Halloween Honey Cookies

Halloween Honey Cookies 1

I tend to make the bulk of my rolled out cookies during the holidays. But since I was craving my honey cookies, and Halloween is just around the corner, I decided to make some this week. They’ll make fun care packages…

Halloween Honey Cookies 2
My favorite Halloween cookie cutter is the scary cat. When decorated with the spooky purple rubble sprinkles, it’s adorable (and tasty!):
Halloween Honey Cookies 3

Honey Cookies

  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract in your mixer or a large bowl until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Separate dough into 3 balls and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 8 minutes. They will look pretty brown due to the honey but don’t fret! Adding the icing will moisten them up, making a crispier cookie better. Decorate with your favorite royal icing and cover with festive Halloween sprinkles like these or colored sugar.

Rum Banana Bread with Milk Chocolate Chips


Rum Banana Bread with Milk Chocolate Chips

Rum Banana Bread with Milk Chocolate Chips

Adapted from Pastry Affair’s dark rum banana bread. Yields one 9 x 5-inch loaf

  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 average sized bananas)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rum (I used Malibu)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a loaf pan or line it with parchment paper.

In a mixer or a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs individually and mix until combined. Add vanilla extract and mashed bananas and mix until combined. Mix in dry ingredients, scraping down bowl, and mix until all flour is evenly incorporated into the batter. Stir in the rum and the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 70-80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing from pan and transferring loaf to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Miss Erika’s Chicken Pot Pie

image from instagram.com

After coming across Martha Stewart's  pot pie recipe on an especially gloomy December evening, I got motivated to whip a couple up for dinner. Although mine are not as pretty as hers (I should have trimmed my puff pastry more aggressively), I'm pretty sure I improved upon the tastiness a little bit, in addition to slimming down the recipe to be just enough for two robust pot pies.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 14 baby carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek thinly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 -3/4 cups half & half
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray glass baking dish with 1 TBSP olive oil. Add all vegetables and chicken to dish, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 TBSP olive oil and bake until vegetables are starting to brown. Stir vegetables every 10min to keep from drying out. Should be ready in 45 minutes. Let chicken cool, then chop into bite-size chunks, and add back to dish of vegetables.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add
flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and half & half, cooking until liquid
comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove
from heat and add hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce; season with salt
and pepper. Add to bowl with chicken and vegetables; toss to combine.
Divide mixture evenly between 2 round baking
dishes (approx 12 oz).

 

Cut puff pastry into two 8-inch circles and place on top of
each of the baking dishes, crimping edges. Cut slits in the center
of each piece of puff pastry to allow steam to escape; brush push pastry with beaten egg if desired. Place baking dishes on a baking sheet and bake until puff pastry is
golden brown and filling is bubbling, approximately 25 minutes. Let stand 5
minutes before serving.

 

Miss Erika’s Holiday Bread Pudding

our tiny bread pudding for Christmas Eve dessert

It's becoming a holiday tradition for me to make my bread pudding for bringing to our Sonoma Christmas dinner with L's family.

  • 1 loaf of Challah, stale, torn into bite-size chunks (approx 9 cups)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 1 package chocolate chips

Preheat oen to 325 degrees.

Beat eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and bourbon together. Add bread chunks, stirring them into the egg mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow bread to soak up the egg mixture. Pour into buttered 2 quart baking dish. Add chocolate chips and gently toss with bread chunks.

Bake 45 minutes or until set.

Cheddar Cheese Scones

 
image from farm9.staticflickr.com

Nothing says Thanksgiving appetizer like baked treats loaded with butter and cheese, yes? Thus, my cheddar cheese scones, hot out of the oven and destined for tomorrow's Thanksgiving buffet table…

  • 3 cups flour, self-rising
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (8 TBSP)
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Butter 2 cookie sheets or spray with cooking spray; set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F (220 c.) Sift dry ingredients together.
Add butter, cutting in or thumbing in, until butter is integrated
throughout, leaving you with tiny flakey crumbs that clump together if you squeeze them. Slowly pour in buttermilk, stirring in with
a knife until just combined. Add cheddar cheese and combine in with your hands. You will
have a very sticky dough. You may roll out the dough on a floured board
to a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness and cut with a 2" pastry cutter into
rounds, or use a floured ice cream scoop, or your hands, to make the balls of dough
equal sizes and drop onto your cookie sheets. Personally, I prefer the
drop scones, as you get some crunchy bits on top.

Bake 12-15 minutes until they are golden on top. makes up to 20 drop scones, 24 rolled scones.

Cap’n Crunch Coffee Cake

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I've been making one variation or another of this coffee cake since I was in high school. For my most recent batch, whipped up to celebrate my friends Sharon and Ian's housewarming party, I decided to try a little something different with the topping. Instead of the usual brown sugar and butter topping, I went with some Cap'n Crunch. And it was delicious!

For the Topping

  • 3 Cups Cap'n Crunch Cereal, smashed by hand so it is partially crumbled
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup powdered milk
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TSP salt

Combine all these ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

For the Coffee Cake

  • 3 Cup flour
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 5 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 Cup butter (room temperature) or shortening
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375. Grease your loaf pans or muffin tins (I've even used brioche tins with great success for these.) Mix all the coffee cake ingredients in a large bowl or your mixer until blended together, about 1 minute. Spread batter into pans and sprinkle topping over the  top. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the topping starts to brown. Then cover with foil to resume baking for another 20 minutes. Test with cake tester and remove from oven when cake tester comes out clean. Muffin tin sized cakes usually are ready in about 30 minutes, but larger pans have taken up to an hour in our terrible electric oven.

Enjoy!

 

almost aioli

I am not one to make mayonnaise from scratch. Thus I give you: an almost aioli that will be close enough for most folks…

In a small ramekin or glass bowl, mix together the following:

  • 2 heaping soup spoons of mayo
  • a splash (1 tsp?) of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated w/a small hand grater
  • juice of half a lemon
  • two twists of pepper from a pepper grinder

Use a fork to blend the ingredients together. Cover w/plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Very tasty on baguettes, as a sandwich spread or for dipping your artichokes leaves in.

Roasted Chicken and Veggie Soup

My significant other is down for the count battling some sort of yucky illness. This clearly calls for my making a gallon or so of my roasted vegetables and chicken soup for dinner. Roasting the veggies is an extra step that adds to the preparation time, but it also adds to the depth of taste, making it well worth it in my opinion.

For Roasting
1 Napa cabbage, cut into wedges
2 cups plum tomatoes chopped or a can of San Marzano tomatoes
15 smallish russian banana fingerling potatoes, chopped
3 small eggplants, chopped into small chunks
1 large red onion, diced
6 medium size red carrots, chopped
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. seasoned with salt and pepper

For the Soup
1 head of garlic
1 TBSP olive oil
1 can canellini beans
1 64 oz carton vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine

Arrange the veggies and the chicken into as many baking/roasting pans as required to hold them in a single layer (you can roast in batches.) Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and add some optional chopped up fresh dill (to taste) then pop into 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes (pull out vegetables when they start to brown, cook chicken until cooked through and skin is golden.)

Brown 5 chopped cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add all roasted vegetables plus 2 cans of canellini beans, 64 ounces of veggie stock, and one cup of white wine. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Freezes well.

Potato+Leek+Artichoke Casserole

image from farm7.static.flickr.com

We had a nice bit of Fall weather in September, before the Indian Summer fell upon us and made the apartment unfit for cooking. While it was still cold enough to use the oven, I did some side dish experimentation, and made this truly delicious casserole to accompany pork chops.

Potato, Leek and Artichoke Bake

  • 1 TBSP olive oil, plus 2 TSP or a mister
  • 3 Leeks (white and light green portion only), thinly sliced into half moons and rinsed of all dirt.
  • 1 14oz can of atichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3.5-4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, thinly sliced (via mandolin)
  • salt and pepper to taste

I adapted this from a recipe in Everyday Food. I omitted the celery and changed up the cheese including decreasing its amount, and bumped up the amount of leeks.

Preheat oven to 425. Brush 1 1/2 quart baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat; add leeks. Cook 8-10 minutes until softened. Add artichokes, broth and cheese, and stir until combined. Remove skillet form heat, add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange half the potato slices in overlapping rows to act as the base for your casserole. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the artichoke mixture, making sure to evenly spread it out across the potato slices. Layer with remaining potatoes. Mist with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake 40-45 minutes until mixture is bubbly and edges of potatoes are crispy and golden in color. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

The leftovers from this made a great addition to my lunch as well. Reheated for 2 minutes in the microwave at work.

Following a Weekly Meal Plan

A Farmers Market haul

The past month has been terrible from a "you are what you eat" standpoint. Being incredibly busy at work, vacation, then coming back to even longer hours at work has meant we've been doing a ton of eating out. And not a ton of healthy seasonal cooking at home.

This is why yesterday I pulled out all the items in my pantry cupboard to take stock of what we had on hand, and then made a week's meal plan that made good use of what we had on hand. I should note that I had no idea I had 8 cans of enchilada sauce in that cupboard. This is one of the primary drawbacks to using a deep, tall shelf next to the stove as a pantry, but when you're a renter in a high price city, you make do.

Here's what I came up with to help thin out the cupboard, and stop eating out so much:

  • Sat: mus sa mun curry with beef over rice
  • Sun: bean and beef enchiladas
  • Mon: chicken stir fry
  • Tues: Bean and cheese quesadillas
  • Wed: lasagna (make sauce ahead on Sunday)
  • Thur: pork chops
  • Fri: eat out for dinner

I also made sure we had a ton of yogurt and healthy cereal for breakfast, and plenty of tasty yet healthy snacks to keep me away from the cheese. This reminds me I really need to figure out how to make my ideal spicy trail mix. I love that stuff.

Today, I'm doing some prep work (making pasta sauce and a chicken+bean soup), making some sides (bean salad, potato salad, corn muffins) and mixing up chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough for the freezer. That sounds like a fine way to spend a Sunday don't you think?

Easy Pasta Sauce

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 15oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a stockpot and heat on medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become partially translucent. Add in the carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in tomato sauce, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

I'll be using this for my lasagna this week.

Chicken and Black Bean Soup

  • 1 32 oz container Imagine organic chicken broth
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast fillet (i.e. half a chicken breast)
  • 1 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 Tsp poultry seasoning blend of your choice

Pour chicken broth into stockpot and heat on medium high and bring to a boil. Sprinkle chicken breast with your favorite poultry seasoning and salt and pepper then add to the hot broth and poach, removing once meat is white all the way through. Cool chicken until it is at room temperature, then shred into bit size pieces. While your chicken is cooling, reduce heat to low and add in your separately olive oil sauteed onions, garlic and carrots (I did mine at the same time for the pasta sauce then split the total cooked mixture in half). Add back in your shredded chicken and simmer for an hour.

Makes 4 servings. 5 points plus per serving.