Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Almond Butter Cookies

Perfect Almond Butter Cookies
Aunt Joan gave me some Rycraft cookie stamps for like my 16th or 17th birthday, and I still have them.  With the stamps came a recipe book for all kinds of shortbread.  This recipe is my favorite from that book, and when I make them for people, these always get rave reviews.  They are so simple, it's hard to believe they're so loved, but they have just the perfect amount of sweetness and their texture is perfectly melt-in-your-mouth crisp.  I like mine to be clearly browned on the edges in order to get the full flavor of this buttery cookie.

Almond Butter Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter & sugar.  Add extract.  Add salt & flour.  Chill dough.  Form one-inch balls & roll in sugar.  Stamp with cookie stamp.
Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
* These cookies are also great with ½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Cookie stamps from Rycraft and Almond extract from Penzy's Spices

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies

My Aunt Joan is the queen of shortbread, as far as I'm concerned.  She makes lots of different kinds, and lots of them are even wheat-free and dairy free.  I prefer the wheat and butter ones, and this is one of those recipes.  These shortbread cookies (also from Aunt Joan) have replaced Aunt Joan's Almond Butter Cookies as my favorite shortbread, but just barely.  I like these cookies because they are so tender and melty on my tongue.  They're on the dry side, so maybe that's why my husband doesn't care for them, but with a nice light brown edge and lots of macadamia nuts, they satisfy a butter & sugar craving any day.
Oh, and if you try these, the "shaken to level" instructions are because the first time I made these they spread too much, so by shaking the measuring cup to level the dry ingredients, you get just enough body so that the cookies don't over spread and loose their cute stamp design.

Shortbread Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 1: In a small mixer bowl, cream together until light and fluffy
  • 3/4 cup real butter, softened but still cool
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (shaken to level)
Step 2: Add
On low speed, mix until blended well, scraping bowl. 

Step 3: Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll each ball in ½ cup very finely chopped nuts (or in granulated sugar if you’re not trying to keep to less than 6 ingredients). Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Flatten with a greased cookie stamp or flat-bottomed glass.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Remove shortbreads to wire racks to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Peanut Butter Cupcake with Milk Chocolate Ganache
Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Devil's Food Cupcake with Ghirardelli Empress Frosting

So, I made some cupcakes this weekend for the youth group event at church.  I'd like to say I did it out of the goodness of my heart, but really, I just wanted to take some pics and blog about them.  What I forgot, though, was that when I'm working with a deadline and new recipes, I shouldn't expect the final product to turn out gorgeous.  Not that these are ugly, but the peanut butter cupcakes aren't what I'd envisioned, and those were the ones I was really looking forward to trying.  They ARE delicious, just not as photo-worthy as I'd hoped.

The only recipe I'm including is for the whipped milk chocolate ganache because I think I can provide links for the other frostings and the peanut butter cupcake.  Plus, I used good ol' Betty Crocker boxed mixes for the vanilla and chocolate cupcakes.  When you're making three kinds of cupcakes in one night, you don't want to hassle with too much.  Well, I know that I don't want to hassle with too much.

The peanut butter cupcake recipe comes from my old standby  I was wondering if they'd turn out with a tender crumb because the recipe calls for all-purpose flour, not cake flour.  They were perfectly tender and peanut-buttery.  They tasted like a very fluffy peanut butter cookie.  They are quite sweet, but not too sweet for me.  I used butter instead of shortening, but other than that, I think I followed the recipe.  The tops of my cupcakes were on the flat side, but I figure the next time I make them, I'll just make twice the amount of whipped ganache and pile it high.  That recipe I will post below.  Oh, and the cute little peanut butter cup on top is one of Reese's new "Minis."
P.S. on the peanut butter cupcake: the next day I tried eating one of these cupcakes and it just tasted weird.  I don't know how to describe it, but it was bad enough to spit out the bite I'd taken.  They taste great the day after baking, but beyond that, I say, "Don't do it."

The vanilla cupcake was Betty Crocker.  The frosting recipe comes from  This recipe makes a TON.  I halved the recipe and still had about 3/4 cup left over after generously frosting 24 cupcakes.  To make the frosting vanilla beany, I scraped 3/4 of a vanilla pod brought to a simmer in about 1/3 cup half & half.  Then I refrigerated that overnight and used that as part of the milk.  

The chocolate cupcake was Betty Crocker.  The frosting recipe is the one I use for brownies:  It's smooth, rich, and tastes like a soft dark fudge.  I like to eat it with a spoon.  One recipe frosts 24 cupcakes nicely.

Now for the milk chocolate ganache recipe.  I'll give you the doubled recipe that I think would create plenty to generously frost 24 cupcakes.

Whipped Milk Chocolate Ganache

  • 60 unwrapped Dove Milk Chocolate Promises
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
Place unwrapped chocolate into the bowl of a standing mixer.  You could chop them up, but I found it wasn't really necessary.
Bring the cream and butter to a simmer over medium heat.
Pour hot cream over chocolate and allow to sit for 5-8 minutes.
With a whisk, stir chocolate & cream until smooth and all the chocolate is melted.
Allow to chill in the refrigerator until very cold.  You could also place it in the freezer for 2-3 hours, I suppose.  
Once chilled, whip the ganache with the whip attachment on your mixer.  Try not to over-beat.  Too much air makes it too fluffy and weird.  Plus, beating it too long might produce chocolate butter, which I'm sure would be delicious, just not on a cupcake. 
I tried piping the whipped ganache, but it was too thick and cold, and the heat from my hands caused it to curdle.  In the end, I just scooped the ganache with a cookie scoop and smoothed with an offset spatula.  I'll have to find some other way to make it pretty.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Banana Oatmeal Cookies with Walnuts
I've been trying to remember where I got this recipe from, and I cannot do it. I'm pretty sure I didn't make this one up on my own, so if you happen to recognize it as your work, please let me know so I can give you credit.
I thought this would be a good recipe to use up over-ripe bananas, but like most recipes that fall into that category, this one only uses one large over-ripe banana. They taste great, so they're worth all of the other ingredients, but if you're looking to use up more bananas than that, you're out of luck here.
Since there is only one cup of brown sugar in these, AND I use half whole wheat flour, I think of these as being pretty healthy, as far as cookies go. I'd even eat them for breakfast.  Come to think of it, I probably have enjoyed them for breakfast. The brown sugar and butter give them a nice caramely-buttery flavor, and the oats and nuts give them a satisfying texture. The half cup of banana gives them just enough banana flavor for these cookies to live up to their name. Every time I make these I wonder why I don't make them more often because they are so surprisingly tasty. If you've got an overripe banana lying around your kitchen, I think you need to make some.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1  cup quick oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, of course)
Preheat oven to 350°.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, Crisco, and brown sugar.
Beat in egg, mashed banana, and vanilla. 
Combine flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and oats in a separate bowl.
Mix dry ingredients into wet.  Stir in walnuts.
Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.  Smoosh slightly because they don't spread much.

Bake at 350° for 11-12 minutes, or until browned on the edges. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes.  Then move cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

The dough was not smooshed for these

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fried Chicken Tenders

Home made Fried Chicken Tenders

Another recipe thanks to  ( What would I do without that website?  These chicken tenders will satisfy your fried chicken craving without spending $20.00 at KFC.  No, they don't exactly taste like KFC, but it's tasty fried chicken tenders that you've made yourself. 

Over the years, I've modified this recipe here and there, and I think I'm ready to put it in writing.  Now I'll be able to replicate it myself next time I make it.

Fried Chicken Tenders


  • 12 chicken breast tenders (any silver skin removed) or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs or saltine cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon season salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional)
  • 1 quart oil for frying


  1. Place chicken strips into a large, resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, mix the egg, buttermilk, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Pour mixture into bag with chicken. Seal, and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.
  2. In another large, resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, bread/cracker crumbs, season salt, baking powder, poultry seasoning, black pepper, and MSG. Remove chicken from refrigerator, and drain, discarding buttermilk mixture. Place chicken in flour mixture bag. Seal, and shake to coat.  Remove with a fork to a plate, shaking off excess breading.
  3. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Carefully place coated chicken in hot oil. Fry until golden brown and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crescent Caramel Sticky Rolls

Crescent Caramel Sticky Rolls

I'm not quite sure what to call these things.  The original recipe is titled "Crescent Caramel Swirl," and it comes from a Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook.  The photocopy I have reads, "The judges at the 27th contest awarded Lois Ann Groves of San Antonio, Texas, $25,000 for her creative version of a pastry-shop caramel roll, Crescent Caramel Swirl."  It must have been a while ago, because this year, they're up to Bake-Off Contest #45, and now they only run it every other year.  At any rate, I can see why Lois won.  I'd rather have these sticky rolls over my cinnamon rolls any day.  Seriously.  There's no cinnamon, just warm brown sugary buttery flaky dough yumminess in these things.  I can't even describe how delicious these are.  You must try them yourself.
I'm giving you the original recipe as it appears on the photocopy I have, and at the end I describe my modifications*, which I warn you, involve a mini Bundt pan, which I'm sure only a few people actually own.

Crescent Caramel Sticky Rolls
   --adapted from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook

  • 1/2 cup butter (not margarine)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (make sure they're fresh)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 (8-oz.) cans Pillsbury Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls
1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Coat bottom and sides of a 12-cup Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter; sprinkle pan with 3 tablespoons of the nuts.  Add remaining nuts, brown sugar, and water to remaining melted butter.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Remove dough from cans; do not unroll.  Cut each long roll into 8 slices.  Arrange 8 slices, cut side down, in nut-lined pan; separate layers of each pinwheel slightly.  Spoon half of brown sugar mixture over dough.  Place remaining 8 dough slices alternately over bottom layer.  Spoon remaining brown sugar mixture over slices.
3. Bake at 350°F for 23 to 33 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Cool 3 minutes in pan.  Invert onto serving platter or waxed paper.  Serve warm.
Makes 12 servings

--Sometimes I will buy a can of Grands Flaky Biscuits instead of two cans of crescent rolls.  Depends on my mood and which is cheaper.
--I use a mini Bundt pan, which has 6 small Bundt forms.  I spray its non-stick surface with Pam.
--I do some math and if I'm using crescent rolls, I quarter the 16 slices of crescent dough, and divide them into 6 equal piles.  If I'm using Grands Flaky Biscuits, I cut each of the 8 biscuits into 9ths and again, divide into six equal piles.
--I follow the recipe as far as the butter and nuts in the pan first and layer half the dough at a time along with the brown sugar mixture.
--I bake them for 23-27 minutes.

**I tried making these with plain Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits, and they turned out great too.  I just used 2 (7.5 oz.) tubes.
Made with buttermilk biscuits in a full-size Bundt pan.

The perfect Saturday morning breakfast.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
This cookie is so soft it's actually sagging.

My husband used to buy these GrandMa's cookies for breakfast, so I decided to make them myself once I found this recipe at many, many moons ago.  I don't even think they have the recipe there anymore, but the English teacher in me has to cite my source.
These cookies stay soft for a long time (at least for the two days before they're all eaten) because of the raisin puree in them.  I'm not sure if the low baking temperature helps with this texture thing, but whatever the case, they're soft, chewy, and flavorful.  The dark brown sugar gives them a molassesy flavor too.  
I figure these are still more wholesome than a lot of the sweet pre-packaged junk food my husband calls "breakfast," so I think I will start making them again.  Kind of sad that this is a healthy alternative, huh?

GrandMa’s Oatmeal Raisin Big Cookies

  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar (or 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon molasses)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (you can use all white or all wheat, if you’d like)
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
2. Combine ½ cup raisins with hot water in a food processor and blend on high speed for about 1 minute or until very smooth.
3. Combine raisin puree with the Crisco, egg, brown sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Mix until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour dry mixture into the wet and mix just until combined.  Stir in the other ½ cup of raisins.
5.  Roll 3-tablespoon-sized portions of dough in your hands and press to 1/2 –inch flat on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Leave about 1 ½ inches between dough discs. 
6. Bake at 275°F for 18-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.  Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Soft Pretzels and Pretzel Dogs

Soft Pretzel with some Pretzel Dog friends

I refuse to pay mall prices for soft pretzels.  It actually would kill me to spend $3.00 for a delicious mall-made pretzel, when I can spend less than that on making 16 of them at home.  Sure, it's a lot more work, and I end up with too many pretzels, but my family and friends help me make and eat them, and I can also make some yummy pretzel dogs while I'm at it.  Then I can call it a meal.  
This recipe comes from (, and the recipe is titled "Mall Pretzels."  I think they're referring to the Auntie Anne's variety.  I can't say, since I refuse to buy them.  These are great pretzels, though.  They turn out chewy, buttery, salty, and a deep dark pretzely color.  The water & baking soda bath is the key on the pretzel color and flavor.   
Make sure you use the parchment paper.  If you've never used parchment paper, it's about time you did.  Trust me, it's one of my best tools in the kitchen.

Soft Pretzels & Pretzel Dogs

  •          1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  •          2 tablespoons brown sugar
  •          1 1/8 teaspoons salt
  •          1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  •          4 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
  •          4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  •          4 tablespoons baking soda
  •          2 tablespoons butter, melted
  •          2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour.
2. In a large, low-rimmed saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a simmer over medium heat.
3.After dough has risen, cut into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner. (If the dough resists lengthening.  Set down and let rest for about 5 minutes.) Twist into a pretzel shape*, and dip into the baking soda solution for about 20-30 seconds. Place on parchment covered cookie sheets, and let rise 15 to 20 minutes.
*If you want pretzel dogs, take a hot dog and a dough rope and press one end of the dough rope into the side of the hot dog at one end.  Wrap rope around the hot dog until there is no more rope and then pinch to seal at the end of the hot dog.  Dip into water/soda solution as you did the regular pretzels.  If you’re doing both regular pretzels and pretzel dogs, do the regular pretzels first so they don’t end up tasting like hot dogs from the water/soda bath.
4.Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt, garlic salt or cinnamon sugar.

Hello, Pretzel Dog.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Won Tons

Cinnamon Apple Won Tons
My German/Irish-thinks-she's-Chinese mother has made won tons of the pork variety ever since I can remember.  People LOVE them and make themselves sick eating too many of them.  I, being the foreignfoodaphobe that I am do not care for the pork won tons.  I will eat the crispy wrapper, but not the insides.  I can't explain why.  I'm just weird like that.
I've always thought, though, that won tons would be tasty with something like an apple filling--something like a mini McDonald's fried apple pie.  I didn't actually try it out until I wanted to enter something in the Tone's something-or-another competition at the Iowa State Fair.  They turned out really good and won third place.  (First place was some sort of cinnamon meat ball--ick--and second place I don't know.)  They're sort of a novelty, and I've only made them a couple of times.  But they are delicious and impressive if you want to take the time to make them to impress your friends and family.

Cinnamon Apple Won Tons

  • 4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and ¼-inch diced (I like to use Granny Smith)
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons good quality ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts (toasted 8-10 min. in a 350° oven, if desired)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons good quality ground cinnamon
  • about 48 wonton wrappers (they come in packs of about 60)
  • canola oil for frying

1.  Add lemon juice to diced apples and toss.
2.   In a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat, melt butter.  Add diced apples, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.  Stir until blended and cook ‘til bubbly.
3.  Meanwhile, mix cornstarch into apple juice.  When apples are bubbling, stir in apple juice/cornstarch blend.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until apples are fairly tender.
4.  Remove apples to heat-proof bowl to cool completely.  Refrigerating 2 hours to overnight works best.  When cool, mix in chopped walnuts.
5.  Lay out a wonton wrapper.  Scoop about 1 teaspoon of apples into the center.  Moisten two adjacent sides of the square with water and then fold the non-moistened tip onto the moistened tip to form a triangle.   Seal well, snuggling the apples in with the wrapper.  (Otherwise the apple filling will ooze out and wreak havoc as you fry.)  You should have a triangle with a big bulge.  With the triangle’s apex facing down, moisten the left tip with water, and then bring the right tip over it, sealing the two together.  It looks best when you leave about ¼ inch of each tip out to form a little tail for the wonton.  (See photo at the end.) Set onto a waxed paper lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remainder of filling and wrappers.
6.  In a large paper bag, mix the 1 cup sugar with 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon.  Set aside.
7.  In a deep skillet or other frying vessel, heat about 2 inches of canola oil to about 360°.  Fry 3-5 wontons at a time, being careful not to crowd them.  Turn over when one side is a nice golden brown.   Fry until both sides are golden.  Drain quickly in a slotted spoon then drop into bag with cinnamon sugar.  Toss gently and then remove with tongs to paper towels to cool and drain more.
Let cool at least 5-10 minutes before eating/serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
Makes about 4 dozen wontons.

A teaspoon of filling on the wrapper...

Water on to adjacent edges...

Folded into triangle and well-sealed...

Triangle inverted and then a little water dabbed on one side...

Bring to wings together...

Seal the tips...

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