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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Cookies

The 12 Days of Christmas are upon us, so in celebration I wanted to post another favorite Christmas recipe.  Here's another email from Cindy...

Happy to send you the Choc. Mint sticks recipe:  (It's the one my mom made every year, so it's really special!) 

Cream together until light and fluffy: 

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar

Beat in: 

2 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Blend in: 

2 - 1 oz. squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 c. flour

Pour into greased and floured 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan.  Bake @ 350, 25-35 min.  Cool, spread with mint frosting and choc.

Mint Frosting: 

Combine 1 c. sifted powdered sugar, 1 T. light cream, and 1/2 t. peppermint extract;  Beat well. (tint with 1 -2 drops green food coloring). 

Chocolate glaze: 

Melt 1 1/2 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate with 1 T. butter.  Spread over frosting by pouring onto the frosting then tilting the pan so the chocolate evenly disperses.  Chill until firm.

Pepparkaker: the yummy ginger crisp cookies they sell at IKEA, you can make them yourself!
From the kitchen of Linda Engdahl, a good family friend and true Scandinavian.

1 C. butter at room temp.
1 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 T. Dark Karo Syrup
1 egg
3C. Flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. ground/dry ginger
2 t. ground cloves

Cream the butter and sugar, add the Karo Syrup and egg and slowly add the dry ingredient, mix all ingredients well. (do not chill)
Roll to 1/8 to 1/4 in. thickness, cut with cookie cutters and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes until edges are slightly brown.

Sour Cream Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Almond Frosting...The BEST!
From the Kitchen of Cindy Calvin, my Mom

1 C butter
1/2 C. Crisco or vegetable shortening
1 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
3 C. Flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 eggs
3 t. sour cream
1 t. vanilla
 2 C. powdered sugar
2 t. almond flavoring
food coloring

Cream 1/2 C. butter with 1/2 C. Crisco. Add 1 1/2 C. granulated sugar.  In a separate bowl whisk 3 C. white, all purpose flour, 1/4 t. salt, and 1/2 t. baking soda. In a small bowl beat 2 eggs with 3 t. sour cream and 1 t. vanilla.  Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, then add to the creamed sugar.

Cover tightly with Seran Wrap and refrigerate overnight.  The next day, roll the dough to 1/8 in. thickness and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes, but do not brown.

After the cookies have cooled completely, they are ready for frosting. 1/2 C. soft butter, 2 C. powdered sugar, 2 t. almond flavoring and 1-2 T. milk depending on your desire for thickness.  Tint with 1-2 drops of food coloring and frost.

In my experience, the cookies are best after being frozen and thawed, but are good fresh too.   

Happy Baking!

Sun Dried Tomato Chicken

Tay's Brew

It's been a year of brewing and bottling.  18 distinct beers of have been crafted and it's only getting better with time.  If you haven't had a Beahrs Brew be sure to stop by and have Taylor select you the perfect pint.
Chinook IPA

Cream Ale

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Soups

Famous Barr's Department Store French Onion Soup with my addition of homemade croutons

Serves: 16, Yield: 4 Quarts
5 lbs onions, peeled
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons paprika
1 bay leaf
7 (16 ounce) cans beef broth, divided (recommended Swanson's)
1 cup dry white wine 
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (such as Wondra) or 3/4 cup instant flour (such as Wondra)
caramel coloring (optional) or Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
French baguette (optional)

swiss cheese or gruyere cheese 
Prep Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 4 1/2 hrs
Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor.
Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
(The long cooking time makes the onions mellow and sweet.) Stir in pepper, paprika and bay leaf; saute over low heat 10 minutes more, stirring frequently.
Pour in 6 cans broth and wine. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
Dissolve flour in remaining 1 can broth.
Stir into boiling soup.
Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours.
Adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring, season with salt. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, heat soup in microwave or on stove top.
If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls.
Top with a home made croutons and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.
Leftover soup can be frozen.

    One of my dear friends just made this soup and pointed out I needed to explain how to do the croutons.  Super Easy and SO worth it!

    French or Rustic bread is best, the nice thing about croutons is you can use bread you've stored in the freazer or slightly stale bread and they still turn our great.  Cut into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with kosher salt. Place on a baking sheet, single layer in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes, keeping an eye on the coloration, they should brown slightly.  SO GOOD!

    by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen
    Linguiça, a garlicky Portuguese sausage, and andouille, a smoky Cajun sausage, are both available at most supermarkets.
    Yield: Makes 4 servings
    Active Time: 45 minutes
    Total Time: 45 minutes

    1 16-ounce bag dried green split peas (2 1/3 cups)
    12 ounces fully cooked smoked pork linguiça or andouille sausages
    8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
    5 Turkish bay leaves
    3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped kale

    Combine split peas, whole sausages, 8 cups broth, and bay leaves in heavy large pot. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until peas are tender, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes.
    Transfer sausages to cutting board. Cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-rounds.
    Puree soup (including bay leaves) 1 cup at a time in blender until smooth; return to same pot. Add sausages and greens. Thin with more broth if necessary. Simmer soup until greens soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    I used Trader Joe's Sweet Italian Sausage and it was delicious!

    Golden Potage Soup Served with Wheat Toast and Brie

    My first job out of college was was working for Brenda Langton at the late Cafe Brenda in Minneapolis and then Spoonriver by the Guthrie and Stone Arch Bridge.  Some of my favorite dishes out of her Cafe Brenda Cookbook are soups. 

    Potato Leek Soup

    I got this recipe from the Alice Waters "The Art of Simple Food" Cookbook, which my Brother in Law Rob gave to me a few Christmases ago. This is one of my favorite cookbooks because of its simple yet sensitive use of great ingredients.   I'm always using something fresh in a way that brings out the truest flavors. I got my leeks from the Oak Park Farmers Market.

    Makes 4-6 Servings

    Trim off the root and upper tough end from 2 Lbs. of Leeks
    Cut the trimmed leeks lengthwise in half and slice thinly.  Rinse in a bowl of cold water, let the leeks drain. 

    Melt over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot 3 T. butter
    Add the leeks along with: 
    2 thyme springs
    1 bay leaf

    Cook until soft, about 10 minutes and add: 
    1 lbs. yellow potatoes halved quartered and sliced into bite sized pieces
    Cook the potatoes for 4 minutes then add 6 cups of broth or water.
    (I used vegetable broth)

    Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender, but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.  Alice suggests to stir in 1/3 C. of heavy cream, but I left this out and was very happy with the simple broth. If you add the cream do not boil once it has been added.  She also suggests blending the soup before adding the cream, but I enjoyed the texture as it was.

    Garnish with parsley and fresh ground pepper

    Saturday, November 6, 2010


    Taylor's contribution to the test kitchen, a Sunday afternoon batch of Limoncello, you get the idea. 

    Taylor met a man named Dave at the Ridgeland Dog park who convinced him that Limoncello was his next project.  Taylor came home asking me to pick up 20 lemons at the store. Okay...

    The basic ingredients:
    Everclear 180 proof
    Lemon Zest

    Taylor made the simple syrup this weekend and integrated it into the Everclear/Lemon jug.  After 3 weeks we had our first taste.  I think it needs another week now that we added the sugar. 

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Phyllo Dough Chicken Pot Pie with Bacon and Marjoram

    by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen
    Crème fraîche—a French heavy cream that's slightly sour—can be found in the dairy section of some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.
    Yield: Makes 4 servings
    5 applewood-smoked bacon slices
    1 1/2 cups chopped onion
    12 ounces peeled whole baby carrots (about 2 1/2 cups)
    1 8-ounce package trimmed haricots verts or other slender green beans, halved crosswise
    4 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
    1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
    2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
    3 cups coarsely shredded chicken from 1 small purchased roasted chicken (skin removed)

    1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
    Preheat oven to 450F. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Chop bacon. Add onion to drippings in skillet; sauté until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add next 3 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Add broth; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to mediumhigh and boil until vegetables are almost tender and some liquid is reduced, about 8 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup crème fraîche, chicken, and bacon. Bring to simmer. Season with pepper. Divide among four 2-cup soufflé dishes.
    Unfold puff pastry onto work surface; roll out to 12-inch square. Cut into 4 equal squares. Top filling in soufflé dishes with pastry; fold edges down onto rims of dish. Brush top of crusts (not edges) with remaining 1 tablespoon crème fraîche. Cut small X in center of crusts; pierce all over with fork. Bake until crusts are golden brown and filling is heated through, about 22 minutes.

    Test-Kitchen Tip:
    You can also make one large pot pie. Place the filling in a 9-inch-diameter deep-dish pie dish. Set the 12-inch pastry square over the filling, then fold down the edges onto the rim. Baking time will still be about 22 minutes.
    I went ahead and used the large pot pie version which turned out great and with less work. The Philo dough added a nice texture and airiness to the typical puff pastry option.  I used half the sheet layer on the top and half on the bottom.  Definitely be sure to use enough cream or creme fraiche so it doesn't dry out.  If you don't have creme fraiche, plain yogurt and whipping cream substitute well. 
    Taylor is begging me to make this again.  

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Red Velvet Cake/Cupcakes

    I made the cupcakes for a co-worker's birthday and the cake for my in-law's trip to Chicago in August.  I can't get enough of this cake and neither can my friends.  It's a hands down winner for birthdays and special occasions.  I also adapted the recipes I found on Epicurios

    Red Velvet Cupcakes Epicurious | February 2008
    by Allysa Torey
    More From Magnolia: Recipes From The World-Famous Bakery and Magnolia's Home Kitchen
    This is one of our most popular cakes at the bakery. Half of the customers love it because they haven't eaten it since their grandmother made it when they were kids, and the other half because they think the red color is really neat. But everyone thinks it's delicious.


    3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    3 large eggs, at room temperature
    6 tablespoons red food coloring
    3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 1/2 cups buttermilk
    1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda


    Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
    To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
    In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
    Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
    When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and sides of the cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting .

    Read More
    I actually use a cream cheese-coconut frosting found on this link.  I think it's much nicer. 

    2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 ounces), divided

    Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar; fold in 1 cup flaked coconut. Spread frosting on cupcakes, leaving 1/2-inch plain border; sprinkle with remaining 1 cup coconut.

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