Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

I've wanted to try my hand at making homemade chicken noodle soup for a while. I had a craving for it recently, so I checked in my most reliable cookbook. I was pleasantly surprised to find a quick and easy recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, copyright 1996. It took about half an hour to make, and my entire family gobbled it up. I used chicken tenderloins and browned them in a skillet with a little salt and pepper before cubing them and adding them to the soup. I also added dried thyme and used egg noodles, which really held up well in the leftover soup.

4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped onion (or 2 T onion powder)
2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
1 10-oz package frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup medium noodles or other small pasta (I used wide egg noodles)
2 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey

In a large saucepan combine chicken broth, onion, basil, oregano, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in vegetables. Bring to boiling.

Stir in uncooked noodles. Return to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover.

Simmer 8 minutes or till noodles are tender but still firm and vegetables are crisp-tender. Discard bay leaf. Stir in chicken or turkey and heat through.

Makes 8 cups (6 main-dish servings)

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Honestly, this is the easiest cookie recipe I've ever made, besides buying the pre-made dough. I think there are several websites that have the recipe. gets the credit here. These are so easy, my now five-year-old can help me make them. They're ready in less than fifteen minutes from start to finish...unless you have a five-year-old helping. Then, it might be more like twenty minutes! We like to add chocolate chips to our dough, but anything can be added for extra deliciousness. This is our go-to Santa cookie recipe, too.

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar (may decrease by 1 or 2 T if too sweet), plus extra for dipping
1 large egg
Optional: chocolate chips, raisins, M&M's, pretzels, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the sugar and egg together. Add the peanut butter and any other optional ingredients. Combine until smooth. Form into 1 inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Dip a fork into sugar. Then, press the fork into the balls, forming a criss-cross pattern.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the pan for about 10 minutes to allow the cookies to set before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 1 dozen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ginger Cookies w/Tangy Lemon Icing

I got this recipe from Cuisine Cookies for the Holidays (from Cuisine at Home). Once I saw it, I knew I had to try them out! They are delicious, especially with the lemon icing.

Cookie Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup minced candied ginger*
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
Turbinado (raw), coarse, or granulated sugar

Icing Ingredients:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tbsp powdered egg whites or meringue powder**
1 tbsp milk
Minced zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Stir flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, salt, and pepper together for cookies in a bowl; set aside.

Cream butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar together in a bowl with a mixer until smooth. Add egg, beat until incorporated, then beat in the molasses, candied ginger, and fresh ginger. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing just to combine. Chill dough until slightly firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into balls, about 1/8 cup worth. Smooth into balls, coat in turbinado sugar, and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Flatten balls with the bottom of a measuring cup (I sprayed the bottom with non-stick cooking spray first), then bake 10-12 minutes, or until set. Let cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack.

Whisk all ingredients for the icing together until smooth, then spread some icing on each cookie with a spatula. Allow the icing to harden before packaging.

Makes ~2-1/2 dozen cookies.

*Candied ginger (which I found in the bulk section) is sticky. It's easier to chop if you pile the ginger on a cutting board, sprinkle it with powdered sugar, then rock the knife through it. Shake the minced pieces in your hand to sift away the excess sugar.
**I found meringue powder at Hobby Lobby, a craft supply store (it is made by Wilton).

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

Makes 20 truffles (but easily doubled!).

1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup finely chopped salted pretzels
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, melted

Combine peanut butter and pretzels in a small bowl. Chill in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Roll the peanut butter mixture into 20 balls (about 1 tsp each). Place on baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and freeze until very firm, about 1 hour. Roll the frozen balls in melted chocolate. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

English Toffee

I found a toffee recipe via Pinterest and changed it just a bit to make it my own. Wow! It turned out fantastic. It's dangerous knowing that toffee this good is so easy to make! (Note: I did not add the chocolate layer, but I included that part of the recipe for anyone who wants to try it.)

1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds or pecans (for bottom layer)
2 cups butter (salted)
2 cup sugar
2 T light corn syrup
6 T water
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds or pecans (for top layer)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil, brush with vegetable oil, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of toasted nuts on the foil. In heavy saucepan melt butter. Add sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook and stir over medium-high heat to boiling.

Cook and stir over medium heat to 290 degrees using a candy thermometer (soft-crack stage). Watch carefully and stir, it can burn easily after 280 degrees. Remove from heat and pour mixture over the nuts in the pan immediately. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. chopped nuts OR see below.

Let stand 5 minutes or until firm but still hot. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let the stand for 1 to 2 minutes. When softened, spread chocolate over mixture. Sprinkle the chocolate with nuts. Chill till firm. Break into pieces. Store tightly covered. Makes 3 pounds.

Cocoa Cherry Drops

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into butter mixture. Stir in cherries and chopped walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Kris Kringle Cookies

Makes 6 dozen cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 pkg (6 squares each) Baker's premium white baking chocolate, chopped
2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups dried cranberries (I used 1 cup cranberries & 1 cup cherries)

Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate, pecans, and cranberries.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 1-1/2 inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 3 min; remove to wire racks. Cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

(You can substitute walnuts or almonds for the pecans and chopped dried apricots or mixed dried fruit bits for the cranberries.)

Candy Cane Blossoms

Makes 4 dozen cookies

48 Hershey's Kisses Candy Cane Candies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
red and/or green sugar crystals*

Heat the oven to 350. Remove wrappers from candies.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla in large bowl until well-blended. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; add alternatively with milk to butter mixture, beating until well-blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in red/green sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookie is set. Remove from oven; cool 2-3 minutes. Press a candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

*You can also roll them in granulated sugar or powdered sugar. I like the festive colors. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Makes about 50 cookies

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, cinnamon, chili powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until combined, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla; add to butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Add flour mixture; mix on low speed until combined. Cover dough and chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350, line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape dough into 1 in balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar two times, then arrange on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 in . apart. Bake cookies until tops are cracked yet still soft, 10-11 minutes; do not overbake. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Nutella Cookies

Makes 2 dozen 3-in cookies

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t. each baking soda and salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. Nutella
1 t. vanilla extract
Finely chopped hazelnuts (I used pecans)

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed, 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to fully incorporate before adding the next.

Add Nutella and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Chill dough 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop dough with a #30 scoop (scant 3 T.); roll in hazelnuts. Bake cookies, six at a time, until edges are set, about 15 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheets.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

This cooler weather just gets me in the mood for soup - especially when my husband makes fresh ciabatta bread to go along with it! I love broccoli cheese soup, but this one has a few additions to it. It was delicious, and my kids loved helping me make it (one measured ingredients and one peeled potatoes). It even got a, "Wow, this is good!" comment from my husband at the table.

2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 cups chicken broth/stock
3 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes. Add chicken broth and potatoes; bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Mix flour with water, add, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened. Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through. Stir in cheese, allow to melt, and serve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baked Risotto with Spinach, Chicken, and Cremini Mushrooms

I test recipes for The Scramble and get their weekly menu plan (highly recommend, by the way!). This was a fall recipe from there, with the addition of some chicken (you can make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken and using vegetable broth). It was delicious, easy to prepare, and got rave reviews from my husband! It was still delicious heated up for lunch the next day.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
6 oz baby spinach
24 oz. reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
8 oz sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms
1/4 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 lb cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced *

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large oven-proof stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions (season with salt & pepper) and cook them for about 5 minutes or until they are tender. Add the rice and stir to coat it. Stir in the chicken, spinach, broth, mushrooms, and lemon pepper. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 7 minutes.

Stir in 3/4 cup grated cheese, then sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup on top. Cover the pot and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and stir; return it to the oven and bake uncovered for 5 more minutes. Serve it immediately, topped with additional parmesan cheese if desired.

*I had some chicken cooked up ahead of time - it was diced then sautéed in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt & pepper. You can throw the chicken in with the onion to cook with a tad more olive oil, or cook separately.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Crescents

This is such an easy little snack or dessert, maybe even breakfast treat! My whole family loved them. :)

1 tube crescent rolls
peanut butter
semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini ones)

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the unrolled crescent rolls onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper underneath). Spread a layer of peanut butter on each triangle; top with chocolate chips. Roll from the bottom of the triangle to the point. Place in the oven and bake 10-11 minutes or until golden brown. Serve while warm.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Salted Caramels

One of the best candies of all-time (in my opinion) can be homemade with this recipe. Be sure to read it through before you dive in as there are a lot of steps that have to happen at the correct time. Enjoy!

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1 c. heavy cream
5 T. unsalted butter
1 t. fine fleur de sel (I used kosher salt instead), plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract


1. Prep the pan. Line an 8 in. square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.

2. Boil the sugar. In a deep saucepan, combine 1/4 c. water, sugar, and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over med-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don't stir-- just swirl the pan.

3. Heat the cream. In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and 1 t. of the salt to a simmer over med. high heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.

4. Finish the caramel. When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. BE CAREFUL-- it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 min., until the mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Note: I HIGHLY recommend the candy thermometer. I tried to do it with a candle thermometer and ended up with caramels that were too soft.

5. Fill the pan. Very carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

6. Cut the caramel. When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.

7. Roll it up. Starting with a long side, roll the caramel up tightly into an 8 in. log.

8. Cut into pieces. Sprinkle the log with salt, trim the ends and cut into 8 pieces. It's easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil.

9. Wrap the candies. Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4"x5" pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Salad

This is one of my all-time favorite side dishes/desserts. I always serve it at Thanksgiving, but it is great for a summer picnic or a potluck.

3/4 c. butter
2 c. crushed pretzels
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
6 oz. pkg. strawberry Jell-O
2 c. hot water
2 pkg. thawed frozen (16 oz.) strawberries
9 oz. Cool Whip

Melt butter; add pretzels. Bake for 10 min. in 9x13 in. Pyrex pan at 350 degrees. Cool and set aside.

Soften cream cheese in a bowl; add powdered sugar. Mix with crushed pretzels and spread into the pan. Cool pretzel crust and refrigerate.

Boil water and add to Jell-O in bowl. Add thawed out strawberries. Pour over cooled pretzel crust. Refrigerate for four hours. Spread Cool Whip on top just before serving.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Korean Salad Dressing

If you like the flavors in Korean food, you will LOVE this salad dressing! I ate three bowls of mixed greens (with scallions) because it was SO good! My five year old gobbled up all his salad and asked for more, after eating up the leftover dressing with a spoon. All the ingredients are available at the regular grocery store except for the chili pepper powder. I keep it on hand from Saraga, an Asian food store close to my regular grocery store.

* ¼ cup soy sauce
* 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
* 4 Tbsp water
* 2 Tbsp sugar
* 3 Tbsp sesame oil
* 3 tsp red chili pepper powder (kochukaru)
* crushed sesame seeds (optional)