Sunday, October 26, 2014

Molasses Crinkles

The smell of these cookies baking in the oven smells like Christmas.  Yet, I love making them in the fall because of their color and the ingredients.  They are a simple and easy cookie to make.  The worst part is waiting for them to bake! 

Molasses Crinkles
¾ cup of unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 egg
2 ¼ cup sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix first four ingredients together.  Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt until well blended using paddle attachment.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough for 2 hours.  Roll dough into balls and dip tops into white sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees on a parchment lined baking sheet for 8 minutes. 

The dough mixing in the new KitchenAid Mixer.  Make sure to use the paddle attachment.  It is a lovely brown color.

The dough ball rolled and dipped in sugar.  Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  This photo was taken right after the cookie were placed in the oven.  Sorry for the shadows!

Cookies and cider, the perfect combination.  The cider is homemade, right with our own apple press.  Delicious!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Holiday Entertaining | Cheese Board

I do not mean to push Halloween away, but it is never too early to start thinking about the holidays!  Over the summer I created a cheese board that I served during cocktails when we had people staying with us.  It was very simple and everyone enjoyed sampling different cheeses and crackers.  It was very "summery" with strawberries and other summer fruits, as well as some nuts and meats.

I decided that I wanted to revamp the cheese board and have it be more "harvest" friendly for Thanksgiving.  I will probably change it around a bit for Christmas, too.

A cheese board is very simple and it can be as big or small as you would like.  I like to serve it on my wood cutting board.  It provides a stable surface and also a place where cheese can be cut without damaging anything.  Guest will be blown away with the beauty of this entertainment piece and think it was time consuming to prepare.  In reality, it will only take you about 10 minutes. 

Fall Harvest Cheese Board
3-4 different cheeses, whatever flavor you prefer 
2 kinds of dried fruit-cranberries, apricots 
2 kinds of fresh fruit-grapes, apples, or pears (cut up apples and pears) 
2 types of meats-salami and prosciutto 
2 types of hearty crackers 
Fresh nuts-any kind, I prefer pistachios

I like to also serve this cheeseboard with a small bowl, to collect any shells from the nuts.  Make sure that you have cheese knives so guest can serve themselves cheese.  Making sure there is a variety is key to a successful cheese board. 

There is no right or wrong way to arrange the food on the board.  It all comes together beautifully.

This would be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.  If you are having a late dinner, this would be a great way to entertain your guests while the turkey is cooking.  It could also be added to the buffet and served during the holiday meal.  The options are endless.  One thing I do know is that your guests will the beauty and deliciousness of the cheeseboard and you will love its simplicity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Sugar Cookies

I truly enjoy making sugar cookies for each holiday.  The recipe I follow yields delicious, soft and golden cookies.  The dough is very easy to prepare and freezes well, too.  In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to make some cookies.  I had them ready for dessert after dinner, with some left over for the kid's lunches and some to package to share with our very special neighbors. 

Another reason I was excited to make cookies was because I was able to use my new KitchenAid mixer!  My older one is starting to die, which is sad.  My parents gave it to me for a wedding shower gift, almost 10 years ago.

Emily’s Favorite Sugar Cookies
1 cup unsalted  butter, creamed
2 cups of white sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
5 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of milk
1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  Let butter sit out until it reaches room temperature.  Cream butter in mixer using paddle attachment.  Add sugar and continue to blend together until well combined.  Add eggs and combine together.  Sift 5 cups of flour together with the cream of tartar and salt.  Make sure that the flour, salt and cream of tartar are well combined.  Slowly add flour to egg, sugar and butter mixture.  In a small dish, combine the milk, baking soda and vanilla.  Mix together until baking soda dissolves.  Add to cookie dough until well incorporated throughout dough.

Remove dough from bowl and place on plastic wrap.  Form a disc shape and wrap.  Place dough in fridge for 30 minutes to chill. 

Remove dough from fridge and let it warm up for 10-15 minutes.  Cut disc into quarters.   Use however many quarters of dough you think you need.  I usually use one quarter of the dough and freeze the rest for another time.  I find that one quarter of the dough usually makes around 12-18 cookies, depending on cookie cutter shape and size. 

Place dough on a floured board and flour rolling pin, as well.  Roll out dough until about ¼ inch thick.  Using a floured cookie cutter cut out shapes and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 6 minutes.  The edges will turn a golden brown. 

Mixing the dough in my new KitchenAid Mixer.  I purchased the professional and it makes mixing so much easier. 

Mix together the milk, baking soda and vanilla extract.  Once combined and the baking soda dissolved, it then can be added to the cookie dough mixture.

I like to flour a wood cutting board and roll the dough out on that.  Make sure it is well floured, as well as the rolling pin.  I also like to dip my cookie cutter into a bit of flour as well.

Place cut outs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  This will prevent sticking and also make clean up a breeze. 

All puffed up with golden edges.  Let the cookie cool completely before decorating.

I like to set up my decorating "station" while the cookies cool.  I clean up all from mixing and baking and give myself a clean counter area for decorating.  Here I have my homemade royal icing and some white ball sprinkles.

Outline the ghost with icing. 

Add icing inside the outline.  Smooth it with a knife or cake decorating spatula.
 Add sprinkles while frosting is still wet.

 These cookies are simple and make a great treat.  If you have to make a baked good for your child's classroom Halloween party, these cookies would be ideal.  I will be sure to share my royal icing recipe soon. 
Since holiday baking is almost here, now is a good time to check grocery store fliers for sales on different ingredients such as flour, sugar, baking soda, brown sugar and chocolate chips.  Keep your eye for sales and stock your pantry.  Fresh ingredients will ensure delicious cookies and whatever else you bake!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Broccoli Soup

It is snowing at my house.  Snow.  Falling from the sky.  My kids are screaming with delight and I am loving it!  I know this snow is temporary because the weather forecast for next week is in the 60s, but I am really enjoying this little preview.

With the shift of weather not far away, I thought today would be a perfect day to share my delicious broccoli and cheddar soup.  This recipe was developed after the first time I tried the broccoli cheddar soup from Panera Bread, many years ago.  Over the years, my recipe has been tweeked into the recipe I about to share. 

This soup is a great addition to a cold fall or winter day.  It is hearty and warms you up.  A big bowl after splitting firewood in the cold fall wind or sledding in the snow would be perfect!

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
3 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup flour
4 cups half and half, or heavy whipping cream
4 cups of chicken stock
1 pound broccoli (fresh or frozen)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon nutmeg
16 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese
Melt three tablespoons of butter in a big pot.  Add onions and saute until the onions are translucent.  Add flour to melted butter and onion mixture.  Stir for 3-5 minutes.  Stirring constantly, slowly add the half and half.  Add the chicken stock and continue to constantly stir.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  The soup will start to thicken.
Add the broccoli and cook over low heat until the broccoli is tender, around 20-25 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  By now, the soup should be thick.  Using an immersion blender, blend and puree the soup to desired texture.  Keep the soup over low heat and add the cheddar cheese.  Stir until blended, add nutmeg and serve. 
 The butter melting in the pot.

 Onions cooking until they are translucent.
 The flour added to melted butter and onions.
 Half and half added, the soup is thickening.
 Broccoli added and simmering, the soup will continue to thicken.
 Combine and blend with an immersion blender.
 Add cheddar cheese and combine.