Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Candy Cane Kiss Sugar Cookie Bars

Candy Cane kisses are my favorite version of the classic Hershey's candy. Admittedly, chocolate isn't my go-to, but these white pepperminty pieces of wonder are right up my Christmas alley. 

I have baked with these before, mostly in different versions of "blossom" cookies, like Candy Cane Kiss Cheesecake Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies, and Triple Peppermint Cookies

I wanted to try something different this year, and this recipe was just the ticket. First, they are BARS. I prefer bars to cookies any day, but especially when they are studded with candy cane kisses, frosted with an irresistible sweet frosting, and then topped with more candy cane kisses!  Bars are quicker to make, and just as fun to eat. Plus, you can cut them into small pieces or bigger ones, depending on your whim. 

   Second, did I mention they have kisses IN the bar and ON top? Double the kisses, double the fun. 
   Third, they are very fun and festive. They'll make a great addition to any Christmas plate. Or they'll stand alone on that plate just fine, thank you very much.

   So if you're still baking, add these amazing bars to your list. Everyone who tries one will rejoice!

  1. Candy Cane Kiss Sugar Cookie Bars
  2. Bars:
  3. 1 cup butter, softened
  4. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla
  7. 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  8. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  9. 1/2 tsp. salt
  10. 1 bag Hershey's Candy Cane mint KISSES, finely chopped, divided
  11. Frosting:
  12. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  13. 4 cups powdered sugar
  14. 1/4 cup milk
  15. 1 tsp. vanilla
  16. 1/4 tsp. salt

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well mixed.

In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. Stir in one cup of the chopped kisses.

Line a 9x13 pan with foil, then spray the foil with nonstick spray. Press dough evenly into the pan. 

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges are light golden-brown. Cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, in a medium bowl, beat together butter, 2 cups of powdered sugar and milk until combined. Slowly add in the remaining two cups of powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Beat until creamy and no lumps remain.

Frost cookie bars. Sprinkle the remaining kisses evenly over frosting. 

Recipe Source: Life in the Lofthouse

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Almond Horns

Whenever I'm in New York City, I make it a priority to stop at a bakery and get an Almond Horn. They are the MOST amazing cookie: chewy texture with crunch from almonds, delicious and intense almond flavor, and a little bit of chocolate to sweeten the ends. The ones at the NYC bakeries are HUGE, and perfect for sharing. 

So, when I saw that Smitten Kitchen (the ultimate New York City food blogger!) had a recipe for almond horns, I was ECSTATIC. Now I could make these (and eat these, let's be honest about what is the most important part!) myself, without going to New York. I'm always up for an excuse to go to New York, but it's not convenient to just fly across the country for a cookie. I wish it were, alas. 

Almond Horns use almond paste to get their intense flavor: I found this in the baking aisle at a large grocery store. It is not inexpensive. But it's worth it to make a batch of these cookies, especially at Christmastime. And since I wanted to get as many cookies as possible out of that precious log of almond paste, I did not make them NYC sized. These are cookies that are just fine to eat by yourself.

This cookie dough is not super easy to work with: you'll think you've forgotten a lot of flour, or something, cause it's soft and slippery. But just go with it. Have water and a towel nearby cause you'll need to wet and dry your hands in between each cookie. Don't get discouraged: the end result will be worth it! And after they're baked, the fun part is dipping in chocolate and decorating with sprinkles. And the REALLY fun part is eating them... 

Almond Horns

7 ounces almond paste

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg white

Two pinches sea salt

1 1/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched 

6 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips (about 1 cup)

Colored sprinkles

Cut almond paste into small pieces and put it in the bowl of your electric mixer. Add sugar and beat, until almond paste cannot be broken up any further, approximately 3 to 5 minutes at a medium-high speed. Add egg white and salt and beat until uniform and creamy. Place sliced almonds in a wide-shallow bowl or plate. Have another bowl with water to get your hands wet.

Wet hands and scoop 1 tablespoon of dough (can use a measuring spoon, a little overfilled is fine) into your palms. It’s going to be very soft and you’re going to think something has gone very wrong; it it has not. Just keep your hands wet and roll it into a 4-ish inch log and drop it into the bowl of almonds. Wipe your hands dry on a towel (or the almonds stick to your hands, pulling them off the cookie) and roll log through it. Again, it’s quite soft and will seem weird at first but do you best and transfer the soft almond-covered log to cookie sheet lined with parchment, and arc it into a horn shape. Press any loose almonds back on. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake cookies at 350 for 15 minutes, or until almonds on cookies are gently toasted and horns are puffed. Let cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl and dip ends of cookies into it, then return to parchment-lined tray to set. Add sprinkles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Cappuccino Swirl Cookies

Each year, I try to make a new thumbprint or "kisses" cookie.  Some of my favorites have been Candy Cane Kiss Cheesecake Cookies, Triple Peppermint Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies, Macaroon Kisses, Cherry Kisses, Chocolate-Kissed Gingerbread, and Jelly Thumbprints

These Cappuccino Swirl Cookies use hugs instead of kisses, and are called "swirls" instead of blossoms or whatever, since you melt the candy down into the center of the cookie.

But what makes these cookies really unique is the coffee flavor of the cookie itself. That, combined with the hug in the middle, makes for an irresistible Christmas cookie, and a beautiful one, too. 

So, if you need a new thumbprint/blossom/swirl cookie this December, look no further! 

Cappuccino Swirl Cookies

1 cup butter-flavored shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 Tbsp. coffee-flavored liqueur (like Bailey's), or coffee flavored creamer
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp. instant coffee crystals
48 Hershey's Hugs (striped kisses)

Beat shortening in a large bowl on medium speed for 30 seconds. Mix in one cup of sugar, the baking powder, and salt, until light and fluffy. 

Beat in the egg, liqueur, and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Beat in the flour a cup at a time, stirring in the final 1/4 cup by hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.  

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and instant coffee granules in a small bowl. Once the dough is firm, shape into 1-inch balls.  Roll each ball in the sugar mixture. 

Place dough balls 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes or until the tops start to crack and the sides are almost set. 

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately press a hug into the center of each cookie. Let them sit for about 5 minutes to allow the candy to melt. Using the tip of  a knife, or a toothpick, slowly swirl the candy. 

Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes 4 dozen.

Recipe Source: Happy Life

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Samoa Truffles

Samoas are my favorite girl scout cookie. That combination of shortbread, caramel, chocolate and coconut is simply irresistible.  I especially love them straight out of the freezer... (and if you didn't know, ALDI has a copycat Somoa cookie that is available YEAR ROUND...so you don't even have to wait for girl scout season.) 

When I saw this recipe for Samoa Truffles, I knew I would want to try them. While these aren't specifically a Christmas cookie/candy, they are so sweet and decadent that I thought they would be best reserved for Christmas time. But really, you could make them anytime!

Be sure when you make these that you really use dulce de leche, and not just sweetened condensed milk - dulce de leche is a Mexican caramel sauce... if you don't use it, the candies will spread and won't set up properly.

So get your self these easy ingredients and make these delicious truffles. Dipped in chocolate, and chewy with the coconut and caramel, they will be a great addition to any Christmas plate.

Samoa Truffles

7 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
1 - 14 oz. can dulce de leche 
1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk 
1 box (11oz) Nilla Wafer cookies, crushed (about 2 cups crushed)
16 oz dark chocolate wafers

On a large baking sheet, spread coconut into a single layer. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Be sure to turn and flip the coconut every 5 minutes. Remove from oven.

In a large bowl, combine coconut, dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk and cookie crumbs. Stir until well combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop one tablespoon of mixture onto the parchment paper. Repeat until all mixture is used. Place baking sheet in freezer and freeze for about 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate wafers in microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds). Dip bottom of each truffle in melted chocolate and return to parchment paper. 
Store in refrigerator (or freezer) in airtight container.

Recipe Source: Shugary Sweets

Monday, November 23, 2020

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples

If you are in need of a new recipe to liven up your Thanksgiving, look no further. Of course, I would also recommend the pumpkin pie ice cream, but a thoughtful host does throw in a vegetable or two.

We eat a lot of brussels sprouts so I'm always looking for new ways to prepare them. I combined a few of my favorite preparations in this dish: sautéed with bacon, and roasted with apples!  Bacon adds just the right amount of saltiness and the apples bring a little sweetness. It's a winning combo.

You can shave the brussels sprouts in a food processor, using the slicing blade, or on a mandolin, or you can carefully cut them by hand into very thin slices. 

This recipe comes together very quickly, especially if you cook the bacon ahead of time and save out a little of the grease. Then just saute as you put the other finishing touches together for your meal.  Or even easier, put someone else in charge of making this while you do something else!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Get more great ideas at Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples

1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced thinly
4-5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 crisp, sweet apple, chopped (like Honeycrisp, sweet tango, or your favorite)

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate, and drain off all but 1 Tbsp. of the grease.  Heat the skillet to medium high heat and add the brussels sprouts. Cook and stir so that they are all coated. Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes, then add the apple pieces. Saute for another 2 minutes, then add in the bacon, stir to combine all ingredients, and serve immediately.  Serves 6.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Gingery Pork Ramen

I love making soups, especially ones that can be made in a flash for a weeknight. Recipes that dirty only one pot and are gobbled up by the whole family earn extra bonus points.

This is one such recipe. I haven't been cooking with ground pork for too long, but Egg Roll in a Bowl and the Green Bean Stir Fry have made me a convert. 

Ground pork combined with bok choy (one of the most underrated vegetables of all time, in my opinion) and ramen noodes in a gingery broth, makes a delicious, easy soup that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less. So when you drive home in a snowstorm, or the temps dip below zero, or you just feel like soup, I hope you'll try this. It's a fantastic way to get warm from the inside out.

Gingery Pork Ramen

1 pound ground pork
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound bok choy, white parts thinly sliced, green leaves coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. ginger paste
2 Tbsp. garlic paste or fresh chopped garlic
5 green onions (green parts only), sliced 
2 tsp. Sriracha or chili garlic sauce
2 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles, broken up (do not use flavor packet)

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, brown the pork over medium high heat until cooked through. Drain fat, if there is any. Remove to a bowl.

Add the broth, white parts of the bok choy, soy sauce, ginger, green onions and sriracha to the soup pot. Bring to a boil and lower the heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the ramen noodles and pork and simmer for another minute. 

Turn off heat and stir in the bok choy leaves. Let sit for 2-3 minutes until noodles are tender.

Recipe Source: Noble Pig

Monday, November 9, 2020

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Thanksgiving is coming up and pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert at most family's tables. In fact, if I don't see a pumpkin pie, I get a little twitchy. I LOVE pumpkin pie.  But I am well aware that not everyone does - for most people it has more to do with texture than flavor. So, here's an idea for a great Thanksgiving (or anytime, really, let's be honest) dessert that I think everyone can be on board with, even if they don't like pumpkin pie.

This pumpkin pie ice cream is perfectly spiced and has just the right amount of pumpkin. But wait, there's more! Atop the ice cream sits beautiful, tiny pieces of pie crust studded with cinnamon and sugar. Can you just see how delicious they are? You certainly have the option of stirring in the pie crust with the ice cream as it churns, but that will (spoiler alert) lead to soggier pieces. I like my pie crust crunchy, so I just sprinkle the pieces on top of each bowl of ice cream. 

I've adapted Jeni's recipe for this ice cream (she calls for cooking a REAL pumpkin, but we'll used canned!) and as usual, it turns out perfectly creamy. The creaminess of the ice cream is a wonderful contrast to the crunchy crust pieces.  Time to get thankful. Time to make pumpkin pie ice cream!

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Ice Cream:
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

Pie Crust:
1/2 of one store bought rolled pie crust, like Pillsbury (1/4 of the package)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon

For the ice cream: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. of milk with the cornstarch to make smooth slurry. 

In a large batter bowl or mixing bowl with a cover, whisk cream cheese and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Add pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice and honey and whisk until combined.  

Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup  in a 4 or 5-quart saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat slightly and boil for 4 minutes.

Give the cornstarch mixture another good whisking, then remove the cream mixture from heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch slurry. Bring mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into pumpkin-cream cheese mixture until smooth. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the crust, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll out the dough and place on a parchment or silpat lined baking pan. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool, then cut into small pieces (I used a pizza cutter) and store in an airtight container. 

To freeze the ice cream, pour the batter into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and churn until it reaches soft serve stage. Pack the ice cream into a freezer-safe storage container, press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours and up to a few weeks.

Serve the ice cream topped with pieces of the pie crust. Makes 1 quart.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Muffin Tin Potatoes Gratin Dauphinois

Wow, don't I sound fancy with that title? Gratin dauphinois is a French dish of sliced potatoes baked in milk or cream, using the gratin technique, from the Dauphiné region in south-eastern France. 

In this recipe, we bake them in muffin tin wells, all cutely stacked up, so they make little individual mountains (or hills, really, they are not that tall!) of cheesy, creamy, and crispy potato goodness.

Even though this looks fancy, it is not difficult at all. And I love how the tops and bottoms get nice and crispy but the insides stay soft and creamy. These look beautiful on a plate and also taste amazing - they are perfect for a fancy dinner party and just as appropriate for a Tuesday night family dinner. 

I served them with pork chops and asparagus but they would go well with any meat and veg.

So bring out your inner French chef and make these potatoes today!

Muffin Tin Potatoes Gratin Dauphinois

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. heavy cream
4 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced

Combine sliced potatoes, cream, cheese and garlic in a mixing bowl and stir well to coat all the potato pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan liberally with nonstick spray. Divide the potato slices up among the muffin cups, and pour any leftover liquid over the potatoes.

Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes or until potatoes are tender and crispy and golden on top. Makes 4-5 servings.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

It's pumpkin season! I know some of you have been eating and drinking pumpkin flavored things for a while now, but I need it to be well into October before I succumb to the madness. Just kidding, it's not madness. I do love pumpkin, and there's plenty of evidence on this blog to prove it. Pumpkin Gingerbread, FIVE varieties of pumpkin  muffins (herehereherehere and here!), DanishCrepesPancakesDonuts and WafflesBars with Cream Cheese Frostingwith oatmealwith white chocolate,  CakeAngelfood Cakea cake rollcupcakeswhoopie piessnickerdoodlesIce CreamPie, and even Pasta!  Whew! There are lots of options here. And this is just the tip of the pumpkin iceberg, I'm sure.

But these little guys. They win the day. Or the week, the month, or all of 2020, possibly. For me, it's hard to resist anything that is dipped in butter then coated with cinnamon sugar. But it's especially impossible if they're pumpkin to start with. I knew my waistline was in trouble when I decided to make these, but friends, they are worth every calorie. 

These are baked in a mini muffin tin, so they're not technically donut holes, but they can easily pass. And since they are baked and not fried, you can eat a few more. They are absolutely delicious and make the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. What are you doing this weekend? Making these, I hope.

Find more great ideas at Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous, Tasty Tuesday, Full Plate, Hearth and Soul.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

4 Tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. 

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup (like a batter bowl), mix together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, egg, milk, butter, and vanilla until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into greased mini muffin tins, getting each cavity about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the donut hole comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove the donut holes from the pan to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a microwavable bowl. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a separate bowl and mix together well. Take each donut hole and coat it with the melted butter. Then dip it into the cinnamon and sugar mixture, making sure to coat well. Return to the rack to slightly dry. Serve immediately.

(Note: If you're making these ahead of time, do not coat with butter and sugar until you're close to serving time.)

 Recipe Source: Live Well Bake Often

Monday, October 19, 2020

Coconut Cheesecake Bars

It's about that time of year when you need a little bit of a warm up...the seasons are changing and here in Minnesota, we're expecting up to FIVE INCHES of snow tomorrow. Good gracious!  Last night I made Irish Stew and Beer Bread and there are several soups on the docket this week, including Cauliflower Cheddar and Sweet Potato and Sausage

But another thing that warms me up, both literally and figuratively, is a dessert that reminds me of the tropics. And this is just the one. This coconut cheesecake is rich tasting but not overwhelming, and has the perfect balance of crunchy, chewy coconut and creamy goodness. 

I love fillings. However, I think the my favorite part of these bars is the CRUST. A salty, shortbread-y, addictively delicious crust sits under that fantastic filling. I may have been caught cutting off "just a bite" of these bars time and time again...even for breakfast.

This dessert makes the perfect ending to a dinner party, or a weekday dessert. You can dress it up with fresh fruit, or maybe a fancy fruit puree on the plate under the bar. Or you can simply slice off a piece for breakfast. However you serve it, or eat it, you will be delighted.

Coconut Cheesecake Bars

1/4 cup butter, melted, cooled completely
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

8 oz cream cheese softened (low fat is ok)
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and sugar and stir until well mixed. Add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter will be thick. 

Press the crust dough onto the bottom of an 8" square pan that is lined with foil. Set aside. 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together cream cheese and sugar. Add flour, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in coconut. Pour cheesecake mixture over the crust. Spread evenly. 

Bake at 375 for 33 to 36 minutes or until the center doesn't jiggle anymore and the top is golden. Cool completely before slicing. Serves 9-12.

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