Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Thursday, December 31, 2009
Since I had leftover cranberries I had the joy of picking out another cranberry recipe to make. I didn't have much time for anything too elaborate as I was bringing it to a new years party for the same night, so I chose simple cranberry shortbread bars.
I will say I ate some of the cranberries as I boiled them because they are just that good! I thought these were actually best eaten warm-out-the-oven. They were fine room temp. but even then I put them in the microwave to enjoy warm. Served with some whipped topping it also good. It helps temper the tartness. these pretty good. Almost too simple for me though. I'll be looking forward to more cranberry recipes in the future!

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

from The Joy of Baking

Cranberry Filling:
8 ounces (2 1/4 cups) fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons water

Shortbread Bars:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place the wire oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 x 9 inch pan.

Cranberry Filling: In a medium sized saucepan, place all the ingredients. Then, over medium-high heat, cook the ingredients until boiling. Continue to boil the filling until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool while you make the shortbread.

Shortbread: In a separate bowl whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
In a bowl cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. You want the mixture still somewhat crumbly but mixed well.

Evenly press two-thirds of the shortbread into the bottom of the prepared pan. Then evenly spread the cranberry filling over the shortbread base, leaving a 1/4 inch border.

With the remaining shortbread dough, using your fingers, crumble it over the top of the cranberry filling. Then lightly press the dough into the filling.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven, place on a wire rack, and while still hot, cut into 16 squares. Allow to cool completely in pan.

German Pancake Cups

Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Spontaneous breakfasts!! These are my favorites. Sometimes you just wake up, (and after realizing there's nothing to eat in the house), and feel inspired to make yourself a great breakfast. Gingerbread pancakes? On a complete whim. Random streusel breakfast cups? I made it up as I went.

I love German pancakes! They're so soft and dense and I like all the egg in it. These were extremely cute to make and serve. Watching them rise and then fall is very exciting. These tasted fabulous. You can't screw these up too much and they are really delicious. Make a bunch and save them in the fridge. They are extremely versatile and I can't wait to try more fun variations with crazy toppings too!

Mini German Pancakes
from Real Mom Kitchen

1 cup milk
6 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Blend all ingredients except butter in a blender. Be careful to see that any flour clumps get well-blended.

Blend in melted butter a little at a time in order to temper the eggs.

Grease muffin tins well and distribute batter evenly between tins. Fill each about 3/4 the way full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until puffy and golden on top.

Serve with your favorite toppings Some suggestions are:
-powdered sugar
-butter and syrup
-freshly squeezed lemon juice, butter, and powdered sugar (a traditional combo for German pancakes)
-whipped cream
-fresh fruit or jam
-or my favorite...

Grape Jelly Whipped Cream Topping

-grape jelly, or your favorite fruit spread
-whipping cream (I only had heavy cream so it stayed soupy, which was fine but if you want it nice and whipped, use whipping cream)
-slash of powdered sugar

Combine all in a bowl (to taste) and beat on high until whipped to your liking.

Fresh Bread Anyone?

Monday, December 28, 2009
So my mom and I have been thinking about getting a bread maker after we saw one at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. They had one on sale for about $46 dollars, and that's after coupons. From what I have seen, that is an incredible price. It is Oster brand and the model is #5838.

Some of the features include:
-A viewing screen so you can watch as your bread is being made
-A jam maker
-60-minute keep warm cycle
-13 hour delay setting to let you come home or wake up to fresh bread
-Able to add in fruit and nuts
-Makes doughs and pasta
-3 crust color settings
-18 bread settings
-And some others...

I guess what I'm getting at here is...

Does anyone own this bread machine or a similar one? Do you use it as often as you thought? Or does it collect dust in your cupboard? Does the machine work as well as it says it will? Do I really need this machine to make good bread?

Also, my mom and I are obsessed with bread, and my sister enjoys it as well. If we bought this, we would hope to replace the white bread my dad uses for lunches. Now my mom and I don't eat bleached white flour or anything, but it's all my dad likes. We're not so sure he will like the white bread the machine will make and therefore we will still have to buy store bread. However, we would like this bread to replace the store bread.

There's a lot of questions we need answered and it'd be great if I could get some feedback!

Baked Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

Saturday, December 26, 2009
Since we were in Ohio for Christmas, we weren't able to have our traditional cream cheese roll-ups. So as soon as we got back I made sure we had at least a variation of them. The normal recipe is just putting the cream cheese filling into white bread then rolling it up. But I decided to take it a bit further by baking it in a 9 x 13 dish instead.

I'm really not a fan of white bread at all. So I found some interesting bread called paska? I've never heard of it before but I thought it would work out since it was a type of sweet bread. It turned out to be pretty similar to challah, which is what I had been looking for.

Baked Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
adapted from my dad's Cream Cheese Roll-ups recipe

1 loaf of paska bread (or any other bread really)

Cream cheese filling:
2 8oz packages of cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 sugar
(combine this in a bowl)

Cinnamon sugar topping:
1 1/2 sticks of butter
sugar and cinnamon (I mixed this to taste with a starting point of 1/2 tbsp cinnamon to 1/2 cup sugar. I thought there needed to be more cinnamon overall though)

I first buttered my baking dish, a 9 x 13 dish. Then I layered slices of the bread evenly on the bottom. Then I spread the cream cheese mixture over top. I sprinkled a generous amount of cinnamon sugar over that. More bread is added to cover the top. Then, I poured the melted butter/cinnamon sugar mixture as evenly as I could over top.

At this point you can refrigerate it over night. If not, place it in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy!

That evening we had a mock Thanksgiving Day feast. My dad loves turkey but we never seem to have any other time than at Thanksgiving. So we went through the preparations and with some Jenny-O turkey we were able to pull it off! No pumpkin pie for dessert, but we have enough chocolate to last us years!

Also, look what I got:

DARK CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER! I am truly in heaven. I honestly ate half of it the very night I got it. I spread it over the last of the paska bread and also added vanilla frosting. Yeah, I know it's weird. Dipping pretzels into it is truly divine!!

I just love that cute little monkey on the side!

Soft Ginger Cookies

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Every year before Christmas my neighborhood goes caroling to our other neighbors. I have been in attendance every year and always have a blast. After caroling, we go back to my friend Julia's house who hosts the whole sha-bang. There is always a ton of Christmas goodies waiting for us and plenty of hot chocolate. A video of a log burning fire place plays on their television and Christmas music rings throughout the house. This year, everyone was encouraged to bring a cookie or Christmas treat of some sort. I wanted to keep in the spirit of the season and choose ginger cookies. I'm really not a fan of crunchy or "snap"-like cookies, so it was great to find a recipe that kept them soft.

I also put some fluffy vanilla frosting between two, just to send this cookie over the top! I actually preferred them this way and wished I'd have served them to my neighbors like that also. The cookies were extremely soft and chewy and right up my alley. Give these a try!

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

found from Baked Perfection

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sh
eet, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

While we were caroling in the freezing cold!

Cranberry Coffee Cake

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This was an extremely spur of the moment kind of cake. Honestly it's what I needed though, since I haven't posted in quite a while. Today was my last day of school before break and it was a lovely half day. And luckily, that means I get the house to myself for quite awhile when I get home and it is the best atmosphere. While listening to the entire Wedding Singer soundtrack, I was able to make a cranberry coffee cake.

I brought this cake to my grandparents house later that night and we all ate it blissfully. Even my dad, the pickiest eater known to man(no exaggeration here), ate it and liked it! Now that is saying something!

I had to borrow sour cream from a neighbor, so this cake almost didn't happen! But thank goodness it did. This is the first time I have ever baked with cranberries and I was really nervous. Joy the Baker never steers anyone wrong, so I knew I could trust her recipe.

While we ate our fabulous cake, so many stories were shared at the table. It was a really nice get together since my family won't be in town for Christmas. We are going to see my 91 (almost 92 year old grandmother).

**Big mistake: I used an extra stick of butter in the batter! Oh goodness what was I thinking! Well, there was no noticeable taste difference but I wouldn't recommend it.XD.
**The cake was a good three inches high in my 13 x 9 pan.
**The taste was exactly what I would hope a coffee cake to be. It was really moist and the crumb topping was OUT of this world!
**I was so happy about the cranberry taste. It was tarty goodness!
**The crumb topping could be eaten on its own. It is that good.

Cranberry Coffee Cake

4 cups all purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup sour cream mixed with 2 Tablespoons of milk

4 cups fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans (Optional. I left these out so I could get greater appeal from my picky eaters)
1/3 cup quick oats

Put a rack in middle oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch pan and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Combine butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in almond extract. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and sour cream mixture in alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and mixing until just incorporated. Fold in cranberries. Spoon batter into baking dish and spread evenly.

For the topping, place the flour, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl and stir well with a wooden spoon. Work the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until evenly distributed. Take two full handful of the topping and spread it over the cake batter. Use a knife to swirl the topping into the batter. Spread the rest of the topping evenly over the cranberry cake batter.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Serve in big warm slices with a cup of creamy coffee.

MSC: Gingerbread Cupcakes

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Gingerbread cupcakes?? Heck yes!

One of my really really good friends was having a birthday on Thursday and I knew these would be such a treat to give her. After she tried one of my banana pecan cupcakes with caramel cream cheese frosting (still one of my top two favorite's of Martha's!), she has always called me a cupcake queen or something along those lines=) I always let her know when I'm baking a new batch, so i figured what a great surprise these would be. When I brought them to school, others seemed to like them as well, even a teacher or two.

The recipe actually yielded how much it said it would! That's a first. I actually got 23 instead of 22, but the last one was really tiny. Also, they baked for exactly as long as the recipe said! Maybe my oven's getting better?? The last cupcakes were done when it said too. YAY! And, I had all the ingredients on hand, which is always a plus!

Did anyone else realize how much butter goes into this recipe? It's a bit shocking! Good thing I happen to love love love butter. We're talking 6 sticks people. That's cupcake and frosting combined.

Lastly, and I can't hide this from you guys, there was a bit of a mis-communication/I was an idiot and don't know my measurements. I was trying to get ahead of the game and make my icing while my cupckaes baked, but my mom bought a different sized powdered sugar bag and it threw me off completely. Long story short, I put 2 lbs. of powdered sugar in my icing when only 1 lb. was needed. AHHH! It took so long to make too, because I was trying to be really concise in my mixing efforts. So I ended up having to make another batch. This time I forgot the vanilla and realized it after I iced three cupcakes. So I said screw it and kept going. There was a big difference. This is all the night before mind you.

Okay, so taste: The cupcake was buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness! It had a great gingerbread flavor and a perfect density. I'll say it again, melt-in-your-mouth goodness! The icing was quite sugary yet buttery, too, but I thought it was appropriate since when I think of gingerbread I except white & sugary frosting. Also, I added red, green, & white sprinkles for a holiday touch.

Gingerbread Pancakes w/ Homemade Syrup

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's Sunday morning. There's a major ice storm in progress with many accidents on the roads. Church has been canceled (for the time being). And I'm hungry. You know what that means? PANCAKES!

When it comes to making pancakes there is really only one place to go: Joy the Baker, of course. She has incredible and fun pancake recipes that will make you drool like crazy!! Carrot cake, oatmeal raisin, pumpkin, buttermilk, and the list goes on! I chose her gingerbread pancakes for the fact that they are so seasonably appropriate and because they looked sooo good.

This was actually my first attempt at making pancakes all by myself. No help at all what-so-ever. So when I was able to stand back and admire my fabulous work, I almost cried. Almost! But seriously, these pancakes are it! I mean it!!! I have long been searching for a pancake that would satisfy my breakfast needs and this is the ONE.

The recipe made around 15? I don't know. I was so hungry I didn't bother to count and then I just ate as much as I could shove in my mouth. I can tell you this, my mom and I ate a total of twelve. And we only stopped because we had my dad take them away from us.

Let's talk about the pancakes themselves, shall we? Light and fluffy. A pillow of soft warmth. Clouds dripping with butter and syrup. Do these make any sense? Try these pancakes and they will. The flavor was spot on as well. And the whole process of making the batter and cooking them was a breeze. It took me a try or two to get the hang of cooking them, but it was my first time and all.

Let's not forget the other half of this post's title. I said homemade syrup. Brown sugar vanilla syrup, to be exact. This isn't your back-to-nature-stick-a-spicket-in-a-tree kind of syrup, but I made it in a pot nonetheless. It was the perfect (I'm talking perfect) partner for these pancakes. Maybe maple would have worked, but you gotta have that brown sugary good stuff.

I seem to be really emotional in this post but they are crazy good! Okay, I'll stop GUSHING and let you whip these up yourself. Also, I definitely plan on trying her other immaculate pancakes recipes since these were such a success!

Gingerbread Pancakes
Makes: 15ish well sized pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 Tablespoons molasses (not robust or black strap)
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons whole milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter, plus additional for brushing the griddle

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and brown sugar (if you’re using it) in a medium bowl. Whisk together molasses, egg, sour cream, milk and butter in a small bowl, then add the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Heat griddle or 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over the surface. Brush with butter. Working in batches of 4 to 6 (depending on the size of the griddle), drop 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes with a spatula and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer pancakes to a heatproof plate and keep warm in oven while you cook remaining batches.

Brown Sugar Vanilla Pancake Syrup from Allrecipes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the sugars, water and corn syrup; bring to a boil over medium heat. Broil for 7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in maple flavoring and vanilla. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve over pancakes, waffles or French toast.

Cookie Catch-up

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Here's some brief cookie catch-up. I've been super busy lately with trying to catch-up on homework I've put off. Hehe.

December marks major cookie season. And the only cookie for me in December is our family's super secret orange cookie recipe! This orange cookie has been passed down from generations and it's so old it's written on an old note card and is slightly fading. You know it's authentic then. This is a sacred recipe coming from my dad's side and I have never attempted to make. I was afraid I would ruin it's deliciousness. But this year I went for it!

Oh my goodness everyone!!! I did it! I've mastered the orange cookie! And I ate five right afterwards with no shame whatsoever. To describe it's taste I would say it is a cake like cookie that soft and pillowy. It's spongy with a subtle but noticeable (if that makes sense) taste. They icing is the second component to it and is a MUST. I could drink the icing if icing could be drinkable. It's pretty sugary but it also has an orange flavor along with it's orange color.

The thing I like about this recipe is how adaptable it is. The are so many resources for the orange flavor and color. Orange zest, fresh orange juice, orange extract, orange food coloring, concentrated orange juice, .. the possibilities are endless!

once I get approval from my dad I can post the recipe. Until then, drool and weep that you are unable to experience this cookie from heaven!!

Also, massive chocolate chip cookie baking has been happening on my dad's end. We're hopeing to send out cookies to the neighbors so we're trying to get going on that! But, as you may or may not know....... I don't like chocolate. Don't hate me, please=)

More cookies to come!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weeks before Thanksgiving even began, my mom and I visited our first Williams Sonoma store. It was so much fun. That probably sounds funny to 'non-foodie' people. But to us 'foodies', going into a cooking store is definitely our idea of a fun weekend activity. We spent a ton of time there and right before leaving and just to our luck, they put out some samples! One of which was there seasonally inspired roasted butternut squash soup using their canned butternut squash puree. We were sold by the taste and took home that organic puree immediately. On the down side, we had to wait over three weeks before we could try it, as it was to be our Thanksgiving appetizer.

More sad news: The recipe for the soup was on the side of the jar. Which we recycled before I could blog about it. My memory isn't so great that I could remember all that you'd need to do. I am scouring the internet, however. No luck so far.

More sad news: Why didn't I take a picture of this bowl of heaven? I guess we'll never know...

Good news: This soup is honestly to die for. It's reminescient of tomato soup with the creamy yet hearty factor you get from it. And for my family I put a little more onion in and loved it. This is a super super healthy dish that's sweet and savory at the same time.

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
While it was only me and my three other family members, we really had a nice Thanksgiving this year. So to briefly show you what made the table, here are some snap shots (not very good ones, though).

The table spread

Simple Bread Stuffing

The White Meat

Simple Mashed Potatoes

The Dark Meat

Homemade Crescent Rolls

Cranberry Sauce and Gravy

Cheesy Cauliflower

Pumpkin Pie

My Plate (the first time through)

Betty Crocker's Cooking Basics is the cookbook we use every year as our Thanksgiving meal guide. It lays out a Thanksgiving menu and cooking time line for your convenience. The flavors of Thanksgiving, for my family, are best kept simple. We like the traditional tastes best so that's how we did it this year, as you can see.

*We had roasted butternut squash soup as an appetizer since our turkey took a bit longer than expected. Hopefully I'll get a recipe and pictures up soon.
**There was corn too.