Monday, December 6, 2010

Made It & Ate It: Holidays 2010 Edition

I've been a busy little baker this year, making the cookie cups I may have mentioned earlier. It's been more work than I first thought because my mind went crazy with all the possibilities. Graham cookies with chocolate and marshmallow? Seven Layer Bars transformed into cookies? All my ideas were starting to take a concept that was intended to save me some time and turning it into time-consuming battles with the Kitchen-Aid mixer. I took a careful look and my abilities and my schedule and made some menu adjustments that assured I'd still have time to wrap presents and go caroling!


Sugar, Peanut Butter & Red Velvet Cookie Cups

Sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies were a no-brainer, using the pre-made Pillsbury and Toll House dough, of course!
I was a little worried about the cookie cups being too dry. I know that frosting tends to keep them nice and soft and I was worried about the cups not having enough frosting to do the job. Since I was adding the frosting as I needed the cookies there were at times going to be up to 24 hours between the frosting of the cookies and their serving.
During an unrelated trip to Wal-Mart I ran across some new Pillsbury Easy Frost canned frosting. It comes with a star shaped tip and tastes the same as the tubs of frosting that I was going to use anyway. They made filling the cups super easy and I was able to fill and add pretty colored sugar as I needed the cookies, so wherever I took them they were fresh and delicious!


Makes frosting easy.

I should note here that I'm not a fan of powdered sugar icing, which I know is what many people use for decorating sugar cookies. Last year I bought pre-colored frosting from my local grocery store's in-house bakery and it worked like a dream. They sold it by the pound and I was thrilled not to have to tint white frosting myself. Since I wasn't planning on needing any tinted frosting this year, I took a chance on the Easy Frost.

I used the vanilla frosting for the sugar cookies and the "decadent" fudge frosting for the peanut butter cookies.

Another cookie I made was a Red Velvet cookie, which I made using a Red Velvet cake mix, as directed in this recipe. I very briefly considered using Paula Deen's recipe but honestly, I know my limitations and that recipe would have stretched them.

My Red Velvet cookie were nice and cakey and I topped them with the cream cheese flavored Easy Frost.


Peanut Butter Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Red Velvet Cookies & Great Balls of Peanut Butter


Raspberry Layer Bars

I tried several times to make Seven Layer Bars but they proved too uncooperative in cup form so I settled for some regular bars cut into tiny one bite squares and then served in little foil paper cups. And instead of the traditional bars I tried a new recipe that I found of the back of the Keebler graham cracker crumbs. It went something like this:

  • Heat up the over to 350 degrees
  • Melt  a stick of butter. Perhaps in a microwave safe bowl?
  • Toss it into a bowl of 2 c. of graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 c. sugar
  • Pat it into a 13" x 9" pan.
  • Pour a 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk over it, spread gently.
  • Do not lick the lid of the milk can, no matter how much you want to.
  • Chill in the icebox for about 15 minutes.
  • Take about 1 - 1 1/4 c. of seedless raspberry jam and warm it slightly in the microwave, just enough to make it easy to spread. Don't melt it!
  • Spoon the jam over the chilled crust/milk. Spread it gently! I said "GENTLY!"
  • Sprinkle with 1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans. You have to decide which, I can't do it for you.
  • Top that with 1 1/3 c. shredded coconut.
  • Bake it in the pre-heated oven for about 25-29 minutes. You want the coconut to look toasted but you don't want the edges to caramelize too much.
  • Don't try to cut the bars when they are still warm, it'll only make a mess.
  • Use a plastic knife to cut when cooled, no need to get fancy!
Pretty simple right? You can also use a pizza cutter to cut the bars, just be careful not to scratch your pan!

Great Balls of Peanut Butter!
Since I had lots of graham cracker crumbs to use up I decided to make another recipe printed on the box, this time for Great Balls of Peanut Butter! The box called them "bon bons" but I'm a "ball" girl.

  • In a large bowl combine
    • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs
    • 1 1/2 c Rice Krispie cereal (without the milk, durh!)
    • 1 1/4c. peanut butter, creamy or chunky
    • 1/2 c. powered sugar
  • Look, I'm not gonna lie, mixing this can get messy. Don't stab at the ingredients with the spoon, just gently fold them together until they are well mixed, You don't want to completely decimate the cereal but you do want to make sure everything is mixed well. Take you time, take a break if you need too. You can't rush magic like this.
  • Put the whole bowl in the ice box for a while. Go watch something on your DVR or read a magazine.
  • Wash your hands
  • Using a tiny ice cream scoop, or a tablespoon, scoop off some dough into your hands and roll it into a nice neat ball. If the dough is still sticky, put it back in the ice box and quit being so impatient!
  • As you roll them, put the balls on a tray or a plate lined with waxed paper. If you don't have waxed paper then I don't know what to tell you, you're pretty much screwed at this point. You could use plastic wrap but you might want to just go buy waxed paper instead.
  • Chill the balls while you heat up 12 oz. of chocolate in a double boiler. Sure, you can use semi-sweet, or you can use milk. It's your world.
  • In case you don't know, a double boiler is just a couple of pots nesting, with water in the bottom pot. Then heat the water which will then melt chocolate placed in the top pot. It's SCIENCE!
  • I like to tilt the top of my double boiler so the chocolate pools in one area, making it easier to coat the balls.
  • Working with a few balls at a time, keeping the rest chillin', dip the balls into the chocolate and then place on the waxed paper.
  • I have found that a plastic spoon and fork work great for this job. Use the spoon to place the ball in the chocolate and sort of slip it around. Then use the fork to lift it from underneath, don't stab it, and let some of the melted chocolate drip off before putting it on the waxed paper.
  • If you so desire, and want to have fancy balls, dust them with graham cracker crumbs while the chocolate is still warm.
  • Give your balls a good 30-40 minutes to cool and dry.
If you';re not up to the whole "double boiler" thing then you can certainly use a microwave to melt your chocolate. Or, you can try Baker's Dipping Chocolate, which is ridiculously easy to use as well as being quite tasty.


Easy. Super easy. Nobody will ever know how easy.

Haystacks

I had some leftover chocolate as well as some butterscotch chips that I didn't end up using so I decided to make some haystacks. They are really easy and can be made with a variety of ingredients.
  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with waxed paper. You should still have some left from the Great Balls of Peanut Butter recipe.
  • Using a double boiler, or a fancy-schmancy microwave, melt 16 oz. of chocolate, your choice. (I used half chocolate and half butterscotch chips)
  • Gently stir in 3 c. of chow mien noodles.
  • Add any other mix-ins you like; raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, coconut, slivered almonds, mini marshmallows, anything small and tasty.
  • Stir until everything is covered evenly.
  • Using a spoon, scoop little "haystacks" onto the waxed paper.
  • Let them cool before eating.
Cranberry-Pretzel Candy Clusters

If you like your treats both sweet and salty here is a yummy recipe that I got from the Hy-Vee Seasons magazine (Hy-Vee is our local grocery store.)
  • Line a baking sheet with...that's right, waxed paper!
  • Break 2 c. of thin pretzel sticks in half and set aside.
  • Using a medium saucepan, melt 8 oz. white chocolate squares, with cocoa butter and 1 tbsp. shortening, like Crisco.
  • Stir until smooth.
  • Remove from heat and add 1/2c. dried cranberries, 1/2 c. dried pineapple (cut into small pieces) and the pretzels.
  • Stir gently.
  • Drop by spoonfuls onto the waxed paper and let cook before eating.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

It hasn't been all sweets and goodies around here though! I did manage to make a savory side dish for Thanksgiving, Brussels Sprouts Gratin, using a recipe from Food Network Magazine and dumbing it down a notch by using frozen Brussels Sprouts.
  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees
  • Take 16 oz. of frozen Brussels Sprouts
  • Cook them as directed, but only by about half, you want them sorta done but not completely done.
  • Drain the sprouts.
  • Drain them some more. Maybe use some paper towels to blot at them a little, they get really wet.
  • Give the sprouts a chopping. I cut mine into quarters but any coarse chop will do.
  • Drain them again after cutting, just for good measure.
  • Season the sprouts with salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish.
  • Place sprouts in the baking dish
  • Cover with 1/2 c. of heavy cream
  • Sprinkle with 1 c. of shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheddar mix you like)
  • Top with  1/2c. of fine bread crumbs
  • Cut up 2 tbsp of butter and scatter it over the top.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly and delicious looking
  • OPTIONAL: You could totally toss in some crumbly bacon pieces too, just for good measure.
I made this dish twice in 3 days and everyone who tried it seemed to like it, even folks who were not Brussels Sprouts fans previously.

I wish you all a happy and delicious holiday, please share you baking and cooking plans with me, I always need new ideas!

3 comments:

molligamelin said...

i brussel sprouts! definitely going to try out your recipe, sounds super yummy

here's the recipe we used on my little green friends at thanksgiving:

* 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
* 1 pound red seedless grapes
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, sliced
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
* kosher salt and black pepper

1. Heat oven to 375° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts and grapes with the oil, garlic, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
2. Turn the Brussels sprouts cut-side down and roast until golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

molligamelin said...

i tried to make a little heart between "i" and "brussel" above... no go... but know that i'm thinking heart when you read that :)

chrystal said...

your cookies were yummy yummy! i think we're going to attempt haystacks at girlscout meeting tomorrow!