' And one of my favorite things when I worked at the Bakery was Maple Bars! MMMMMM... I ran across this recipe on So I thought I would give it a try!! It was yummo !  I think next time I make them I will cut the dough into 3 strips and then in six pieces for a little smaller bar but they were good, and not too heavy. I also like the fact that these are baked, not fried! I suggest eating with hot chocolate or a tall glass of milk. mmmmmmmmmmmm!!

Maple Bars
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup shortening (I used butter flavored Crisco)
4 Tablespoons  granulated Sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2  (1/4 ounce) envelopes yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
5 cups flour (might need a bit more)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Maple Icing
1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons mapleine (found by the flavor extracts and seasonings) or maple extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the dough:
In a medium saucepan scald milk; add shortening, 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, and salt. Stir to combine and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
In a large mixer bowl, add the lukewarm water and the yeast (remember the water should be just lukewarm, too hot and it will kill the yeast) Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar to the yeast and water and whisk to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes until it starts to bubble and become foamy.
After the yeast is foamy and the milk mixture is luke warm. Add the eggs to the yeast and stir to combine, then add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture. Whisk the cinnamon into the flour and gradually add to the yeast mixture. You may need to add more, you want the dough slightly sticky but not too sticky.  Knead for 3 to 5 minutes. I let my kitchen aid do the kneading for about 5 minutes.
Spray another large bowl with non-stick spray, place dough in the bowl and let raise for an hour or until double in size.
Punch down and roll out into a large rectangle about 1 inch thick.

Cut into rectangles, I cut the rectangle in half, and then each half into 6 pieces to make 12 bars, then place on a greased baking sheet. Let raise for about 30 minutes.
While bars are raising,  preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Bake the bars for 7 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown, Watch carefully. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before icing.
Make the icing while the bars are raising:
In a small saucepan mix butter, brown sugar and milk. Bring to boil for medium heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Add the mapleine, salt and powdered sugar and blend well with a hand mixer. Add a little more powdered sugar if needed (I added about 1/4 cup more)
Spread on maple bars and enjoy!  Sarah and I did!!! Yummo!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies

To me, nothing screams 'IT'S AUTUMN TIME' louder than a Reese's Peanut Butter cup... must be because that's when all the stores stock their shelves with Halloween candy and Peanut Butter cups are my favorite. I ran across this recipe Here and had to give them a try. The cookie recipe itself is very similar to mine that I remembered from my childhood, but these are bigger and have milk chocolate chips and Reese's PB cups on top! I guess you could use those mini-Peanut Butter cups that they have now for baking, but I think the bigger ones cut up just give you more of that delicious Peanut Butter filling that everyone loves...Enjoy! Happy Autumn!

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies

•3/4 cup butter, softened
•1 cup sugar
•1 cup brown sugar
•1 cup peanut butter
•2 large eggs
•2 tsp vanilla
•1 tsp baking soda
•1/2 tsp salt
•2 1/2 cups flour
•1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
•32 mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, each cut into 4 pieces

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter until light and fluffy.  Next add the eggs and vanilla, and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking soda, salt, and flour, then add to the butter mixture and combine. Fold in chocolate chips.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop dough (these are big cookies). Place 6 scoops of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Use your hand and slightly flatten each scoop of dough. Cook for 10 to12 minutes at 350.
Remove cookies from oven and lightly press 8 cut up pieces of the Reese’s peanut butter cups over the top of each cookie. Return to oven for 2 more minutes. Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes before placing on cooling rack. I think these cookies are best eaten warm. However, the still taste great the next day.   Makes 18 cookies.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Perfect French Fries and Sauces

I love home cooked French fries! They are one of my favorite comfort foods, I have memories of coming home from school to hamburger patties and home made french fries dipped in ketchup. (back then we didn't know about Fry sauce I guess!) But once we discovered French fry sauce there was no turning back! I was surprised that Fry sauce is mostly an Idaho thing... I asked for it at Dairy Queen when we lived in Bremerton, WA and got the weirdest look. I have a regular french fry sauce recipe with this post, as well as the 'Almost Famous Campfire Sauce' (like Red Robin has for their Fries) and then I came up with the Cheesey sauce below. I LOVE the chili flavor Green chili's give the sauce without it being too spicy. I lived in Albuquerque, NM for a while too, and LOVED the smell of green chili's roasting on about every street corner in the fall! They even had a Road Runner pizza at Pizza Hut covered in green chili's that you can't get anywhere else! But anyway, back to french fries! It's Potato harvest time here in Idaho so it's the best time to cook up a batch of French Fries and enjoy! YUM!

Perfect French Fries
• 5 pounds russet potatoes
• Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
• Sea salt (or any seasoned salt you like!, I used Lawry's)

Peel and rinse the potatoes. Then cut them into sticks by cutting the potato in 4 or 5 vertical pieces, and then cutting each piece into sticks.
Place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow them to soak, 2 to 3 hours. 
When you're ready to make the fries, drain off the water and lay the potatoes on 2 baking sheets lined with paper towels. Blot with paper towels to dry them.
Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy pot to 300 degrees F. In 3 or 4 batches, cook the potatoes until soft, 4 to 5 minutes per batch. They should not be brown at this point! You just want to start the cooking process. Remove each batch and drain on new/dry paper towels.

Once all the potatoes have been fried at 300 degrees F, turn up the heat until the oil reaches 400 degrees F. When the oil's hot, start frying the potatoes in batches again, cooking until the fries are golden and crisp. Remove the potatoes from the oil and drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with sea salt or your favorite seasoned salt while still warm and dive in!

IMPORTANT: Please be careful when frying with hot oil. Keep the pot on the backburner so little kiddos won't get hurt.

Regular French Fry Sauce
• 1/2 cup ketchup
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• ½ teaspoon white vinegar
• Hot sauce, for spice, optional

Measure out the ketchup, mayonnaise, and vinegar into a bowl and mix together with a whisk. If you want it spicy, add dashes of hot sauce to taste. Serve with fries!

Almost Famous 'Campfire' French fry Sauce
• ½ cup mayonnaise
• 3 Tablespoons Bull’s-Eye Brown Sugar & Hickory Barbecue Sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce, I like Kraft Chipotle BBQ sauce)
• 1 Tablespoon Ketchup
• 1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill for about an hour before serving.

Green Chili Cheese Sauce for French Fries
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1- 4oz. can diced green chili’s
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 2 cups whole milk (add a little more if your sauce is too thick)
• 2 cups shredded yellow Cheddar Cheese
• 1-15oz. can Ricco’s Nacho Cheddar Sauce (found by the Velveeta cheese at Walmart)
• Salt and Pepper to taste


Place a sauce pot on the stove and heat it over medium heat. Add butter and green chilis, heat until butter is melted and bubbly. Add the flour and stir. Cook butter mixture and flour together for 1 minute or so. (This is called a "roux" and it helps to thicken up sauces). Use a whisk to stir as you pour the milk into the pot. Keep stirring until the milk mixture gets thicker. Use a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula to stir in the cheese and canned cheese sauce. When all of the cheese melts, take the sauce off the heat and add a dash or two of salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the fries or serve the sauce on the side if you like to dipping better.

This Cheese sauce would be great on nachos, or in chowders! I made a potato, chicken chowder with my left over sauce the next day and it was YUMMO!