Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini Grande Ole

Category: Beef
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Pretty Healthy

There were a couple of summers in my childhood, when my mom's friends grew zucchini. A LOT of zucchini. In fact, people had so many of the ubiquitous squash it got so they wouldn't even ask if you wanted them. They would just leave a bag of them on your doorstep, ring the bell, and run away! Gad zukes! The little ones were easy to use in salads and vegie dishes. But what do you do with a zucchini the size of a small submarine? Answer: you stuff it.

Ingredients:

1 large (2 to 2 1/2 pound, 13-15 inch long) zucchini
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 small (6-0z.) onion, chopped
1 small (about 6 oz) red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 T chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilis
1 can corn, drained
1 can (8-oz) Mexican style stewed tomatoes
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1/4 C fine dry bread crumbs (it's best to buy them--unseasoned)
1/2 C shredded Jack cheese
Cilantro sprigs

Cut zucchini in half, lenthwise. scoop out and discard soft, seedy center. Scoop out amddiscard soft, seedy center. Scoop out enough flesh to make a 1/2 thick zucchini shell. Coarsley chop flesh and reserve. Place squash, cut side up, in a 10 by 15 inch baking pan. Meanwhile, in a 10 to 12 inch frying pan over high heat, frequently stir beef, onion and bell pepper until meat is crumbled and browned, 8-10 minutes. Drain off and discard fat. Mix into pan the chili powder, cumin, chilies, corn, tomatoes, and reserved chopped zucchini (only use the part without seeds). Boil on high heat, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes; stir often. Mix in chopped cilantro, bread crumbs and half the cheese. Spoon all filling equally into zucchini shells in pan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until zucchini is soft when pierced and filling is hot in the center, 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle filling with remaining cheese; bake until cheese browns lightly, 10-15 minutes longer. With wide spatuals, put zucchini on platter. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Cut in wide slices. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Calories: 209 per serving.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Marble Cake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

When I was making this cake for the photo, it filled the house with an ultra-seductive cinnamon-chocolate scent. It smelled so good when it came out of the oven I had to give some to Mr. Smith (my husband) with vanilla ice cream in order to have a small spoonful myself. Omigoodness, it was almost as good as falling in love! Later, I found Mr. Smith, bent over the kitchen counter, rear end wagging slightly, sneaking another piece! Is there no honor among men? Actually, I don't blame him. It really is irresistible. Warning: if you are making this for company, make a double batch and make cupcakes, 2 bread pans or another bundt for your family. At the very least, make a cupcake out of some of the batter, because YOU will want some as soon as it leaves the oven!

This cake is stunningly beautiful! I put it on a plate made by "Annie Glass" --a local artisan glass company. Serve it and just look at it a while. Or take it to a pot-luck and wow the crowd. Originally published in Sunset Magazine, this makes one large bundt cake (12-16 servings).
Note: Be sure and take a little batter and make yourself a cupcake--because once it's out of the oven you will not be able to hold yourself back from tasting it!


Ingredients:

1 1/2 C butter, at room temperature
3 C sugar
6 large eggs
2 t vanilla
1 1/4 C canned pumpkin
2 3/4 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
3/4 C Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa ( I use Droste)
2/3 C buttermilk
Chocolate glaze (see ingredients below)

Directions:

In large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape half the mixture into another bowl.

To make pumpkin batter; Beat pumpkin into half the butter mixture until well blended. In another bowl, stir together 1 3/4 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed. or fold in with a rubber spatula just until blended.

To make chocolate batter: In another bowl, mix remaining 1 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t salt, and the cocoa. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the other half of the butter mixture (start and end with flour), beating after each addition just until blended.

Spoon half the pumpkin batter into a buttered and floured 12-cup bundt pan. Note: A Bundt cake that won't come out of the pan is doomed! Be sure and get the butter (or Crisco) in all the nooks and crannys. I have also found putting pieces of torn baking parchment at the bottom of the pan to be effective along with buttering it. After spooning in pumpkin batter, drop in half the chocolate batter on top--almost but not entirely covering the pumpkin. Repeat with the rest of the batters, ending with pumpkin. Gently run a butter knife around the center of the pan several times. the draw the knife across the width of the pan in 10 to 12 places to swirl batter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven or 325 degree convection oven until a wood skewer or piece of dried spaghetti comes out with a just few moist crumbs attached or clean, 55-60 minutes. Let cake cool 10 minutes in pan, then loosen edges with a knife, invert on a rack, lift off pan and cool cake completely.

Pour warm chocolate glaze over top of cake, letting it drip down the sides. Let stand until glaze is set, about 2 hours, or chill 30 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze: In a double boiler, melt 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, 2 T butter and 1 T corn syrup in a 1 qt. saucepan over low heat, until chocolate is melted. Cool slightly and drizzle over cake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cathy's Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Cathy Carter made these for a Women's Ministries luncheon way back in the olden times of the 1980's. There we all were, sitting around, eating lunch in our Mom jeans and permed hair! For those of you who were there, this is in the WOW Ministries Cookbook. I've made them a few times and never get tired of them. If you crave pumpkin cheesecake, but want something easy and no-fail, make these. Your friends or family will love them! Makes about 12 2-inch squares. This dessert can be a little messy looking if you don't serve it with whipped cream on top...but for the fam, no cream is necessary.

Ingredients:

2 C flour
2/3 C packed brown sugar
10 T butter (or 1/2 C plus 2 T)
1 C chopped pecans
2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C pumpkin
4 eggs
3 t cinnamon
1 t allspice
2 t vanilla

Directions:

Combine flour, brown sugar in bowl. Cut in butter to make a crumb mixture. Stir in nuts. Set aside 1 1/2 C mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into a 9X13" pan. Bake in preheated, 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. combine remaining ingredients, blend until smooth. Pour over baked crust and sprinkle with remaining crust mixture. Bake for an additional 30-35 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate before you serve. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a pecan if you want it to be pretty! Put it on the plates, clean up the edges a bit, put on cream with a spoon or a frosting bag, then sprinkle on chopped pecans or just one whole pecan. "Easy Peasy", as the Brits say!

Pumpkin Soup

Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Ridiculously Easy

Fall is coming! When the leaves turn amber and citrine and pumpkins grow as big as basketballs. When she was little, we used to take Lauren to Portola Valley's Webb Ranch and let her pick out a Jack O' Lantern. I remember the clean smell of cornstalks, and the sight of little one's heads bobbing up and down, searching for the perfect pumpkin. "I got one!" they'd yell. Fall is also a perfect time for pumpkin soup. Here's an easy one the Whitson clan has been making for years. From "The San Francisco Junior League Cookbook" circa 1979. Serves 6 to 8.

4 T butter
4 green onions and tops, chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 T flour
4 C chicken stock
3 C pumpkin puree (Libby's Libby's Libby's)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t mace
1/4 t white pepper
4 C chicken stock
3 C pumpkin puree
1/2 t salt
1/2 t mace
1/4 t white pepper
3/4 C fat-free half and half
Croutons and/or whipping cream

Directions:

Melt 3 T of butter until foamy, add onions and saute until limp. Sprinkle with four, cook and stir for 3 minutes, then gradually add chicken stock. Cook and stir until smooth and thickened. Add pumpkin puree , seasonings, and half and half. Reheat without boiling and adjust seasonings to tast. Stir in remaining 1 T butter until just melted. Serve immediately, topped with croutons and/or a swirl of whipping cream. To swirl cream, float a T or so of heavy cream inn the middle of a bowl of soup. Take a knife and starting from the center of the cream, swirl the cream out into a spiral on top of the soup. It should float! Then, put on chopped green onions or a few croutons. Pretty!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Olde- Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Category: Cookies
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Pretty healthy for a cookie

Lauren loves pumpkin. So I am including this recipe especially for her. There is a famous bakery in Santa Cruz called The Buttery that has pumpkin cookies a lot like this. People enjoy them in the famous yellow eatery visiting with friends and slurping good coffee. The Buttery adds walnuts and raisins. Your choice whether you want to or not. Since they are like muffins, go ahead, have a couple for breakfast with coffee. I just eat the tops off of muffins anyway--who needs the rest?

Ingredients:

2 1/2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C pumpkin puree
1 lg. egg
1 t vanilla
1 C chopped walnuts
1/2 C raisins

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets, or use baking parchment. Combine flour, baking soda, b. powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixer bowl. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla till smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake 15-18 minutes till edges form. Bake 15-18 minutes till edges are firm. Drizzle glaze over cookies when cool by "wagging" it from a fork suspended over them.

Glaze: Combine 2 C sifted powdered sugar, 3 T milk, 1 T melted butter, 1 t vanilla until smooth.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ninety-Nine Milers

Category: Cookies
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Ultra Bad for You!

My sister Sarah (Beach) used to make these candy-laden cookies for her son, Nate's, track team. Nate is a fantastic runner who actually went to Nationals a couple of times. His Dad, Sarah's hubby Tad, coached the team. Sarah and Nate actually made these cookies up. Apparently, Nate got a little crazy one day and just kept adding more candy to the dough! They named them "Ninety-Milers" because they figured people would have to run ninety miles to work off the calories of just one. HOWEVER, if you have teenage boys who are involved in any sport, make these for them. They probably need the calories, and they will be a BIG hit! Circa 2003.

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter
2 C dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 bag Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
1 bag Heath bar chips
1/2 bag white chocolate chips
1/2 bag milk chocolate chips (Guitard is my favorite)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 2 sticks of butter with 2 C of dark brown sugar until creamy. Add 2 eggs, mix thoroughly. Add vanilla. Then, mix in flour, salt and baking soda. After completely combined, add any or all of the candy listed above. For the benefits of a full sugar high, do add all of them. Serving these warm from the oven with cold glass of milk is highly advised.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Raspberry Squares --Easy Frangipane

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

I used to make something called "Frangipane"--a French cookie bar that required almond paste, raspberry preserves, sliced almonds and whole a lot of bowls to make. Look it up online if you want to try it...it's divine. However, I have found this easier, less expensive recipe to be almost as good. It's from "The California Farm Cookbook" by Kitty Morse. Serve with vanilla ice cream and extra (toasted it) coconut on the side. Makes 30 bars.

Note: If you have homemade preserves, you can use them in this.

Ingredients:

3/4 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1/4 t almond extract
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 C pecans or almonds, finely chopped (this means almost ground-up)
1/4 t salt
1 8-oz. jar raspberry preserves (1 cup)
1/2 C coconut

In a medium mixing bowl beater the softened butter, sugar, and almond extract until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, chopped pecans, and salt. Beat until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 C of the flour mixture. Press remaining flour mixture into the bottom of an un-greased 13X 9X2-inch baking pan. Spread the raspberry preserves evenly over crust. Sprinkle preserves with the reserved flour mixture and coconut. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the curst and top are golden. Cool int the pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars..

Another Scottish Shortbread

Category: Cookies and Bars (just show me to the bar!)
Difficulty Rating: Easy

While the previous Scottish Shortbread is absolutely amazing and great for gift-giving, this recipe is what I would make for my family when a quick dessert is needed. Because it contains rice flour and a lot of butter, it has a light,tender, and buttery crumb--almost like a butter cookie. This authentic Scottish recipe is from a thin paperback cookbook called : Traditional Scottish Cookery. My husband says it's the best shortbread he has ever tasted. Enjoy with hot tea on a gray day!

Ingredients:

1/2 C flour
1/4 C rice flour (in the organic section of your grocery)
1/4 C superfine sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 C butter, softened just to room temperature--not mooshy

Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and salt. Work in flour with your hands. Roll dough into a ball. Flatten with heel of hand into a circle, 1/4 inch thick. It should measure around 6-7 inches.
Put on lightly greased pan or (preferably) baking parchment on a cookie sheet. Score into triangles like you would cut a pizza. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake until a light tan (about 20 minutes in my oven). Wait 2 minutes and cut on score marks just like a pizza. Let cool before eating (if you can wait that long).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Highland Fling Shortbread with Chocolate or Caramel

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Medium

The Scots have contributed quite a few things to the welfare of mankind. Penicillin, sheep cloning, Scotch Whiskey, oatmeal, Dr. Livingston, Alexander Graham Bell (of Scottish descent), Morse Code, Sean Connery and...Scots Shortbread.  Highlanders, which are a combination Norse and Scots, tend to be larger folk...and they like to eat! Cock-a-leekie soup is delicious, and oat scones are fabulous. If  you go to the Scottish Games, DO NOT try the haggis. Do, however, find and devour the biggest piece of homemade Scots Shortbread you can find. It is, in my mind, the greatest Scottish contribution to the world. And it tastes a whole lot better than penicillin.

This superb shortbread recipe was found on the back of a shortbread pan box purchased at The Games. I bought the pan partly to get the recipe. It was worth it.


Ingredients:

1/2 C butter just at room temperature, not mooshy
1/3 C powdered sugar (unsifted)
1/4 t vanilla
1 C flour (unsifted)

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Butter should be as cold as possible--yet still creamy. Cream in powdered sugar, then vanilla. Now work in flour with clean hands. Knead dough on an un-floured board until nice and smooth. Spray shortbread pan very lightly with non-stick vegetable spray. Firmly press dough into shortbread pan OR roll into a ball, then flatten with the heel of your hand into a round about 1/4 inch thick. Place round on parchment on cookie sheet. Note: Thicker is better than thinner. Thin shortbread breaks easily.

Score round with knife indicating where future triangles will be cut (like cutting a pizza). If you are using a shortbread pan or a 9X13 pan, score squares (see Note 1). Prick the entire surface of the shortbread with a fork--about 6 times or one fork prick per shortbread triangle or square. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until just a hint of tan appears. Let shortbread cool 2 minutes before cutting on score marks with a sharp knife and removing from pan. If you have a square shortbread pan, loosen edges and flip pan gently over to remove after cutting.

Note 1: Many people like to cut their shortbread into stars, bars or circles that look like buttons with two holes in the middle of each circle. Your choice!

Note 2: I prefer my shortbread plain, but if you like chocolate on it, see Options 1 and 2. Option 3 is for caramel lovers--mmmmmm!


Option 1: While shortbread cools, melt 1 T shortening in a double boiler. Add 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. Melt and combine completely. Dip a fork into the mixture, grabbing a little chocolate on it. Suspend fork over shortbread and "wag" it back and forth. Repeat until squiggles of chocolate are all over the triangles or squares. Your choice: sprinkle on nuts, jimmies, or candy bits before chocolate cools. Or leave plain.

Option 2: Melt chocolate and shortening as in Option 1. Gently take pieces of cooled shortbread off of pan and dip the largest side in the chocolate. Your choice: sprinkle on nuts, jimmies or candy bits before chocolate cools. Or leave plain.

Option 3: Make the following caramel dip for shortbread:

Ingredients:

1/2 C dk. brown sugar
1/4 C butter
2 T heavy cream
pinch salt
1/4 C powdered sugar
1 C ground pecans or pistachios

Directions:

For the caramel, combine brown sugar and butter in med. saucepan and bring mixture to boil. Let cook for 1 minute, then remove pan from heat. Stir in cream, salt and powdered sugar. Dip largest end of cookies or one end of bars in caramel. Immediately roll in ground nuts--pecans or pistachios are best.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Uncle Bill's Cookies

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

This is another incredible recipe from the Shelby family who lived near to us when I was growing up. I think it was Julie who made these for us once. It is a white frosted gingerbread cookie that was famous for being made by Sally Shelby's brother Bill. It is a 'cozy' cookie--perfect for fall weather with a mug of steaming cider. You can also make them into Halloween or Harvest cookies by coloring the icing with orange (or a mixture of red and yellow) food coloring. Use candy corn or harvest-colored sprinkles to decorate the tops.

Ingredients:

2 C sugar
1 C shortening
1 C molasses
2 eggs
1 C sour milk (put 1 t. lemon or white vinegar in a cup of milk to sour)
1 T ginger
1 T cinnamon
1 t salt
4 t soda
2 t cream of tartar
5 C flour

Directions:

Cream sugar/shortenings. Add wet ingredients. mix and add dry stuff. Drop from a spoonon greased and floured cookie sheets. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Powdered Sugar Icing:

4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
2 T soft butter
1 t vanilla

Add enough milk to the above until it becomes a thin spreading consistency. Spread on cookies, leaving a margin at the sides after they are cool. Let them harden before eating.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Blossoms

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Everybody has the recipe for these. They are those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses in the middle? Except this recipe is not the one you will find today at the Betty Crocker Recipe Site.
This one is a Pillsbury recipe gotten from an olde magazine ad when I was about 10. It has slightly more shortening than the other one, so it makes cookies that don't split as much around the edges. Great cookies, everyone who likes peanut butter and chocolate likes them. So if you don't have the recipe, here it is, boo-boo!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 C flour
1 t soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C shortening
1/2 C peanut butter
1 egg
2 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
48 milk chocolate candly kisses

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except kisses. shape dough into balls--a rounded teaspoonful of each. Roll balls in sugar (I use a paper plate or a piece of wax paper for this). Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Top each cookie with a coandy kiss immediately. Press down firmly so cookie cracks around the edge.

Ranger Cookies

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Ranger Cookies have been around for a very long time. They go back at least to the 1950s, probably further. They used to sell them at the "Pink Pastry" bakery in Menlo Park. As children, Sarah and I used to occasionally go there with Mom. When we first walked in, the frosting-scented air hit us like a sugar-coated brick. We breathed deep and smiled. Then we saw them. Rows and rows of cookies. There were: Sugar with raisins, oatmeal, brownies with fudge frosting, white spritz with cherries in the middle, chocolate chip and ranger cookies. Because Mom baked, we almost never had bakery goods. So when we went in, it was like...cookie heaven! You will love Ranger Cookies. I found this recipe in the "Palo Alto Times" in the 1980s. The Rice Krispies make them crunchy, and the oats make them chewy. Fabulous!

Note: Do make these with shortening instead of butter. Sorry, health conservatives! :) Yield: I have noooo idea.. maybe 3 dozen?

1 C shortening
1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 C quick oatmeal
2 C Rice Krispies
1 C shredded coconut

Cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth. sift flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add and mix thoroughly. Add oatmeal, rice cereal, coconut and mix. The dough will be crumbly. Shape into balls the size of a walnut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet (or parchment) and press slightly. Bake 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Ginger-Chip Cookies

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

My daughter, Chef Lauren, loves these. Because she loves ginger. Ginger root, ginger ale, gingerbread, ginger candy, candied ginger, ginger ANYTHING! I had them first at a cookie exchange long ago when Lauren was about 4. Now, I like ginger, but I don't adore ginger. I have pretty traditional tastes. So, I sort of eyed them suspiciously at first, "hmmmm". Ginger with chocolate? I took a bite anyway. Boom! I was hooked. Sometimes deliciousness is found in unexpected places...

Ingredients:

3/4 C butter
1 C sugar
1 egg
3 T dark molasses
2 C flour
2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t salt
1 C semi-sweet pieces

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar, add rest of ingredients and blend until smooth dough forms--using medium to low speed on mixer. Stir in chocolate chips and shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until cookies are browned and firm.

Butterfudge Fingers

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium

This is one of the most coveted recipes in my collection. It is from my mother, Anne Whitson, who got it from a magazine many MANY years ago. Gracing many a Christmas and luncheon cookie plate since, it is to die for. But you will die happy! That stripe of butter fudge under the bitter chocolate layer is what makes it. The secret ingredient : browned butter. That's the key. But you will find that out when you bite into one, won't you? Serve for dessert after dinner with vanilla ice cream and coffee!

Note: I always double this recipe and use a 9X13 inch pan. Give some to your neighbors!

2 squares unsweetened chocolate (2 oz.)
1/3 C butter
1 C sugar
2 eggs
3/4 C sifted flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 C chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter over hot or boiling water in a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler, simply put suspend a small pot over a large pot of hot/boiling water. Beat in sugar and eggs. Sift dry ingredients together; stir in. Add nuts. Spread in greased, 8-inch square pan. Bake 30-35 minutes; until top has dull crust. Cool slightly. Make topping. spread topping on brownies. Makes 32 fingers (0r bars).

Topping: Brown 1/4 C soft butter over med. heat. Blend with 2 C sifted powdered sugar. Blen in 2 T cream (not milk) and 1 t vanilla. Spread on brownies. If mixture is on the thick side, you can use the palm of your hand to squish it into place. Melt 1 oz. of unsweetend chocolate and 1 T butter together. When cooled, spread a very thin coating over butterfudge. There will be areas it doesn't cover completely--that's ok--just do your best to spread it evenly. Sprinkle on nuts. Cut into bars OR diamonds. Diamonds are harder to cut, but they look really fancy (and you will have leftover pieces that you and the dog can eat).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Firehouse Snickerdoodles

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

This wonderful Snickerdoodle recipe came from Katie Knox, who is married to a Scotts Valley Fireman. She used to bake these for all the Scotts Valley Firemen about once every three weeks. The firemen used to know that when the green cookie jar was filled, Katie had been there. Recently, her husband, decided to retire. So Katie, bless her heart, baked cookies as favors for everyone at his retirement party. My husband gave me his and I immediately asked him to call her for the recipe. I am so glad I did! It is an adaptation of the recipe from Betty Crocker's original cookbook. Perfect for us cinnamon lovers!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C butter
1/2 C. shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 C Gold Medal all-purpose flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/3-1/2 C sugar
2 t cinnamon

Directions:

Mix first 3 ingredients thoroughly. Blend next 4 ingredients together. Stir together with first mixture. shape dough into 1-inch balls. I use a 1-inch cookie scoop and leave them not quite level. Roll in sugar/cinnamon mixed together ( I use a paper plate to mix and roll). Shape into 1-inch balls (I use a 1-inch cookie scoop and leave them not quite level). If you want a softer cookie (which I like) refrigerate balls for at least one hour. Bake right away for a crisp cookie.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Medium

Cookies have always been a part of our family tradition both in the Whitson and the Smith families. My sisters and I have always made cookies for Christmas. This started when I was about 8, Sarah was 6 and Laura was about 14. We used to sing in the kitchen together while mixing and rolling out sugar cookies. Laura taught us harmonies. Laura sang melody, I sang alto, and Sarah sang in her sweet, high soprano. Lord, that was fun! But I think we ate more dough than we actually baked... Here is a very good sugar cookie recipe from Debbie Kelly. Lauren and I both make almost every Christmas. It is not very sweet--so the frosting makes it!

Ingredients:

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C butter
2 eggs
2 1/2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 t vanilla

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in 2 eggs. Add dry ingredients and vanilla. Chill 2-3 hours. Bake @ 375 degrees for 7-12 minutes. Do not overbake--they should not be brown on the edges! Frost with the following:

Jenn's Buttery Royal Frosting:

1 box sifted powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t melted butter
3 egg whites

Mix together, divide and color with various food colors. Spread or pipe on cookies.
Note: Try using a LOTof food coloring for a really pretty Christmas cookie. Or for Easter or Ladies Luncheons use pastels (check out how Martha Stewart does it online).

Carol Lawless's Green Been Salad...
















Category: Vegetables
Difficulty rating: Medium (not hard, but requires lots of chopping)
Healthy ( if you don't eat the bacon bits)

Having green beans as a base for a salad is different and wonderful! This recipe is a happy departure from your usual salad fare. And best yet--you can make it ahead. Served with great success by Carol Lawless at her many baby and wedding showers it is delicious and serves at least 8.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds Haricots Verts (thin green beans)
1 medium Carrot cut into fine julienne
1 medium Parsnip cut into fine julienne
1 Red Bell Pepper cut into fine julienne
1/2 small Red Onion, thinly sliced (I omitted this on Saturday)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic clove,minced
1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
2 1/2 Tablespoons Water
1 1/4 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon Honey
1/4 teaspoon Celery Seeds
2 hard-boiled eggs
Real Bacon Bits ( by Hormel or make your own)

Directions:

Par-boil green beans in salted water until crisp-tender (about 2 minutes); cool in an ice-water bath; pat dry.
In large skillet heat olive oil; add garlic and vegetables; cook until fragrant; stir in vinegar, water, honey, mustard and celery seeds until blended and warmed through. Add the vegetables...  toss until warmed (about 1 minute). Transfer to large bowl; add the beans and cooked vegetables; toss well. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce... Tabasco sauce... season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped hard-cooked Egg and crisp diced Bacon. Serve warm or at room temp. To make ahead: cook beans... dressed mixed vegetables can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temp. - add Worcestershire and Tabasco; season with salt and pepper; garnish as desired.













Curried Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

Salad:
4 baked skinless-boneless chicken breasts, chopped -
(seasoned with Garlic Salt & Lemon-Pepper)
1 head Cabbage, finely shredded
1 bunch Green Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Raisins (I used equal parts dark & golden raisins)
1/2 cup roasted/salted Sunflower Seeds
1 bag Croutons (your choice of flavor - I used garlic & butter-flavored)

Dressing:
1 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons Honey
Garlic Salt
Lemon Pepper
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
a few drops of green Habanera sauce
2 tablespoons Curry Powder (yes, lots!)
1 tablespoon milk

Be generous with vinegar, honey & curry powder - make sure dressing has LOTS of deep color.
Toss dressing with other salad ingredients ONLY when ready to sit down and eat - to keep salad crisp.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jennifer McPherson's Beautiful Banana Bread

Category: Breads
Difficulty Rating: Medium

I have been looking for a great banana bread recipe for years! I have Facebook to thank, in part, for this recipe. This is how it happened: First, Dawn Sholz lost her favorite banana bread recipe. Then she complained about it on Facebook. Jennifer McPherson came to her rescue with this fine recipe as a substitute. Then, knowing I needed a banana bread recipe, Dawn Sholz sent Jennifer McPherson's recipe to me via Facebook. Huzzah!

Often, with the wrong recipe, a sludge of banana ends up on the bottom quarter of the bread. Or...it ends up too dry. This recipe yields a moist bread with just the right amount of sweetness. A slice of heaven. And it fills your house with a wonderful homey fragrance. Thanks Jennifer McPherson! Thanks Dawn Sholz! Thanks Facebook! Goodnight Moon! Note: Only moms will understand this last comment--and perhaps their children.

Note: To combat banana bread sludge at the bottom of the loaf, always use 3 small bananas instead of large bananas. Also, do not slice the bread until it has cooled to very lukewarm. Sorry, I know how hard it is to resist. Just lick the batter bowl while you're waiting. That's what I do!

Ingredients:

2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c butter
1 C sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature--put in a bowl of very warm water for 10 minutes to warm before cracking)
1 t vanilla
3 bananas (very ripe)
1/2 C sour cream

Directions:

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray or grease pan ( I line the bottom with parchment paper too).
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cream butter. Add sugar, scraping sides. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Mash bananas, then add sour cream. Mix 1/3 of dry ingredients with the butter mixture, the rest of the banana mixture, and the rest of the dry mixture. Bake for 70-75 minutes, depending on your oven. Check with a long wooden skewer or even a piece of spaghetti to see if it's still mooshy at the bottom before you set it out to cool. Serve lukewarm with butter or cream cheese. GOSH!

Gratineed French Onion Soup

Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Medium

It's a gray day in Scotts Valley... the marine layer has crept in and I'm feeling like eating soup! One of the things my mom is known for is her French Onion Soup. She makes an incredible Cioppino, a superlative Turkey Soup, wonderful Funnel Cakes, an extremely good Apple Pie and a fabulous French Onion Soup. I have lovely memories of having this on weekends in the winter. The kitchen was clouded with onion-y steam while mom poured soup into ceramic bowls and put them under the broiler topped with slices of French bread and cheese. She never used a recipe, but I know how she did it. This is very similar. Adapted from "Savoring France" by Georgeanne Brennan. Don't leave out the sherry dahling, just a drop!

Note: There is a terrific restaurant in New York city called "Artisinal" that used 3 kinds of onions in their soup. Red, Spanish and leek. Sounds interesting--maybe worth a try! They also use Compte, Emanthaler and Vacherin cheese on top. These are all gourmet swiss-type cheeses and worth the money for those of you who love cheese. This recipe uses Gruyere, which is a bit easier to find--but it might be fun to try the others. Honestly, you don't need to use all three, but a good Compte or Emanthaler alone would be fabulous if you can afford it!

Ingredients:

6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus 2 T cut into small bits
4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 lb. yellow onions, very thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 T all-purpose flour
8 C beef broth (canned is fine)
2 C water
3/4 C water plus 1/4 C sherry (Ms. Brennan uses 1 C dry red wine--Mom used sherry)
8 slices good French bread or sourdough French, each about 1/2" thick
2 garlic cloves, halved
4 C shredded Gruyere cheese (a good domestic Swiss is OK ) and/OR Compte, Emanthaler, Vacherin
8 t grated Parmesan (or Parmigiano) cheese

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 T butter with 1 T oilve oil. Add onions and saute, stirring , until translucent, 4-5 min. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring often, until onions are well browned, 20-25 min. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook, stiring, until flour is well blended and fragrant, 2-3 min. Add broth and water, 1-2 C at a time, while stirring. Bring to a boil, add wine and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until onions begin to dissolve, 30-40 minutes. Position oven rack 4-6 inches under broiler. Rub both sides of bread with garlic, and brush with remaining 3 T olive oil. Toast under broiler, turning once, until golden, 1-2 min. per side. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. ladle soup into bowls, top each with 2 pieces of toast and sprinkle cheese generously over tops. Dot evenly with butter and sprinkle on 1 t Parmesan per piece. Bake until crust is golden, about 15 minutes.

Note: You can use just Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best) or just Gruyere if you like. Or any of the cheeses listed above... Bon Apetit!