Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Melting Moments

It seems to me a bit crazy to post a recipe that I don't actually like. But here I go... My mom has made these cookies for us every year at Christmas for as long as I can remember. And I really don't like them. Though she also always makes shortbread, which I love, so she's still in my good books ;) I'm not sure if I liked them as a kid or not, but I can't remember ever liking them. I particularly don't like the candied cherries on top. My sister suggested substituting them with a Hershey's kiss this year. So I tried a little broken bit of the cookie in the tin and... no go...

But they are a huge family favourite and everyone else in my family both loves and devours them. So I figured that I should post them on here anyhow. I can't take credit for making the batch from the photo - that was my mom.

3/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C softened butter
1 egg
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
red and green candied cherries

1. Add butter to sugar. Add unbeaten egg. Beat until light.

2. Add vanilla and mix.

3. Gradually add sifted dry ingredients.

4. Drop by spoonfuls. Place 1/2 of a candied cherry on top of each cookie (or a Hershey's kiss).

5. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees Farenheit.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thumbprint Cookie Drops

No time to blog much, between cookie making, packing to go home for Christmas and trying to give Logan at least a little bit of attention. But I wanted to get this up before Christmas, as these cookies look beautiful on a platter for Christmas. They're basically just a sugar cookie with sprinkles.

2/3 C butter, softened
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 C red and green coloured sprinkles
42 red and green coloured Smarties

1. In a bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; stir into butter mixture until smooth.

2. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls; roll in candy sprinkles, pressing to adhere. Place, 2 inches apart, on parchment paper-lined rimless baking sheets. Using thumb or thimble, make deep indent in centre of each.

3. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 350 degree Farenheit oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through (I didn't bother doing this) for about 10 minutes, or just until golden on bottom. Let cool on pans on rack for 5 minutes. Place chocolate candy in each indent. Let cool completely.

Makes about 42 cookies (though I doubled the recipe and only got about 50 or so).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Asparagus Soup

I bought some asparagus for Logan a few weeks ago and got the idea to make some asparagus soup with the leftovers. Oddly enough (or at least, it seems odd to me!), the little guy prefers asparagus to more bland things, like carrots, chicken, lentils, quinoa, etc. I think it's a texture thing... but at least he'll eat asparagus so that I can get one veggie into him other than sweet potatoes.

I made this to start dinner when friends were over this weekend. I served it with a few French croutons in them, because the French ones are super delicious (and so different than the ones here in Canada) and they are used in France more in soups than in salads. The recipe says that it makes 6 servings. When served before the main meal, this gave us 13 portions in all. I also stirred in some extra milk, as I found the soup a bit too thick.

3 medium leeks (white part only), chopped
3 tbsp. butter or stick margarine
4 C chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 C diced peeled potatoes
1/8 tsp. white pepper (I just used regular pepper)
1/2 C 2% milk
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

1. In a large saucepan, sauté the leeks in butter. Add broth, asparagus, potatoes and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth; return to the pan. Add milk; cook over low heat until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mom's Cheesecake

When I was a kid, I hated cheesecake. I know. What was I thinking?????? This was my mom's classic go-to dessert whenever we had company over and I always hated it. I used to give my parents a bit of a run for their money in terms of being a picky eater. Kind of funny, given that I love such a wide variety of foods now and will at least try almost everything you put in front of me (the list is long, including snails, rabbit, blood sausage, tongue, intestines, brain, etc. Can't say I liked much of any of those, but at least I tried them!). Perhaps Logan is following in my footsteps, as you can see in the following clip, for those of you who haven't already seen it on facebook:

Well, I have come to my senses as an adult and now love cheesecake. Love. With a capital L. I only make it when we have company over, as I figure that a whole cheesecake for two people is perhaps only slightly excessive. I made this this weekend when our friend Steve came over with his fiance Melanie and his son, Malcolm. All I can say is that it was good enough that the whole thing disappeared in one sitting. Only due to the guys, of course, as us girls managed to stick to one piece despite it being so delicious. Enjoy!
1 1/4 C graham crackers
1/4 C melted unsalted butter

Mix together and press into the bottom of an 9-inch round pan. Place in freezer for a bit. (Note: for a gluten free dessert, omit the crust, as I did this weekend, but will never do again, as I'm sure it just makes it that much better!).

2 x 8 oz. packages of cream cheese (don't use light!)
3/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat well. Pour over graham cracker crust. Bake 25 minutes in a 350 degree Farenheit oven. Cool 20 minutes.

1 C regular sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. sugar

Mix and spread on top. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit.

I served mine with a strawberry coulis, that I made by pureeing some strawberries that we had picked this summer and adding in just a bit of sugar.

Update April 14/11: you can substitute Splenda for the sugar for a diabetic-friendly version.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Burgandy Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew

I made this for dinner a couple of months ago when my uncle and grandmother came down for the weekend... clearly to visit Logan and not us :) Little did I know when I made it that my uncle doesn't like mushrooms. Oops... Oh well, I quite like it (though he said he liked it anyhow).

The recipes comes from Canada's Best Slow Cooker Recipes, that has lots of fabulous, quick recipes. I bought a huge pack of mixed dried mushrooms at Costco for a decent price and used those in this recipe. Be sure to rinse dried mushrooms well, in order to get any grit off of them before soaking them to hydrate.

1 pkg. (142 g) dried mushrooms, such as shitake or chanterelles
1 C boiling water
1/4 C all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat)
2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 C beef stock
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into thirds
1 onion, chopped or 15 to 20 pearl onions, peeled
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 C red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf

1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine dried mushrooms and boiling water. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. In a heavy plastic bag, combine flour, pepper, basil, oregano and salt. In batches, add beef to flour mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to a plate. In a large nonstick skillet, heat half the oil over medium-high heat; cook beef in batches, adding more oil as needed, until browned all over. Add beef stock to pan; stir to scrape up brown bits and transfer to slow cooker.

3. Add carrots to slow cooker, along with onion, garlic, button mushrooms, wine, tomato paste, vinegar and bay leaf.

4. With a slotted spoon, remove rehydrated mushrooms from soaking liquid; coarsely chop and add to slow cooker along with soaking liquid; stir well to combine beef-vegetable mixture.

5. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 6 hours, until vegetables are tender and stew is bubbling. Remove bay leaf and discard before serving.

Serves 4 to 6 (though I find it makes much more).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Brown Butter Babies

Here's another recipe that I tried for Christmas and I found them to be quite good. This also comes from the Canadian Living Special Cookbook Issue magazine I bought this year. I omitted the walnuts so that Ash could have some.

3/4 C unsalted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda and salt
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
30 walnut halves

1. In small saucepan, cook butter over medium heat until brown and nutty, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

2. In large bowl, beat brown sugar with cooled butter until flurry. Beat in egg, egg yolk and vanilla.

3. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture in 2 additions.

4. Roll by rounded 1 tbsp. into balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place, about 3 inches apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. With bottom of glass or measuring cup, press to scant 1/2-inch thickness. Press walnut half into centre of each.

5. Bake in 350 degree Farenheit oven until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on pans on racks for 3 minutes; transfer to racks and let cool completely.

Makes 30 cookies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shortbread Jam Bars

So Christmas baking has taken a major back seat this year with the hectic schedule we've been keeping up lately, between our basement renovations, taking care of my husband's mom's affairs and all of the doctors appointments we've had with Logan. I've also opted not to have a New Years party this year for the first time in a few years, which has also really taken away motivation to prepare anything.

Jerome's mom's belongings arrived this past Monday (9 cubic metres!! Where will we put it all???). So between the half unpacked boxes everywhere and the sawdust that continually plagues our house these days, I tend to opt to clean rather than cook/bake lately. We had decided to get a babysitter in to watch Logan for a few hours this weekend while to try to finally put our house in order again. Unfortunately, Jerome ended up getting sick all weekend, so our house is still a disaster...

I nonetheless decided to finally start doing some holiday baking despite the mess. So this is the first stab I've made at any holiday treats this year, and hopefully won't be the last. They were super quick to whip up (much quicker than mom's shortbread recipe, which I love, but is a pain to sift and work together) and were delicious. Though if you've got a huge gang, you might want to double the recipe as there is certainly not enough for a huge family gathering.

I got this recipe from the Canadian Living Special Cookbook Issue that I picked up last month. It's chock-full of interesting-looking (and hopefully delicious) holiday cookies. And since my 'no cookbook buying rule' doesn't extend to magazines, I'm all good ;) Plus, it's my own rule anyhow, so really, who cares??

Shortbread is one thing that I don't substitute whole-wheat flour for. I've never tried it, but it just seems to me that they wouldn't work out very well. But if anyone has tried otherwise and they've worked out just as well, let me know. Also, I used homemade cherry jam instead of the recommended types and it was still delicious.

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1/4 C sugar
pinch salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 C all-purpose flour
4 tsp. strawberry or raspberry jam

1. In a bowl and using wooden spoon, cream together butter, all but 1 tsp. of the sugar, and salt; stir in vanilla. Stir in flour until just combined.

2. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half into 8-inch log. Place, 2 inches apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

3. Press handle of wooden spoon lengthwise along centre of each log to create 1/4-inch deep groove. Refrigerate for 10 minutes (I skipped this step and they still worked out fine). Fill grooves with jam. Sprinkle remaining sugar over edges.

4. Bake in 325 degree Farenheit oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. While still warm, slice into 1/2-inch thick bars.


I've also done them in cookie shape: