December 30, 2009

Cranberry Orange Cookies

It would be a stretch to call these cookies a health food, but the bursts of red color spotted throughout them do pack a punch! Cranberries are high in vitamin C, chock-full of antioxidants, may be a source of anti-cancer agents, and may benefit the cardiovascular and immune systems (according to wikipedia). Also, Oprah recently declared them "the ultimate holiday health superfood." Apparently she turns to cranberry juice whenever trying to ward off a cold. Maybe she'd enjoy these cookies?

The recipe can be found on AllRecipes.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups chopped cranberries
  • Cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg. Then mix in orange zest and juice.
  • Time for the dry ingredients: slowly mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in cranberries on low speed.
  • Drop dough onto cookie sheets. Leave a little room for them to spread.
  • Bake in pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until cookie edges are a light golden brown.
  • The original recipe calls for icing, but honestly these cookies are sweet enough without it.
Before Baking
Out of the oven, warm, and ready to eat!

Because of the zesty hint of citrus, they make a refreshing alternative on a cookie tray!


We're still talking Christmas cookies... we have a tin or two left in the freezer! There is no more perfect time of year for sparkly, sugary, green and red cookies.
Shortbread are a Christmas classic, and sablés are yet another take on the perennial favorite. They are a delicate butter cookie that take their name from the French word for "sand", which refers to their crumbly texture.

The full recipe can be found here, as part of a Tuesdays with Dorie baking challenge. We followed it to a tee. Thoughts from us are posted below:
  • To bring butter to room temperature in a hurry, microwave at 20-30% power.
  • Make sure the logs are rolled smoothly and don't have any air pockets.
  • The logs of dough are cut after being refrigerated... we found that they needed a few minutes to warm up after coming out of the fridge. Otherwise, the dough cracked.
  • The cookies will be a very light brown on the bottom when cooked - just lift up a corner of the parchment paper to check on the color.
Sablés are very similar in taste to Pillsbury slice-and-bake cookies... if you figure out how to get pictures of snowmen and Christmas trees in the middle of your dough, let us know.

December 20, 2009

Vegetable Lasagna

We had left-over ricotta cheese to use up... and it turned into this. Funny how one ingredient can spur a dish that includes everything but the kitchen sink!

This lasagna is a hearty pasta dish. It's definitely rooted in veggies, but to add a little protein kick we added half a pound of ground beef.

The base for this recipe came from AllRecipes - but feel free to get creative, just like we did.

1 package lasagna noodles
1 pound fresh mushrooms (we didn't add these... Lisa isn't a fan)
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced (helpful video - but don't worry if you aren't that fancy - we aren't)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 jars pasta sauce (this is a great way to switch up the flavor of the lasagna! Spicy? Mushroom-y? Plain tomato?)
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 container part-skim ricotta cheese (we subbed in a little cottage cheese instead)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Optional: 1/2 pound ground beef

Note: go crazy with the vegetables! We added zucchini, red pepper, and brussel spouts (Amy added those in. And didn't tell anyone. No one noticed!).
  • Check your lasagna noodle box. Amy boiled water and then mom saved the day and noted they were NO cook noodles. You assemble the lasagna with uncooked pasta.
  • If you have to cook your noodles, do so according to the directions on the box. It probably says to boil them for about 10 minutes for al dente noodles.
  • Heat oil in large pot. Add vegetables and cook. Stir in pasta sauce and basil, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. The sauce should thicken a little.
  • If you are adding ground beef, brown it first. Heat pan over medium heat, add beef, mash/stir until all pink disappears. Add to tomato sauce before assembling lasagna in baking dish.
  • Combine ricotta, 1/2 the mozzarella cheese, and eggs.
  • Time to assemble! Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 greased baking dish. Layer lasagna noodles, cheese mix, sauce, and Parmesan cheese. Repeat this pattern 2 or 3 times. Top with remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake in 350 F oven for 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Look at all those vegetables!
If you look hard enough, you might spot a brussel sprout.
Out of the Oven

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

We've had a slow cooker sitting in a kitchen cupboard for a while... We keep hearing they're great tools, but we've never taken the jump and tried it out. Dad made something in it once or twice, and we actually have a box of that pre-made-crockpot stuff in the freezer.
Anyway, instead of digging out the frozen crockpot box, we took out about 2 pounds of beef and turned it into Slow Cooker Pepper Steak!

Honestly... not sure about the "a slow cooker is a time saver" idea, but I guess it's nice if you want to cook in the morning and go out in the afternoon. It might be more of a time-shifter than a time-saver.

Recipe is from our favorite: AllRecipes.

2 Pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips
Garlic powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cube beef bouillon (a.k.a. stock)
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch... and sprinkle in more as needed
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
  • It would have been ten times easier to buy pre-sliced steak. Slicing the big chunk of beef got messy!
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. Brown the beef strips over medium heat, sprinkling with a little garlic powder. When you brown ground beef, you make sure no pink is left. But, remember this is steak. You don't want to over-do it, or you'll end up with some very well-done, tough-to-chew beef.
  • Transfer the beef to the slow cooker.
  • Dissolve the beef bouillon/stock in the water, then mix in cornstarch (this will make the sauce thicker... you'll probably need to add an extra teaspoon or two toward the end). Pour into slow cooker.
  • Stir in onion, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, salt. Leave the green pepper out for now, otherwise it will go mushy.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours.
  • Add the green pepper in for the last hour of cooking.
Serve over rice.

We have some catching up to do...

We have some catching up to do....

(We've been busy)

December 13, 2009

Peppermint Meringues

Another AllRecipes success! Next post will be from a different site, promise... there's just so much good stuff on there. And the rating system paired with user suggestions is so helpful.

Meringues... these are sometimes called "forgotten cookies," because after they're cooked they are left in the oven for a long time. You probably won't forget about them though - they're just too pretty! The crushed candy canes are a perfect finishing touch on these light and airy cookies!

2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
Peppermint extract
Crushed candy canes
  • In large bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until the mixture forms soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Mix in a few drops of peppermint extract.
  • Scoop the mixture into a ziploc bag and cut a tip off a bottom corner of the bag. Use this to pipe little dollops onto parchment-lined cookie trays (see below).
  • Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the cookies.
  • Bake for 1 1/2 hours in a preheated oven at 225 F. The meringues should be dry on the inside, but not tanned at all.
  • Turn off the oven and open the door. Let the meringues sit inside the oven until completely cool.
  • Store loosely covered in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Before baking

What a winter-y looking cookie!

December 6, 2009

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

This recipe got rave reviews on
("perhaps the most fantastic cookie I have ever made", "just the way biscotti is supposed to taste", "very =best= biscotti recipe", etc.)
... and the red and green detail means they can be made while Christmas carols are playing!

These italian cookies are perfect for dipping (or dunking) in tea or coffee, although they can be eaten along because this version is a little softer than many coffee shop creations.
They are twice baked - once as a log, and then again as individual slices - but they actually don't take that much time to make.

1/4 cup light olive oil
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pistachio nuts (buy them out of the shell)
  • Mix oil and sugar, add vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in eggs.
  • Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix on low speed.
  • Stir in cranberries and nuts.
  • Divide dough in half and shape into two logs. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake at 300 F for about 40 minutes (original recipe says 35, but it took a little longer for the logs to turn a light brown).
  • Remove from oven, cover with a towel (this is supposed to prevent cracking... they still cracked a little), and cool for 10 minutes.
  • Reduce oven to 275 F.
  • Cut logs into 3/4 inch thick slice (thinner would be nice, but the pistachios make it difficult... next time we'll roughly chop the nuts). Usually a serrated knife is used when making biscotti, but in this case a large bread knife works best.
  • Lay slices on sides and bake for 10 minutes or until dry.
  • Cool before storing.

Whipped Shortbread

We're going to let the pictures do the talking for this recipe...

Check out mom's note in the top corner!

A few suggestions:
  • "Whipped" means whipped! Mix these on high speed for quite a while.
  • Make them tiny. They are super buttery and rich.
  • Cherries = Christmas! Chop up the cherries into tiny pieces. The splash of red definitely makes these cookies festive.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay enough with the experiments.
Tried, tested, and true.

Everyone needs a good chocolate chip recipe to fall back on. There are so many variations (the biggest basic difference lies in whether you use butter or shortening)... but once you find a good one, whipping a batch up is a reliable treat.

A little secret: our secret recipe is printed on the back of "Chipits" chocolate chip bags everywhere. We've been using it for years... we have it cut out and pasted into the recipe book just in case Hershey stops printing it... but for now it's always easy to find!

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Chipits, obviously...!)
  • These are "drop cookies" - so all you have to do is drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet
  • Make sure you leave a little room between cookies, because they'll spread out a little bit
  • Bake at 375 F for about 10 minutes