Easter cookie wreaths

When I got the last King Arthur Flour in the mail, I couldn’t help but notice right away the recipe for Easter cookie wreaths.

They were pretty and looked like they’d be perfect to add to Easter baskets for the grandkids.

Plus, my granddaughter, Briar, loves anything — and I mean almost anything – if it’s got sprinkles on it. So these looked like a winner.

Ingredients:

For the cookies

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, optional
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup confectioners’ or glazing sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ or glazing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • nonpareils, for decorating

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, Fiori, salt, baking powder, and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, mixing until smooth. Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I only refrigerated mine for 45 minutes, and the dough was fine.)

CookieCutterPreheat your oven to 350°. Roll the dough 1/8″ thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out 2-inch circles and transfer them to greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Using a 1/2-inch pastry tip — or whatever else you have handy — cut out a center circle from each cookie. When you’ve cut all of the cookies you can, gather up all of the dough pieces, re-roll and cut out more. MakingCookieCenter

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until their bottoms and edges have turned slightly golden; they won’t brown very much.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely before icing. WreathBeforeOven

To make the icing, combine all of the ingredients — except the nonpareils, of course — until smooth. Dip the top of each cookie into the icing, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Allow the icing to set before serving or storing the cookies. WreathCookiesAreDone

This recipe yielded  27 cookies for me. If you’ve never worked with Fiori di sicilia, I suggest you try it. It has a lovely, light citrusy taste that isn’t overpowering. In fact, when I make these cookies again, I’m going to use 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of it to rev up the flavor a bit.

If you try these, let me know how they turned out for you. I’m hoping my grandkids like them more than a plain old boring chocolate bunny in their Easter baskets. After all, anyone can buy a chocolate bunny, but only a super-duper grandma will make cookies. 🙂

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Sweet corn muffins

I admit it; I’m a sucker for the word sweet in a recipe title. How ’bout you? So, when I saw this recipe  for prize-winning winning (that’s another modifier I can’t resist) sweet cornmeal muffins, I knew I had to try them.  This comes from the Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup whole
  • sparkling sugar for the top, optional

Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400°ͦ degrees. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray or use paper muffin cups.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs and whisk vigorously until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add 6 tablespoons sour cream and ¼ cup milk and whisk to combine, then whisk in remaining 6 tablespoons sour cream and remaining ¼ cup milk until combined.

CornMuffinBatterAdd your wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Be careful not to over mix. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, dropping batter to form mounds. You don’t want to flatten the batter.

Bake until muffins are light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack, let cool 5 minutes longer, and serve warm.

CornMuffinsDone

Full-recipe disclosure: I let my batter sit for a couple of minutes to let the baking powder work its magic a bit more. Also, I sprinkled some sparkling sugar on each to give them a deliciously sweet crunch on top.

Delicious breakfast sausage casserole

I love all things breakfast. Pancakes. Waffles. Bacon. Bacon. Bacon. Eggs. Sausage. While He Who Must Be Fed and I don’t usually eat those delicious breakfast items Monday through Friday, we do like to enjoy some of them on the weekends.

And if you can combine some of those breakfast ingredients together? Fabulous.

Here’s one to try, a breakfast sausage casserole that includes some of those marvelous breakfast ingredients: eggs, cheese, bread, sausage. What’s not to love?

Ingredients:

  • ½ loaf of sliced white bread
  • 1 pound fresh bulk pork sausage with sage
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • I medium onion, chopped
  • 3 small sweet peppers chopped or ½ green pepper chopped
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten

Grease a 9×13 pan. Cut your bread into 1-inch cubes and spread into the bottom of your greased pan.

BreadCubesForCasserole

In a medium skillet, brown your sausage until no longer pink. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon. In the sausage essence (AKA fat) left in the pan, cook your onion and peppers until they’re soft, about five minutes.

Layer your cooked sausage over the bread. When the veggies are done, layer them on top of the sausage. Then top with cheese.BreadAndSausage

BreadSausageAndCheese

Stir together the half-and-half, dry mustard, salt and eggs. Pour the mixture over the cheese. Cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight. I overnighted it.

CasseroleIntoOven

Preheat your over to 350°.

Bake your covered casserole until set and slightly golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it set for 15 minutes before serving. We were super hungry that Sunday, so I didn’t let it set, but it turned out fine.

Full-recipe disclosure: If you check out the recipe online, you’ll notice it calls for 10 ounces of cheese, but that was just too much cheese, so I reduced it to eight ounces. You’ll also notice the original recipe doesn’t call for onions and peppers, but c’mon, what goes better with sausage than onions and peppers? Adding them, my friends, was a no-brainer.

Enjoy.

Coconut macaroons

I know I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like to be bested in the kitchen. Well, a while ago, we were on the road, and He Who Must Be Fed had a pretty strong sweet tooth. He grabbed a package of coconut macaroons at Wegmans, and I heard how delicious they were the whole ride back home.

I had never made them before. But how hard could they be? This recipe is from Food Network chef Ina Garten, and it’s easy-peasy.

Ingredients:UncookedCoconut

  • 14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 extra-large egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 325°.

Combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and salt on high speed with an electric mixer that has a whisk attachment.

(OK, I have to digress here a bit. I bought a new mixer with this funky whisk attachment, and this was the first time I MixerAttachmentused it. While I was whisking the egg whites, I needed to grab something, so I let go of the bowl for a second. Just as I let go of the bowl, the egg whites splashed everywhere. Sticky egg whites on the floor, in my hair, in the crevices of the cabinets, all over my shirt. Everywhere.  So, if you have something similar, learn from my mistake. Keep one hand on your mixer and the other holding the bowl in place.)

Back to baking: Once you have successfully whipped the egg whites into medium-firm peaks, gently fold them into the coconut mixture.

UnbakedMacaroonsLine your cookie sheets with parchment paper, and drop about a tablespoon of batter onto the sheets for each cookie. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

He Who Must Be Fed said they’re better than the store-bought ones. Take that, Wegmans.

BakedMacaroons

Luscious lemon cookies

When I first tried these cookies, I never knew they would be so popular. He Who Must Be Fed loves lemon, so I started making them for him. Then I had to stop for a while because his pants were getting a little tight.

Then, when others tried them, they loved them, too. Now, sometimes some of my friends on campus slyly (though it’s really not that slyly) hint that I haven’t made them in a while.

So it seems only right that I share them with all of my foodie friends. 

Ingredients:

Lemons

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sugar

For the frosting

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons butter

Heat your oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix sugar and butter until creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add honey and eggs and continue beating for another minute. Add the remaining cookie ingredients. Continue beating until just mixed then finish mixing by hand.

Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls then roll the balls into sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. I forgot to do this the last time I made them, so my cookies will look rounder, but they still tasted terrific. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely.

LemonCookiesFor the frosting, combine all the ingredients into a large bowl. Beat on low speed until mixed for about a minute. You’ll want to start the mixer slowly, or you’ll end up covered in powdered sugar. Then beat at high speed for about two minutes.

Frost your cookies and enjoy.

Irresistible strawberry frosting

I love strawberries. In shortcake. Jam and jelly. Covered in chocolate. On and in ice cream. All by themselves. But I had never thought about making strawberry frosting. I had seen tubs of ready-made strawberry frosting in the store, but they always looked kind of gross.

Then I saw a  picture of a beautiful strawberry-frosted cake in a magazine. The cake was so beautiful that I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m so glad I did. This frosting is delicious and deliciously simple.

StrawberriesIngredients:

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 32 oz. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Mix the butter with your mixer until it’s light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add your sugar and strawberries. Start your mixer slowly, or you’re going to end up with sugar all over the kitchen. Trust me on this one. My Corgi is still licking up the sugar from the floor.

I always use this frosting on a white cake, which is freakin’ awesome. But imagine how delicious – and pretty — it would be on a chocolate or red velvet cake? It’d kind of be like a chocolate-covered strawberry.StrawberryCakeDone

If you try it on a chocolate cake, let me know how it turned out. That might be my next experiment.

Bacon Beer Bread

“Wow.” That’s all He Who Must Be Fed said when he bit into a warm slice of Bacon Beer Bread, a new recipe I got from The Novice Chef blog.

As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew it was going to be a winner. After all, it has the three b’s – bacon beer and butter – and we weren’t disappointed.  Since I knew it was going to be special, I made two loaves, so I could share one with my friend James and his family. They liked it, too.

Ingredients:

  • 5 strips of thick-cut bacon (I used Oscar Mayer)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

BaconCookingCook your bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the bacon grease into a heat-proof bowl and let cool. Once bacon is cool enough to touch, rip it into little pieces and set aside. If you used your fingers instead of chopping the bacon with a knife then you can rub a little dab of the “bacon essence” behind each ear to make yourself irresistible to your significant other. 🙂

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add your pieces of bacon. Using a wooden spoon, stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Then spoon the batter into the pan. Pour the cooled bacon grease on top of the batter.BaconBreadBeforeCooking

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve immediately with a generous bit of more butter.

It’s also delicious the next day, toasted with some more butter.

BaconBeerBreadDone

Now THIS is coconut cream pie

When I got my first apartment, one of the things I took from home was my dad’s Betty Crocker cookbook because at that time – oh so many moons ago – it was THE quintessential cookbook. Now, even though great recipes are literally at our fingertips, I still use it. (You can tell from the sad condition that it’s in.) BatteredCookbookIn fact, I used it just the other day when I made He Who Must Be Fed a coconut cream pie.

But before I get started on the recipe, I need to ask you: Do you want to make good coconut cream pie or unforgettable coconut cream pie? Perhaps that’s a rhetorical question. Who wants to make good when you can make unforgettable?  If so, then you need to know one secret: You have to toast some of the coconut first. It adds an intensity and richness to the pie that plain white coconut can’t.

Preheat your oven to 350°. Place ½ cup coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until it’s nicely browned. Keep an eye on it. Once it starts to brown, it’ll brown quickly. You want it brown, not black.BrownedCoconut

Ingredients for a 9-inch pie:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut ( ½ cup browned, ½ cup pearly white)

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil one minute. Remove from the heat. Gradually – and I do mean gradually or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs — stir at least half of the hot mixture into your egg yolks.  I do it a spoonful at a time. Then add that to the hot mixture in your saucepan.

Boil one minute more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Blend in butter, vanilla and coconut. Pour immediately into a baked pie shell. Top with meringue.

Ingredients for your meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Heat over to 4oo°. Beat your egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add the sugar, a little at a time. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. Pile the meringue on top of your pie. Make sure you seal your edges. If you want to make it look super fancy, swirl the meringue around a bit for a decorative top. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and keep away from any drafts.CoconutCreamPie

Now THAT is coconut cream pie. I hope you like it.

Stuffed pepper soup

We have a restaurant in town that serves some pretty tasty soups. And, as you might suspect, I don’t like to be bested in the kitchen. So when I saw He Who Must Be Fed enjoying his stuffed pepper soup while we were out to dinner, I realized I needed to make it.

Years ago, someone gave us a recipe for it, scribbled on a scrap of paper. However, in my attempt to organize my recipes, which used to be a jumbled mish-mash, I tossed it. So, I was pretty much flying blind on this one, particularly since I had never made it before.

But, how hard could it be? As it turns out, it wasn’t.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beefBigGreenPeppers
  • 2 big green peppers, chopped (As you can see from the photo, mine were enormous, almost like mutant peppers from outer space. If yours aren’t that big, add a third pepper.)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 ½ cups beef broth
  • 2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven cook your meat, peppers and onions over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. You want the meat to be cooked through and the veggies soft.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir and simmer for about 30 minutes.StuffedPepperSoupCooking

When serving, you may want to add a little grated or shredded Parmesan.

FinishedStuffedPepperSoup

See? Easy-peasy.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Happy National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. To help you prepare to celebrate such a momentous occasion, I shared yesterday what I hope will be a new peanut butter favorite for you – Peanut Butter Bacon Blondies. 

Today I’m sharing what is probably an old favorite: Peanut Butter Blossoms.  These are pretty popular. I think almost everyone makes them. However, did you ever make them and the chocolate kiss falls off? He Who Must Be Fed hates when that happens. He hates it a lot. Well, with this recipe from Crisco, your kisses will stay stuck.

You can also vary the kisses you use. I use Hershey’s miniature kisses, which enable me to use three or four delicious kisses of chocolate – depending on the size of the cookie – which my guy and others like even better.

 Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup Crisco® Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Sugar
  • A bag of Hershey’s miniature kisses (You will likely not need the entire bag, so then I guess you’ll have to eat the rest. Am I right?)

Heat your oven to 375°F. Cream together shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms.

Shape into one-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and press your kisses firmly into each cookie. Then return to the oven. Bake for an additional 3 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on your baking sheet then remove to a cooling rack.BlossomsDone

Full recipe disclosure: I noticed the baking instructions at the Crisco site vary from the recipe I have from Crisco, which came in a little cook booklet.  I recommend you follow the instructions I’ve included – baking for 8 minutes, kissing the cookies and then returning them to the oven for 3 more minutes — because I think this is why the kisses don’t pop off the cookies.

Happy National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Enjoy.