Cooking

Easy Homemade Cashew Brittle

Homemade Cashew Brittle

If you need a great food gift- perhaps something to bring to a holiday party- this brittle might just be the answer. This is also a great option when you just don’t have a lot of time. It is fast and easy to make.

I was given this recipe at a craft show a few years ago. The brittle is cooked in the microwave. No special thermometers or equipment required. Just a glass bowl and a few minutes of your time. It could not be simpler.  It is really good, too.

You can use other nuts, if you prefer, or peanuts. You can add a little cayenne pepper, if you want a spicy version. You can also dress it up with a drizzle of chocolate, once cooled.  So many ways to enjoy it.

 

Stored in a covered container, in a cool, dry place, the brittle will stay crunchy for weeks.

 

 

 Homemade Cashew Brittle

2 c. cashews*

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. corn syrup

1/8 t. salt

1 t. butter

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

Butter or oil a large baking sheet and set aside. In a 3-4 quart glass bowl combine the nuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave, stir well and return to microwave. Cook 3 more minutes in microwave. Remove and stir in butter and vanilla, stirring until butter has melted. Return to microwave and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in baking soda. Stir until well blended and pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Spread out quickly, then allow to cool. Once cool, break into pieces. Store in a cool, dry place. I normally store it in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

* I used salted cashews but feel free to experiment with other nuts

Note: Use high power setting on microwave.

 

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

It is the time of year when a lot of people are baking cookies. I thought I would share one of my favorite cookie recipes with you. It takes the chocolate chip cookie to another level. Kind of dressed up for the holidays.

These little cookies are delicate and full of flavor. I will admit to being a big fan of shortbread cookies.I make a lot of different shortbread cookies for Christmas. This one is always on my list.

 

These are enhanced with mini chocolate chips and just melt in your mouth. I leave them as is, but you could add a drizzle of melted chocolate, if you like.

 

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

1 c. butter (no substitutions), softened
½ c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
¼ c. cornstarch
½ c. mini chocolate chips
2-3 T. granulated sugar
With electric mixer beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until well mixed. Stir in flour and cornstarch and then stir in chips. Form into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheet. Pour granulated sugar on a small plate and dip bottom of drinking glass into the sugar and use this to gently flatten down the cookies. Press small indent in each cookie with a teaspoon. Bake in a preheated 300-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies start to brown on the bottom. Cool on sheets 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Makes about 3 ½ dozen.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

This Christmas “tree” has become a tradition around here. I make one as a gift for a dear friend every year. If you are looking for something to serve for Christmas morning, or even as a dessert option, I suggest you make this coffee cake. The recipe actually makes 2 “trees,” so you can have one to give- and one to keep. Or perhaps, one for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day.

The dough is prepared, then chilled before rolling. You can do that a day, or even two days, ahead of time. The rolls are filled with a pineapple and cream cheese mixture and are very tasty.

The rolls are arranged in a tree pattern before baking. Then, after baking,  the “tree” is topped with a light glaze and gently sprinkled with red and green sugars. So pretty, and not that hard to make.

Here is the recipe.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

Dough:
4-4 1/2 c. bread flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
2 packages active dry yeast
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
Filling:
1 lb. Cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash salt
1/4 t. vanilla
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple in its own juice drained and squeezed dry
Topping:
11 Maraschino cherries, halved
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. milk
red and green sugars

For dough in large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the sugar, salt and yeast. Heat together the milk, water and butter until very warm. Add to flour mixture and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and 1 more cup of flour and beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining dough to make a stiff batter, about 1 cup. Cover bowl tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days before using. For filling combine all ingredients for the filling except the pineapple and beat until smooth. Stir in pineapple and set aside until ready to use. Remove dough from fridge cut in half. Roll out one piece on lightly floured surface into a 10×11- inch rectangle. Spread with half the filling, leaving an inch at the end of 11-inch side. Roll up from eleven- inch side. Use thread or dental floss to cut through dough in 1-inch pieces by placing thread under roll and crossing ends. Pull outward and thread should cut through dough. If you aren’t having any luck you can always use a knife, but they tend to flatten the rolls. On a greased baking sheet arrange the slices (you should have 11) into a tree shape. Start with one on the top and then a row of 2 below then 3 and then 4. The last roll will serve as the trunk. Cover dough with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. When dough is risen, about 1-2 hours bake in a 375- degree oven for 15 minutes then cover edges with foil to prevent over browning and return to oven for 10 minutes more. Cool on wire rack. Place half a cherry in the middle of each roll. Make a glaze with powdered sugar and milk and drizzle over. Sprinkle with the sugars. Makes 2 trees, 11 rolls each. Can be frozen up to a month ahead . defrost in a 350 -degree oven for 10 minutes and apply toppings.

Fig Kolachy Cookies

Fig Kolachy

These cookies really speak to me about the holidays. I have fond memories of making these delicate cookies with my Mother every Christmas. I still make them.

I often make them with a cherry filling, but have also used blueberry, apple or nut fillings. I decided to make a batch with fig jam, for a change.

I made my own fig jam, ( recipe follows)  but you could use store bought, if you prefer. You can also finish off the cookies with a light dusting of powdered sugar, if you like. I really love the way they taste. Something rich about the cookie. Perfect end to a holiday meal.

 

Fig Kolachy

Dough

3 sticks butter

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

3 cups flour

Fig Jam– recipe follows

Powdered sugar, optional

Mix dough ingredients together and chill well before using.

Roll out chilled dough into squares or circles. Spoon a little fig filling into the center and pinch 2 ends or corners together. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until golden on edges. Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Makes 4-5 dozen.

 

Fig Jam

1 lb. dried figs
2 c. water
1-2 c. sugar- I used 1 cup, but use according to your taste
Zest of 2 lemons
2 t. cinnamon
Chop up figs and place in saucepan with the water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Add sugar, zest and cinnamon and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking. Puree mixture and set aside to cool.

 

Phyllo Chocolate Fan Cookies

Chocolate Fan Cookies

If you want a cookie that is really going to impress, you might want to make these Chocolate Fans. They are crisp, not too sweet, and tipped with chocolate and fine chopped nuts.

While they look difficult to make, they are actually quite easy. For starters, you don’t have to make dough. These are made with phyllo dough.

Phyllo is found in the freezer section at the grocery store. Phyllo dough (also spelled filo)  can be a little fussy. Be sure to keep extra dough covered with a damp towel so it won’t dry out and get brittle. It is best to work quickly when making these. We made these dipped in finely chopped toasted almonds. Other nuts could be used. You could also use white chocolate, if you prefer. I have even added a few sprinkles to the nuts for a pop of color.

 

 

 

Chocolate Fan Cookies

1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed*
1 c. butter, melted
12-oz. chocolate chips
2 T. shortening- you can use coconut oil instead
1 c. finely chopped nuts or coconut, pistachios are extra nice

Remove phyllo from box, still rolled up and cut crosswise into 5-6 equal pieces. Keep unused dough covered in a damp towel to prevent drying out. Take one piece of dough and open it up, cutting it in half crosswise. Take 1 sheet and brush with butter. Place another sheet on top and brush again with butter. Place third piece of dough on top and butter again. Starting at short end begin to fold the dough in ¾ inch folds, accordion style. Pinch together at one end and fan out the dough at the other. It should look like a little fan. Place on ungreased baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool. Melt chocolate and shortening together in microwave or on top of double boiler. Stir to smooth. Dip tip of wide end of fans in melted chocolate and then in the nuts or coconut. Place on a rack to cool and harden. Makes about 65 fans. Can be frozen.

 

 

*I buy frozen phyllo dough but be sure to get the right one. Around here there are 2 different sizes. You’ll need the long box- where the dough is 15 inches long.

Cinnamon Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Cinnamon Pecan Shortbread

It seems I am always making variations on shortbread cookies. I love shortbread. I am not alone- so many friends have told me the same thing. There is something about the crumbly texture of shortbread that makes them a favorite for a lot of people.

This recipe is a classic shortbread, topped with cinnamon and pecans. They are really good. You just make a batch of dough, top with a cinnamon – pecan mixture, and bake. Could not be simpler.

As soon as they come out of the oven cut them into little strips. I got nearly 100 out of one batch. It depends on the size you cut them. If you are looking for a simple, yet wonderful cookie, you might want to try these.

 

  Cinnamon Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 c. butter

1 c. sugar

1 egg, separated

2 c. flour

1 T. water

½ c. finely chopped pecans

2 t. cinnamon

 

Lightly grease jellyroll pan (10×15). Mix butter, sugar and egg yolk then stir in flour. Pat into pan. Beat egg white with water until frothy and spread over dough. Combine pecans and cinnamon. Sprinkle on nut mixture and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut immediately into tiny strips, makes 50- 100 .

Sugared Nuts

Sugared Nuts

If you are looking for a quick, homemade food gift, make these nuts!!!! Or forget the gift giving- just make a batch for yourself.

Many years ago, my sister Cindy gave me the recipe for making these nuts. I make at least a few batches every year.

I will admit to tweaking the recipe a little over time, but the basics are still the same. Nuts are placed in a heavy skillet with sugar, water and seasonings. The mixture is then brought to a boil and cooked until most of the liquid cooks off.

This takes about 10 minutes, give or take. You dump the nuts onto a cookie sheet, and start stirring immediately. If you don’t stir them, they will stick together.

This is where the magic happens. The nuts look wet when you pour them out and start stirring, but in a few minutes, they cool and dry, and the sugar crystallizes on the nuts.

Once cooled, the nuts are crunchy and sweet and very tasty. You can use them as a snack, or in all sorts of recipes. This is a really fast confection to make, and is a nice gift, too.

Sugared Nuts

4-5 c. nuts, I like walnuts or pecans
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. orange peel
1 t. salt, optional
Place all ingredients in heavy skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until all the water disappears. Whatever liquid in the pan will be clinging to the nuts and syrupy. Dump nuts onto a large cookie sheet and break apart with a wooden spoon to prevent clumping. As nuts cool, stir once or twice to remove any remaining clumps, and to cool faster. Nuts will lose their glossy appearance and attain a sugary crust. If it looks like nut soup, you didn’t cook them long enough, and you must return all to the skillet and cook longer. As the nuts start to get drier during cooking, you can turn down the heat a little to prevent burning. Once you’ve made a few batches, though, you will get good at judging when to stop cooking. You can also make a spicy version by adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper along with the other ingredients. Store in cool, dry place to keep nuts fresh longer.

Cookie Candies

Cookie Candies

There are so many cookies I bake this time of year, I could never pick a favorite. There are some cookies that are a MUST bake, however.

These cookie-candies are one of them. They get their name because, once decorated, they look like little pieces of candy.

Under the sprinkles are rich and tasty oatmeal shortbread cookies. The dough is easy to handle. You just shape small amounts into shapes like circles, squares and ovals. They hold their shape.

After they are shaped and baked, the cookies are dipped in chocolate and then in assorted toppings. You can dip them in sprinkles, finely chopped nuts and coconut. Pretty and tasty.

 

Cookie-Candies

1 c. butter

¾ c. powdered sugar

1 T. vanilla

2 c. flour

½ c. rolled oats

½ c. chocolate chips

¼ c. milk

finely chopped nuts

assorted sprinkles

shredded coconut

Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour and oats. Shape teaspoonfuls of the dough into different shapes like rounds, ovals, cones cubes etc. Try to make them look like little candies. They will hold their shape very well while baking. Bake in a 325- degree oven for 20-25 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet. Cool. In microwave safe dish combine chocolate and milk and melt. Dip tops of cookies in chocolate mixture and then in one of the toppings you have. Chocolate topping will harden up after a while. Makes about 4 dozen.

Herb Crusted Pork Chops with Pomegranate Glaze

Herb Crusted Pork Chop with Pomegranate Glaze

I made this recipe the other night and was so happy with the way the pork chops tasted. I decided to share the recipe with you. It was really pretty simple. The key to cooking pork is not to overcook it. These were lean pork chops and they could have dried out easily.

You don’t want pork to be raw, but it can be a little link in the middle. This one was juicy and very tender, too. I used pomegranate jelly to give it a sweetness. If you don’t have pomegranate jelly (I posted the recipe for that yesterday), you could use cherry jelly instead. either would work nicely.

The Tuscan Seasoning I used is my own blend. The recipe for that follows. You can use it in all sorts of dishes. I love adding it to soups, or combining it with olive oil and dipping bread into it.

 

 

 

Herb Crusted Pork Chops with Pomegranate Glaze

pork chops – allow 1 large chop per person

salt- I used pink salt

Tuscan seasoning- recipe follows

Pomegranate jelly- 2 Tablespoons for each pork chop

 

Heat skillet over medium high heat. While pan heats up, sprinkle each pork chop with salt and the Tuscan seasoning. Rub seasoning mix all over the chops to cover well. Place chops in skillet and cook until nice and golden on one side before turning. Continue cooking until chop is golden on both sides. The pork chops I was cooking were about an inch thick. I kept them over a medium heat- so it would cook through without burning. I prefer my pork just a little pink in the middle. Feel free to cook your chops longer, until meat gets to the doneness level you prefer.

Once the chops are close to done, spoon the jelly into the skillet. As the jelly melts, spoon it over the chops. Remove the chops to rest a few minutes before serving. Continue cooking the jelly in the pan until thickened and a little syrupy. Spoon over the chops before serving.

 

Tuscan Seasoning

½ c. dried basil

½ c. dried oregano

½ c. dried marjoram

3 T. dried minced onion

2 T. dried minced garlic

2 T. dried rosemary

2 T. dried parsley

1 t. crushed red pepper

 

Use this blend in tomato sauce or other Italian dishes. Also, you can add to vinegar and oil with a little salt, if desired, to make a quick salad dressing.

 

 

Cream Wafers

Cream Wafer Cookies

Cream Wafers  are a little more work than most cookies, but they are worth it. They are the most requested cookies of all the ones I make. The secret is the dough, which contains no sugar. It is made from only three ingredients- flour, butter and heavy whipping cream.

When baked, they turn into flaky layers that melt in your mouth.  Seriously, if you want to really impress this holiday season, show up at a party with these cookies.

Cream wafers are coated in sugar before baking. You can use tinted sugar, if you like. Once baked and cooled, they are made into little sandwich cookies, using a buttercream frosting. You can also tint the frosting if you like.

Because they puff when baking and become thicker, and you are using two of them to make the sandwich cookie, be sure to roll them out pretty thin.

Here is the recipe. Hope you enjoy!!

 

Cream Wafers

1 c. butter
1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
2 c. flour
extra fine or granulated sugar
Frosting:
¼ c. butter, softened
¾ c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
food coloring, if desired

Mix butter, cream and flour well. Wrap and chill at least an hour. Roll chilled dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut out into 1½ inch rounds or even little hearts or stars. Transfer cookies to a sheet of wax paper heavily coated with extra fine or granulated sugar and coat both sides. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and prick each cookie 4 times with a fork. Bake at 375-degrees 7-9 minutes until lightly browned and puffy. Cool on rack. Mix frosting ingredients. Put 2 cookies together with frosting to make “sandwiches”.

New Release: