Friday, November 28, 2008

Cosmopolitan Quiche

When I was a fresh out of college, a month didn't go by when I didn't purchase a copy of the latest Cosmopolitan magazine. I read it cover to cover hoping Helen Gurley Brown and her staff could teach me the secrets of being a successful single gal in the 80's. They tried to teach me how to wear fashionable clothes, put on my makeup the right way, how to accessorize and most importantly, how to turn my man on so no other girl would steal him away.

Alas, none of these lessons really took with me at the time. But one very invaluable lesson I learned from my Cosmopolitan magazines was how to make the most fabulous quiche ever. I think quiche is one of those dishes that comes in and out of favor and whenever I make one I think to myself "why don't I make this more often?" It covers so many yummy food bases: eggs, bacon, veggies, cheese, half and half and it is very easy to make if you go with the pre-made pie crust. So with that, I share with you my all time favorite quiche recipe.
Cosmopolitan Quiche
1 9 inch deep dish frozen pie crust (Prebake for 10 minutes at 375 deg)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
8 slices bacon
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung out of extra moisture
1/4 cup finely diced onion

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fry bacon, drain and crumble. Saute onion until lightly browned.

Beat eggs, half and half and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. After pie crust is pre-baked, put bacon and onions on bottom of crust, then spinach, then grated cheese. Carefully pour egg/cream mixture over the top. Place unbaked quiche on a cookie sheet (in case of spills) and bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cheery Cherry Cheese Pie

My all time very favorite pie is the following cherry cream cheese pie. It was only eaten on Thanksgiving and I was the lucky one who made it each year growing up. I was not a fan whatsoever of pumpkin pie (how unAmerican of me), nor the other annual pie, mincemeat (who even liked that I wonder now?) But the Cheery Cherry Cheese Pie fit the bill for the perfect pie. It is perfect in that no baked crust is necessary. As a matter of fact, no baking is necessary at all for all you pie baking novices out there. And it is very attractive once plated!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Cheery Cherry Cheese Pie

1 premade graham cracker crust
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 can of cherry pie filling
Whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the milk, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until well combined. Pour filling into graham cracker crust and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Top the pie with cherry filling and add a dollop of whipped cream if you're feeling very indulgent.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Spritz Cookies

Here is another Christmas cookie favorite from my baking bonanza. My mom always made these and she patiently pressed them out of their magic cookie press in a variety of shapes, including trees, wreaths and stars and they were always embellished with food coloring in the dough and colored sugars and cinnamon candies.

Sometime over the years I bought a Spritz cookie press and haven't used it for a very long time until today. I dug it out of the basement, washed if off, made the incredibly easy dough and shoved it into the press. Well, this is where it got difficult. Oh my, how did my mother make those dozens of cookies? My experience was that the dough either wouldn't come out at all or it came out in huge globs of unidentifiable shapes. I patiently put it back in and started over and finally got two dozen of semi-identifiable tree shapes which I did the obligatory sprinkle of sugar and topped with a cinnamon dot. Once baked they looked fine and I think no one will have any trouble recognizing old Tannenbaum.

Post Script: I just read Martha Stewart's daughter Alexis's blog and she threw her spritz cookie press in the dumpster after her attempt at making these cookies. Let me add that as demonstrated by her amazing blog pictures she is a phenomonel baker so I don't feel so bad about my difficulties.
Spritz Cookies

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In large mixing bowl combine sugar, butter, egg, salt and vanilla. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add flour. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed, 2-3 minutes. Place dough in cookie press. Form desired shapes, 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake 6-8 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool on racks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fantasy Fudge

An age old favorite at Christmas time is Fantasy Fudge. You know, the kind made with marshmallow fluff and loads of chocolate chips. Most recipes I've read call for nuts also, but I like my fudge totally smooth, silky and luscious. No crunchy pieces in it for me, thank you very much.

This fudge is so simple to make as it involves no candy thermometers to ensure getting the candy to the correct stage. You just mix the milk, sugar and margarine together and boil until the bubbles resemble a bubbling cauldron of thick viscous lava, then add the rest of the ingredients, stir vigorously and pour into a pan. It makes a wonderful fudge to be enjoyed by all.
Fantasy Fudge
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks margarine
2/3 cups evaporated milk
1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
Combine sugar, margarine and milk in a heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan; bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate until fully melted. Add marshmallow creme, nuts and vanilla and beat until blended. Pour into greased 13x9 baking pan. Let cool and cut into squares.

Friday, November 14, 2008

M&Mmmmmm Peanut Butter Cookies

Here is a nice variation on your basic peanut butter cookie. Make them chock full of M&Ms and salted peanuts. How bad can that be? (I know dear, you hate that question.) These cookies go together very quickly and would certainly make delicious lunch box cookies for the kids for a special treat.

M&M Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup salted peanuts
1 cup M&Ms

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and peanut butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg; blend well. Add flour and baking soda and mix well. Stir in M&Ms and peanuts. Drop dough by rounded tablespoon on ungreased baking sheet, 2 inches apart. baking sheet. Bake for 6-10 minutes minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes then remove from baking sheets onto wire racks.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Cookie Break

Here's a diversion from all the cookie pictures. This was the last chrysanthemum in our yard for the season. It was a beauty!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies

It's a good thing we had an extra hour due to our annual Fall time change because I needed it the day I made these very time-consuming cookies. I think in the end though, the effort was worth it as they turned out delightfully! The recipe is called Chocolate Mint Delights but I want to call them Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies. When they were finished they reminded me of those little Andes chocolate after dinner mints wrapped in green foil.

Here's where I made my mistake. The recipe called for a two inch cookie cutter and I decided it would be nice to have little bite sized cookies so I used a one inch cutter. This decision caused me to have to have to roll out and cut and fill so many more cookies. In total, using a one inch cutter, I got 50 sandwich cookies in all. On the bright side, there will be plenty to go around in my gift baskets.

Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies
Cookie Dough

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Mint Cream Filling

1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
2 drops green food color

In medium bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch, cocoa and salt until well blended. In a large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, then vanilla until blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture until just combined. Divide the dough into four portions, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, until firm.

Make cream filling by beating shortening, corn syrup and extracts with mixer until blended. Add confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in food color until blended.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheets with nonstick spray or cover with parchment paper or silpac sheet. On a floured board with a floured rolling pin, roll out 1 portion of dough at a time to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookies and place about 1 inch apart on baking sheet. If desired use a toothpick to poke a decorative design in each cookie. (I skipped this part.) Bake 9-12 minutes or until firm when touched. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
When cookies are cool, spread 1 teaspoon of filling on half the cookies. Top the remaining cookies, pressing gently to sandwich together.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Spicy and Sweet Molasses Men

Men of the world take note. You should all strive to be more like these little fellows - spicy and sweet and easy to manipulate!

These cookies are a variation on the traditional gingerbread dough as they are much sweeter with the addition of some good molasses. They do still have that nice spice flavor using cinnamon, ground ginger and cloves. The dough was very malleable and easy to roll out and cut and the house was filled with the wonderful aroma of spices as they baked.

I did cheat for the frosting and purchased some pre-made royal icing which I found at my local cooking store. It made the decorating process a snap. As you see I didn't make things very complicated. You just can't have Christmas cookies without a few gingerbread men to grace your tray or basket.
Spicy and Sweet Molasses Men
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter softened
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg and blend well. Add all the remaining cookie ingredients; mix well. Form dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 1-3 hours for easier handling.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a well floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out with floured cookie cutters, brush off excess flour and place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.Bake at 350 degrees for 6-9 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cool completely. Decorate as desired and let icing set completely. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Seven Layer Magic Bars

I think magic is a strong word for this particular cookie. Quite frankly I found nothing magic about the way these cookies stuck to the foil after they were baked. I will say they were magic in how fast the were to actually put together, but trying to pry the cookies from all four edges of the foil used up far more time than I had to deal with them. If I were to make these very tasty cookies again, and they are tasty, I would spray the foil VERY generously with vegetable spray as well as the recipe's prescribed butter coating.

With that said, the cookies I was able to salvage from the pan will make a nice bar type treat for the Christmas baskets.
Seven Layer Magic Bars

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup butterscotch flavored chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°, (325° for glass dish). Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with a sheet of foil, making sure to cover the sites well. Place the butter in the baking pan and melt it in the oven. Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour condensed milk evenly on top of crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients in order listed; press down firmly with fork. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature. Makes 36 bars (give or take those that don't come out of the pan!)