Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gingersnap Cookies

I definitely have quite the soft spot for gingersnaps. My mom used to buy them every fall, and I looked forward to that crispy, spiced cookie treat all year. My tastes have evolved a bit since then though, and my favorite way to eat them now is to dip them in my coffee. 

Gingersnap Cookies

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

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, and then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the flour mixture ingredients into the molasses mixture. Place dough in freezer for about 20 minutes to harden.

Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields about 30 cookies. Enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Happy holidays! I hope you all had a peaceful holiday, and got to spend some quality time with family. H and I definitely had a wonderful few days off, and were lucky enough to be able to visit with both of our families, as well as enjoy some quiet time to ourselves.

Santa was extremely kind to me as well! I got a number of kitchen toys- an immersion blender, a couple mini crock-pots, another set of Pyrex containers (you can never have enough of those babies), and a mini egg pan with egg flippers from joie. I am so excited to try them all out!

I also continued the tradition ( can I call it that yet?) of our seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. I used a couple recipes from last year, and changed another up. Here is one that is oh-so-easy, and absolutely delicious! I have to admit, I am torn between keeping it a Christmas tradition, and making it way more often. As usual, I apologize for the none-too-appetizing photo, but I promise it tastes a whole lot better than this picture looks!

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
Serves 6

2 (14.5 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup of tomato paste
2-3 Tablespoons of capers

6-8 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons of white sugar
2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of dried basil
1 pinch of ground black pepper
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

2 (6 oz.) cans of minced clams
1 (12 oz.) can of whole baby clams

12 oz. of linguine pasta (3/4 of a box)

Directions: Combine all ingredients, up until the clams, in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 45-60 minutes. Add the clams, and some of the juice (I use about half) and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve over linguine. Enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

In my early baking days, I loved making Christmas cookies, and my absolute favorite one to bake was Betty Crocker's Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie with chunks of candy cane mixed in. It was truly a heavenly combination. When I found this recipe for a slightly more grown-up version, I knew I had to try it.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

8 oz of semisweet baking chocolate, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract
1 package of chocolate chunks
5 peppermint candy canes, roughly crushed

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Gradually add the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract on a high speed until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce speed to low and add chocolate/butter mixture. Slowly add the flour mixture, while continuing to beat on low.

Remove bowl from stand, and mix in chocolate chunks and crushed candy canes by hand. Drop onto baking sheet in heaping Tablespoons, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, and transfer to wire racks. Yields about 20 cookies. Enjoy!

Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride, original recipe here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

I had an amazing baking opportunity last week. One of my co-workers volunteers at his local soup kitchen, and every year they host a large holiday dinner. They prepare all of the food themselves, and last year close to 800 people showed up for it.

A couple weeks ago, he sent an email around asking for volunteers to help contribute some baked goods. I signed up immediately. I knew this would be a great chance to do something I enjoy, and help others at the same time.

I ended up making 3 types of cookies for the dinner- Gingersnaps, Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, and Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies. I also made a Raspberry-filled Chocolate Cupcake with a Raspberry Buttercream icing. I was thrilled to get my hands "dirty" with all this baking and then hand it off, bringing some holiday cheer to those in need. We certainly didn't need all those sweets sitting around!

Here is the recipe for the Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies, and the rest of the recipes will be in subsequent posts!

Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 peanut butter- or caramel- filled chocolate candies, unwrapped
2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together peanut butter and butter on medium speed. Slowly add brown sugar, and beat until light and smooth. Add in eggs, beating after each, and then add the vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, and beat until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for about 20 minutes, until it hardens slightly and is easier to work with.

Scoop out about 1 heaping Tablespoon of dough. Flatten into somewhat of a patty-shape, and place 1 candy in the middle. Top with another heaping Tablespoon of dough in the same shape, and press lightly down on edges to enclose the candy. Place on the parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, pull out, and gently press dough down with the bottom of a drinking glass. (It may be handy to have a small dish of sugar handy, to dip the glass in between cookies, in case glass begins to stick to the dough.) Continue baking for 3 more minutes, or until they just start to turn golden brown. Allow to cool on sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields 12 cookies. Enjoy!

Note: If you use caramel-filled candies, and you have a penchant for eating cookies warm out of the oven, be careful! The caramel will be hotter than the cookie.

Adapted from Bake or Break, original recipe here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables

I really enjoy Moroccan cuisine, but it is another one of those things that I've only had in restaurants and never tried to make at home. When I came across this recipe and realized I already had most of the ingredients, I decided to give it a try. I didn't have saffron, though, and neither of the two grocery stores near us did either, so I decided to combine it with another recipe I found. The spices were slightly different, and I had them all on hand.

This was so delicious, and totally easy! Do all the chopping and prep work first, and you'll be able to just dump everything in the pot and be good to go. This was great as leftovers too, the flavors really blended together.

Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables

4 chicken thighs
salt / pepper
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed

2 zucchini, sliced
5 carrots, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 can of chickpeas

1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
3/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with juice

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup cilantro

: Rinse and pat dry chicken thighs. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and garlic in stock pot, and put chicken thighs in. Brown on both sides, but they don't need to cook completely through at this time.

Add the remaining ingredients up until the pine nuts, including the vegetables, spices, and chicken broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft. Serve over brown rice or couscous and garnish with the pine nuts and cilantro. Enjoy!

(We had the leftovers in pitas, which were delicious as well!)

Adapted from Apple a Day and, original recipes here and here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pizza

Spinach and artichoke dip is one of my favorite savory treats. I've never actually made it at home, but there are few things I enjoy more than a bubbly, cheesy, creamy spinach and artichoke dip at a restaurant with nice, thick, pita slices to scoop it up. So when I found this recipe for spinach and artichoke pizza that would let me turn one of my favorite indulgences into something that is considered an acceptable meal, I was sold. How could I not be?

I added sun-dried tomatoes and chopped onions, since I had them on hand and thought they would be an interesting addition. You may feel those additions are blasphemy to the very idea of spinach and artichoke dip, so you can feel free to leave them out. 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pizza
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons of butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

2 Tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used skim, and it worked fine)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese (split into two 1/4 cup portions)

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
10 oz. of fresh spinach, washed and chopped

1 10-12oz. jar of artichoke hearts, artichokes halved
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 pizza dough (thawed if it was frozen)
2 Tablespoons of cornmeal

Directions: Preheat oven to temperature your pizza dough recommends. When oven is hot, insert pizza stone (or baking pan if you don't have one) to heat it up.

Melt butter in a large saucepan, add red pepper flakes and garlic, and saute over medium heat for about 1 minute. Whisk in flour, and stir until combined and smooth. Slowly whisk in milk, continuing to stir. Allow to simmer lightly and thicken for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat after 5 minutes, and stir in first 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the salt.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan, and add onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions are soft. Add spinach, and cook until just wilted. When done, press as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. Add to the white sauce, and stir to combine.

Remove the pizza stone from the oven and sprinkle with the cornmeal. Roll out dough and place on the pizza stone. Spread spinach mixture all over the top. Place artichoke halves all around, and then cover it all with mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, and bake for the time your pizza dough recommends. Enjoy!

(Note: I put that this makes 4 servings, as it did for a main course. If you're using it as more of a side, it can probably serve 6. Servings also depend on your pizza crust as well.)

Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, original recipe here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

I have been somewhat MIA lately. It is definitely a busy time of year! But, I have a number of things on my to-make list that I am quite excited about, so hopefully that will change in the near future. But for the first order of business...

One of the things I love about having people over (other than seeing my dear friends and family, of course) is being able to cook/bake dishes that I wouldn't normally make for just the two of us. And an entire cheesecake would certainly fall into the category of one of those dishes that I wouldn't make for just us.

So this past weekend, when H and I, along with MIL, FIL, BIL, and his girlfriend gathered at our place for dinner after picking out our Christmas trees at the farm, I knew I had a chance to make one of those dishes that I had reserved for a larger group of people. I had my favorite beef stew cooking away in the crock-pot, a nice loaf of French bread to soak up the gravy, and for dessert (not to toot my own horn or anything) one of the greatest cheesecakes I've ever had. Seriously. This was just that good.

This recipe was on the cover of my December issue of Cooking Light. I wanted to make it the second I saw it, and I was so happy to finally have the perfect occasion. I probably fattened it up slightly (but not too bad), and I think I made it a bit easier as well. Please note that you will need a large roasting pan for this recipe. The original recipe has you putting a 9" spring-form pan into a 9X13" baking pan, which doesn't exactly work all that well.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups of chocolate graham crackers crumbs (approximately 6-8 whole crackers)
5 Tablespoons of butter, melted

For the swirl:
1 1/2 cups of cranberries
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of raspberry jam
3 Tablespoons of water

For the filling:
2 1/2 (8 oz.) packages of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 large eggs

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Line the inside and outside of a 9" spring-form pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together in a bowl. Press mixture into the bottom of the pan, to all the edges. (You can do up the sides a bit if you want, but I just did the bottom.) Bake crust for 8 minutes, and allow to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325. 

Meanwhile, heat cranberries, sugar, water, and jam in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until cranberries begin to pop. Set aside and allow to cool, for about 20 minutes. When cooled, pulse mixture in a food processor until mostly smooth.

Place softened cream cheese into stand mixer bowl, and beat on medium-low with the sugar until smooth. Beat in Greek yogurt, vanilla, and salt. Add eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition.

Pour cheese mixture over chocolate crust. Spoon cranberry topping over the filling, swirling lightly with a butter knife. Place spring-form pan into large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with about 2" of hot water. Place roasting pan in the oven and bake cheesecake for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, it will still be a little jiggly in the center- like a Jello consistency- but that is what you want. Turn oven off, and allow cheesecake to sit in inside with the door shut for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and remove cheesecake from water bath. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Cake will then firm up, and allow you to remove it from the pan with ease. Enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Light, original recipe here.