Friday, December 2, 2016

Kiss-Hugging Gingerbread People

I am IN LOVE with these little guys! I was inspired by another recipe where cookies were filled with walnuts - but I love the combination of gingerbread and chocolate (OK, I like ANYTHING with chocolate)! And, it's gingerbread cookie season...

These are so easy to make too. I prefer to make my gingerbread cookie dough from scratch because I like my cookies puffed up and chewy, not flat and dry. Feel free to use store-bough dough if you want to get straight to the hugging...

Oh, and you can easily double and triple this recipe to serve a crowd! 

Note: You can make the cookie dough up to 3 days in advance and refrigerate until ready to cut and bake. 

Kiss-Hugging Gingerbread People

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk until blended (or use a fork). Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, egg, molasses, and vanilla. 

Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Dough will be sticky, don't worry. 

Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap. 

Wrap the dough with the plastic, shape into a disc and refrigerate 1 hour (and up to 3 days). 

Generously cover your work surface with flour, and roll out the dough (sprinkle flour on top too, so the rolling pin doesn't stick). Roll out until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick, or slightly thicker for chewier cookies (that's what I do, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick). 

Use a cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread people shapes. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Place a chocolate "kiss" on the center of each cookie and pull up the arms to "hug" the kiss. 

Gently brush off excess flour. 

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until just golden. 

Cool on wire racks before decorating with icing! 

Makes about 16-20 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

Snowball Cookies!

Classic holiday cookies are here! I can't imagine an easier cookie either. My grandmother used to make these; I couldn't remember if she used almonds, pecans or walnuts, so I used almonds because I like those the best. Use your favorite nut when you make them!

If you want to make these for friends, family, teachers, etc., you can easily double and triple the recipe. 

Snowball Cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. 

Add the flour, nuts, sugar, vanilla, and salt. 

Mix until dough comes together - just past the crumbly stage.

Shape the dough into 20 balls and place on a parchment-lined baking pan. 

Bake for 12 minutes, just until the bottom of the cookies start to turn golden (you don't want lots of color on these cookies!

Cool for 5 minutes and then roll in powdered sugar. 

When completely cool, roll in powdered sugar a second time. 

Makes 20 awesome Snowball Cookies! 

Apple Pie Monkey Bread

We love Monkey Bread in our house - it's fun to sit around pulling warm pieces of tender bread from the same dough! The family that eats Monkey Bread together...

I've made both sweet and savory versions, and this one is truly unique. I decided to fill each dough ball with apple from a can of apple pie filling. Then, I used the leftover "liquid" (it's really more like gelatin) from the can of pie filling to make the glaze (with butter, sugar and cinnamon). Easy and fun, and a true crowd-pleaser. 

Consider this idea for holiday brunches, breakfast, luncheons, and dessert!

Apple Pie Monkey Bread

Cooking spray
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 loaf frozen bread dough (1 pound), thawed according to package directions
I can apple pie filling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a Bundt pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Whisk until blended. Pour a little bit of the mixture into the bottom of the Bundt pan and set aside. 

Cut the dough into 32 pieces (I cut the dough in half and then each half in half, and so on, until I got 32 pieces). Press the pieces of dough out until about 1/4-inch thick, and place a piece of apple on top. 

Pull up the sides of the dough, making a little pouch. 

Arrange all 32 pieces of stuffed dough in the prepared pan. Don't worry if some of the pouches open, they will close when they bake. 

Whisk together the remaining butter mixture with any remaining apple pie filling (remove any leftover apple pieces and save them for another use - like over waffles and pancakes on the weekend!). 

Spoon the mixture over the dough in the pan. 

Bake for 30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. 

Let cool for 10 minutes before flipping over onto a serving dish! Serve warm!

Serves 6-8

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Butterscotch Poke Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache

Want to know the truth about this cake? I didn't know what a "poke" cake was, so I Googled it. As soon as I realized that poke cake was literally a "poked" cake (filled with fun things), I HAD to make one!

I started with a boxed cake mix (because I had one on hand and I wanted to get to the poking part faster). You can make a cake from scratch, but I think you'll adore this combination of moist yellow cake, butterscotch pudding, and my rich chocolate ganache.

And when you make your NEXT poke cake, think about the other filling options: chocolate pudding, hot fudge, caramel sauce, fruit preserves...

Note: You can assemble the cake up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate until ready to serve!

Butterscotch Poke Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache

1 yellow cake mix (I substituted half and half for the water and melted butter for the oil; I also added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 containers butterscotch pudding (snack-size; like for lunch boxes)
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix the cake mix according to the package directions. 

Pour the batter in a 9x13-inch pan that's been coated with cooking spray. Bake according to the package directions (I cooked mine at 350 for 20 minutes, instead of 325 for 25 minutes). 

Cool the cake for 15 to 20 minutes before poking. 

Use the bottom of a wooden spoon or spatula to poke several holes in the cake. 

Fill the holes with the pudding, and spread the pudding all over the top. 

Smooth the surface.

To make the ganache, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. 

Place the chocolate chips in a bowl. 

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 10 minutes - WITHOUT STIRRING. 

After 10 minutes, stir until the chocolate is incorporated and fully melted; the mixture should be smooth. Cool for 30 minutes in the refrigerator, until the mixture starts to firm up. 

Use a mixer to beat the ganache into a fluffy icing. 

Spread the icing all over the cake and go to town! 

Cotija-Stuffed Chicken with Taco Seasonings

How amazing does this look?! I wanted to try something different with ordinary chicken; namely, something cheesy. Problem is, most cheeses melt completely out of chicken during cooking, so you're left with a baking sheet covered in cheese! Cotija is different, it melts just enough to be gooey, without leaving the slices of the chicken. 

To keep with the Mexican theme, I seasoned the chicken with the flavors of tacos - you can stick with my recipe, or you can season the chicken with part of a packet of taco seasoning. 

Cotija-Stuffed Chicken

1 pound chicken breasts (I found one LARGE chicken breast that was 1 pound, but you can also use 2-4 smaller breasts)
3 ounces Cotija cheese (in block form so you can slice it)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the chicken crosswise, making several slices that go almost through to the bottom. 

Slice the Cotija cheese into thin slices. 

Nestle the cheese into the chicken slices.

Season the chicken with the spices, salt and pepper. 

Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through! 

Serves 4