Welcome back!!! I hope that your Christmas was as filled with as much love and joy as mine was. We had several wonderful gatherings, and I am ready to give you the lowdown on our food (having taste-tested it multiple times). Most of this post will be about recipes, but let’s discuss a few other things first.
A few weeks ago, I discovered some random food facts that I thought you might find interesting. The first is that cilantro and coriander are part of the same plant; cilantro is the leaf and coriander is the seed. The other fact is that mace and nutmeg are also part of the same plant. Nutmeg is the innermost seed; mace is a type of tendril surrounding it. Both nutmeg and mace are dried before becoming the spices we are familiar with.
I also found that if you go here, you can request a perfume sample. You don’t seem to be able to choose, but other than that it seems straightforward.
Now that we’ve covered those, we can move on to the yumminess. I’m just giving you recipes for the food that we were really impressed or pleased with. There were a couple of things that we tried and they were good, but not special enough that I would recommend them to others.
We’ll start with our more savory items and then finish with a myriad of sweets. The first recipe that I want to share is a family favorite. My family has been eating these for as long as I can remember, and my in-laws have come to love them just as much as we do. I don’t know where the recipe originally came from, so I’ll just post what I use here.
2 1/2 c. Bisquick (I’ve never used any other mix, so deviate at your own risk.)
1 lb. sausage (I use Jimmy Dean’s regular sausage; to me, it gives the best flavor.)
10 oz. grated cheddar (Freshly grated is easier to mix in, but pre-shredded works too.)
1. Mix all the ingredients together by hand. Roll into small balls. Bake at 400 degrees until light brown, 15-20 min. We like to eat these with strawberry jelly. Lots of people have scoffed at me when I say that, but after trying it, they agree that it is delicious. These are great to mix and form ahead of time and then just pop into the oven right before you need them.
The other savory item was a new recipe. We were having tacquitos this year, so I wanted to try out a new cheese sauce recipe. I saw a picture of it on Pinterest and then found the recipe online. This sauce was perfect! My preferred consistency is with the entire can of evaporated milk added, but you may want to play around with it. I also put in less hot sauce because some of our family can’t eat hot foods. What I love about this is that you can really customize it for whatever you need. This is definitely going in my repertoire, so don’t be surprised if you see it pop up here again.
Cheese Sauce (from Serious Eats)
8 oz. grated cheddar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 tsp. hot sauce
1. Add the cheese and cornstarch to a large bowl and toss to combine. Transfer the cheese mix to a medium saucepan and add 1 c. of the evaporated milk and the hot sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, til melted, bubbly, and thickened, about 5 min. (The mix will look thin and grainy at first, but will thicken and come together after heating.) Thin to your desired consistency with additional evaporated milk.
I also got to try a couple seasonal breakfast foods. The first was some delicious gingerbread muffins that I believe to be fairly healthy. I can’t remember where I found the recipe, and an Internet search didn’t yield any answers. If this looks familiar and you know where the recipe came from, please let me know. I’d love to give credit to whoever came up with these tasty treats. I really enjoyed these muffins because they weren’t very sweet, they had just the right amount of spice, and they were incredibly tasty when warm and topped with a pat of butter.
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 lightly beaten egg
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. applesauce, unsweetened
2 tbsp. molasses
3 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. nonfat or lite yogurt (I didn’t have any, so I substituted light sour cream.)
1 1/2 tbsp. canola oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1st 9 ingredients and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until moistened. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each 1/2 – 3/4 full.
3. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly touched, about 7-9 min. (10-12 min. in a regular muffin pan). Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
(The recipe suggested this, but I didn’t bother.) 4. Lightly spray the tops with Pam and top with sugar. Store in the fridge.
This next recipe is also going to be another fall favorite. It’s for sweet potato scones and comes from a cookbook called The Pastry Queen Christmas. This is the second cookbook that I’ve read from Rebecca Rather, and I enjoy the way she writes. She runs a bakery about an hour away, that I hope to visit someday. From her cookbooks, it seems that she likes to take familiar foods and put her own twist on them. As soon as I read this book, I knew that I’d have to make these scones, and I was not disappointed with them. The recipe was clear and easy to follow, and these came together easily. The only change I would probably make is to cut the scones smaller so that they could cook through (mine were just a bit under-cooked in the very middle). I topped mine with a basic confectioner’s sugar glaze using maple syrup and a little milk. These were delicious and very seasonal; I’ll probably make them again soon, possibly putting my own twist on them.
Sweet Potato Scones (from The Pastry Queen Christmas)
3 sweet potatoes (about 3/4 lb. total)
4 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. diced butter
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and and bake them til they’re tender, 30-40 minutes. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and let them cool about 10 minutes. After they’ve cooled, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh, and lightly mash the flesh. Cover the mash and let it chill til cool, about 20 minutes.
2. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut in the butter til the dough is crumbly with pea-sized lumps. Add the sweet potato mash and 1/4 c. cream and lightly stir them in. Add in the remaining 1/4 c. cream and the buttermilk and stir til just mixed. Do not overwork the dough.
3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Lightly coat your hand with flour and pat the dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 6 squares and cut each of those diagonally into 2 triangles. (Next time I’d cut each square into 4 triangles. The smaller triangles would cook through better, and you’d have more to share.) Bake the scones 15-20 minutes, til light golden brown. Cool the scones on wire racks.
The remaining recipes were all new to me, but they will definitely be made again (some as soon as next week!). We’ll start with cookies and cream bars. I didn’t like these as much as I expected to, but my husband adores them, so I wanted to include them. Again, these were inspired by Pinterest. I explained these to people as rice krispies treats with ground-up Oreos, and that’s basically what they are. They’re that easy (though I insist on making them more difficult by melting the butter and marshmallows on the stove instead of in the microwave) and taste just like you’d expect them to. I might try them again with doublestuffed Oreos to see if that would make me like them more. My husband thinks they’re perfect and has devoured many of them.
Cookies and Cream Bars (from Picky Palate)
1 16 oz. pkg. Oreos
5 c. marshmallows
4 tbsp. butter
1. Place the Oreos in a food processor and pulse them til ground. Melt the marshmallows and butter in the microwave til the marshmallows are puffed 1 1/2-2 minutes. Once they’re puffed, remove the marshmallows from the microwave and pour in the Oreo crumbs.
2. Stir to combine the marshmallows and crumbs. Transfer the mixture to a foil-lined 8 inch square pan. Push down firmly and let set for at least 10 minutes.
The next new item was called fruitcake bars. Now, unlike most people, I think fruitcakes can be very tasty. However, these were misnamed and are nothing like fruitcake. I don’t know if that’ll make you like them more or less, but it’s the truth. I would rename these Cranberry Pecan Blondies. This is another recipe that seems to have just appeared in my recipe box; if you know where it came from, please leave a comment so I can give the proper credits. Though these are not well named, they do taste good and would be easy to tweak for individual tastes; they are certainly not going to waste at my house.
“Fruitcake” Bars or Cranberry Pecan Blondies
1 c. softened butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt (I would bump this up a little because I like a bit of a salty aftertaste.)
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. craisins
1 c. pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 in. square pan with parchment. On medium-high speed, beat together butter, brown sugar, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla for 3 min. Add the egg and beat til combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mix to the egg mix. Stir in the craisins and pecans.
2. Spread the batter in the prepared pan (mine was very thick, almost dough-like). Bake 35 min. Cool on a wire rack.
I also made a (too small) batch of cinnamon pecans. These were easy, addictive, and delicious. Again, let me know if you know where this recipe originated. These make your house smell amazing and are perfect hostess gifts. The recipe I have originally called for almonds, but the pecans worked just as well.
1 c. sugar
3 c. pecans (or another nut of your choice)
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon (I wouldn’t mind adding a bit more for a stronger cinnamon flavor.)
1/4 c. water
1. In a large skillet, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and water. Add the pecans and stir constantly with a spoon over medium heat, coating the nuts with the syrupy mix. Keep stirring until the sugar crystallizes.
2. Remove the pan from heat and scoop the nuts onto wax paper. (I broke mine apart.) Let cool before serving.
Note: I made these in a saucepan, and they took longer than I expected. I think that using a skillet would speed the process up, because the liquid would be able to evaporate and crystallize faster. Even in the saucepan, they took less than 15 min., so it’s really up to you.
One of my favorite new recipes was for these Orange Spice Molasses Cookies. Believe it or not, these are pretty healthy (don’t let that put you off, they taste great). They have no white flour and very little butter. To me, the best part of these is the orange sugar that you make to roll them in. I am seriously considering giving away flavored sugars next year with or instead of cookies. The orange really brings out the flavor of the spices but keeps them from being too overwhelming. I made these as gifts and only got to taste one, but that one was enough to hook me. I urge you to give them a shot.
Orange Spice Molasses Cookies (from Eating Well.com)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. orange zest
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
5 tbsp. softened butter
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. orange zest
1/2 c. molasses
7 tbsp. applesauce
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with parchment. In a food processor, pulse the 1/2 c. sugar and 1 tbsp. orange zest til well combined. Set the orange sugar aside.
2. Grind the oats in a blender til they look like a fine powder, 1-2 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the butter and 1/3 c. sugar on medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and 2 tbsp. orange zest and beat for 2 minutes. Add the molasses, applesauce, egg yolk, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper, and salt and beat on medium-high til incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.
3. Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the ground oats. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on medium, slowly add the wheat flour.
4. Form a slightly rounded tbsps of dough into balls, roll them in the orange sugar to coat, and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
5. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or til the edges are set, the tops are cracked, and the centers are soft and puffy. Cool on the baking sheet for 8 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
This last recipe is one that I probably wouldn’t have acquired except that a friend made them last year, and I fell deeply in love with them. They are Pumpkin-Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Maple Brown Butter Frosting. It’s a mouthful, but these cookies can stand up to it. These are very sweet, so a little can go a long way. The frosting pushes these over the edge into amazing. In fact, all this talk has made me hungry; I think I’ll go have one right now.
Pumpkin-Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Maple Brown Butter Frosting (from Bakerella)
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. softened butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. canned pumpkin
2 1/4 c. self-rising flour
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 c. chopped pecans
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/2 c. cubed butter
3 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. maple flavoring (I didn’t have any maple flavoring, so had to use maple syrup. I used part milk and part maple syrup to make the frosting.)
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, and pumpkin on medium. (The batter will look curdled, but that’s normal.) Stir in the flour and pumpkin pie spice. Then stir in the pecans and chocolate chunks.
2. Drop the dough by tbsp. about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes or til the edges are golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks.
3. In a 1 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat til golden brown, about 4-6 minutes. (Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.) Place the confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl and top with the browned butter. Stir in the milk and maple flavoring til smooth. Frost the cookies once they’re cooled.
Let me know if these appear at one of your New Year’s parties. We’ll be talking about resolutions next time, so get in your sweets while you can. 🙂