Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Tis the Season...for Cookies!

I love a good excuse to bake! And what better excuse than a holiday party at our complex. I made three different cookies: candycane cookies, chocolate chip Amish puff cookies, and chocolate swirls.
Trenton and I had so much fun baking the day away yesterday. The second and third cookies listed come from my favorite food blog, This Week for Dinner. (Since I do most of my recipe browsing online these days, you'll definitely be finding a lot of links on Erica's Pantry as I experiment with recipes I find on other food blogs.)

To the chocolate swirls, I added my own twist, a buttery icing that is to die for. To frost about a dozen cookies, start by melting a 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan. Once it has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar. Then add powdered sugar little by little until it is just barely frost-able. (Don't make it too thick by adding too much powdered sugar. You want it to taste more buttery than sugary, if that makes sense.)

With the addition of the buttery deliciousness that was the icing, those cookies were the first to go at the party! Merry Christmas, everyone! Only one week from today...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Night of Firsts: Chili and Brownies

It's not that I've never made chili or brownies before; it's just that last night they actually turned out well. If you ask me, my chili tastes good, but Ryan's always measuring mine against his dad's. And his dad's always wins!

Last night I think his dad's chili probably still won, (I didn't ask) but Ryan did say that he really liked mine—for once! The title of this post comes from what he said after dinner while he was sampling a brownie: "This is a night of firsts—good chili and good brownies."

I never make good brownies. This stems from the fact that I always buy the cheapest brownie mix out there and then I occasionally try to skimp on the fat. (Don't try that, by the way.) But I'm determined to change. I finally bought a fancy Hershey's Triple Chunk mix (Ghiradelli's is next) and a Butterfinger candy bar.

I divided the mix in half, by the way, so that we couldn't eat a whole pan in one night. :) Then I spooned half of the batter into six lined muffin tins, sprinkled on broken up Butterfinger, spooned on another layer of brownie batter, and topped one more time with Butterfinger. DELICIOUS.

Anyway, here's the recipe I went off of for the chili, over at Allrecipes. I halved it for our family and also added about a quarter to a third of a fresh jalapeno, diced. As my sister Rachel says, we are part-Mexican. (AKA We grew up in AZ eating a whole lot of Mexican food.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Yesterday I really felt like trying something new in the kitchen. Ryan had to work (on a Saturday - bummer!), so Trenton and I just hung out all day, baking and playing. I found a recipe for roasted red pepper soup from Cooking Light. I actually really enjoyed broiling the red peppers until blackened and removing the skins once they had cooled. Then you add tomatoes and sauted onion and garlic and puree until smooth. It's a visually beautiful process. (Should have taken more pictures!)

If you're a fan of roasted red pepper soup, this is a basic for your recipe repertoire. Hop on over to Cooking Light for the recipe. By the way, I added a bay leaf when it was simmering at the end, as well as a splash of balsamic vinegar. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's December! Candy Cane Cookies

Can you believe it's December? Santa came early this year, meaning my grandparents just came to town bearing gifts! It was so cute, the two of them walking up with their arms full of gifts to go under our little tree. Aren't we spoiled?! Anyway, today I made this fabulous holiday cookie for a church event. I love signing up to bring goodies to events because it gives me an excuse to make them! And this is a holiday tradition in my family, so December just wouldn't be compete without it. Straight from my good friend Betty Crocker, here it is...

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 cup sugar (to sprinkle the cookies with)

Mix the first six ingredients, and stir in the flour and salt. (Dough will be thick, like sugar cookie dough.) Divide the dough in half, and add the red food coloring to one half. Roll out four-inch strands of each color, and twist together a red and white strand to form candy canes. Sprinkle with sugar (and crushed peppermints if you have them), and bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

**If the tops turn golden, that's fine, but my preference is to take them out once they're cooked but not yet golden. So keep a close eye on them to cook them to your preference.

Hope you and your family enjoy these festive treats!