Monthly Archives: December 2010

Christmas 2010 Recap!

This year my hubby and I went to Long Island for Christmas to celebrate with his family.  We have been having a great time at home eating a ton of food, relaxing, laughing, making fun of each other, etc.  I received so many wonderful Christmas presents from my family including new Saucony sneakers, the Culinary Institute of America’s Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, a beautiful, white Fossil watch, an eco-friendly travel mug, and a delicious smelling, gigantic cinnamon candle that I’ll probably burn in 2 weeks.  My hubby and I also exchanged gifts and he definitely outdid his self this year.  My hubby bought me a new Canon S95.  It’s amazing!!!!  There are so many features on this camera that I don’t even know about, so I’ll definitely have to go through the tutorial.  Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

P.S. These photos were NOT taken with my new camera.  Hoping you guys will see a big change when I start using my new one!

(All my cookies)

(Tray of my cookies)

(Hubby, Me, Sister-in-Law, Brother-in-Law)

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Filed under Misc.

Panettone

I’m happy to say that this is my last Christmas recipe for 2010!  It was a long run, but I’m tired and have to let my Kitchen Aid rest for a bit.  Panettone is an Italian Christmas bread that is filled with candied fruits and nuts.  I love to eat it sliced with some butter on top.  It’s also very good toasted as well.  My mom bought these wonderful Panettone liners for me from an Italian grocery store in Syracuse.  They’re great because you don’t have to grease them and they’re oven-safe; you just place the dough inside and bake right in the oven.  You can then serve it to your guests right inside this pretty little foil liner.

The recipe I used has been adapted from my Sweet Maria’s Big Baking Bible cookbook.  First, I used candied orange peel, craisins, and lemon zest.  My husband doesn’t like nuts, so I left those out.  The candied orange peel is actually a recipe that I tested for Leite’s Culinaria.  A few weeks ago, I received some exciting news that I had been selected to be one of Leite’s official recipe testers!  It’s a lot of fun recipe testing, and the candied orange peel was one of the recipes that I chose to test.  It’s a great recipe and you should definitely check it out!

Hope you guys have a wonderful Holiday!  Merry Christmas!!!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 5-5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel (to view recipe please go to Leite’s Culinaria)
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle yeast over water and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat butter, eggs, salt, and sugar.
  3. Using a wood spoon, add yeast and 4 cups flour and mix well.
  4. Using the hook attachment on your stand mixer, knead dough until not sticky, adding 1-1 1/2 cups flour.
  5. Knead in craisins and candied orange peel.  Add dough to a greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and dish towels and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2-2 hours.
  6. Remove dough from bowl and knead on a floured work surface a few times and place in panettone mold or liner. (If you don’t have a liner or mold, you can line a deep cake pan with parchment paper that extends over the edges.)
  7. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt 1 tbsp butter.
  8. With a serrated knife, cut an “X” in the top of the dough and brush the melted butter over.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and towels and allow to rise in a warm spot for 30-45 more minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  11. Bake panettone for 10 minutes or until the top is golden.
  12. Turn oven down to 325 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes or until brown.
  13. Allow to cool before serving or freeze for future use.

Yield:  One 10″ loaf

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Filed under Baked Goods, Bread

Almond Paste Cookies

I am excited to say that Happy When Not Hungry’s Cookie Countdown to Christmas is beginning to wind down!  Not to say I haven’t had fun baking all these treats, but I’ve been baking a lot lately and am looking forward to enjoying all these sweets with my family.  These almond paste cookies are one of my favorites and are pretty easy to make as well.  You can decorate them with maraschino cherries or nuts.  I opted to dot half my batch with maraschino cherries and then roll the other half in pine nuts.  They came out moist and chewy – I love the flavor of the toasted pine nuts and almond paste as well.  Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. almond paste
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 5 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until foamy.
  3. Grate almond paste on a cheese grater over a sheet of wax paper and mix almond paste with the powdered sugar.
  4. Add whisked eggs to the paste and mix.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.  Add to the almond paste and mix.
  6. Drop by teaspoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.
  8. Cut maraschino cherries in half and press into center of each cookie while still warm.  If decorating with slivered almond or pine nuts, roll in nuts before baking.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Christmas Treats

(Peppermint Bark)

(Saltine Toffee Brittle)

(Thin Mint Cookie Fudge)

(White Chocolate Chex Mix)

I’ve been baking up a storm lately!  I can’t believe Christmas is a week from this Saturday.  I’ve made a bunch of different treats, and I couldn’t choose just one to share with you guys, so I decided to share all of them.  These are all easy recipes that taste delicious!  They’re also really pretty treats to give away as little gifts to friends, co-workers, etc.  Hope you guys enjoy!

Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 6 oz. package of candy canes, crushed
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. On a baking sheet size 15″ x 10″, place wax paper.
  2. In a microwave bowl, place semisweet chocolate chips and 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Microwave for about 1 ½ minutes or until chocolate has melted (Be sure to check on chocolate half-way through just to make sure it does not burn.)
  3. With a spatula or cake frosting knife, spread semisweet chocolate in an even layer over the wax paper. Freeze for 30 minutes or until hard.
  4. Meanwhile, unwrap candy canes and place in a Ziplock plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, roll over candy canes crushing them down to bite-sized pieces.
  5. In a microwave bowl, place white chocolate chips and 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Microwave for about 1 ½ minutes or until chocolate has melted (Be sure to check on chocolate half-way through just to make sure it does not burn.)
  6. Working quickly, spread the white chocolate evenly over semisweet chocolate and sprinkle with candy canes.  Gently press candy canes into chocolate.
  7. Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.
  8. Break into pieces.

Saltine Toffee Brittle

Ingredients:

  • 40 Saltine Crackers
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and fill with crackers.  If crackers don’t fit perfectly, break in half so you can cover the entire baking sheet.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt butter and sugar and bring to a boil for 3 minutes.  Pour brown sugar mix over crackers gently.
  4. Bake for about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and pour chocolate chips evenly over brown sugar mix.
  6. Put baking sheet back in oven for 1 more minute.  Remove pan and evenly smooth out chocolate.  Sprinkle nuts on top.
  7. Allow to completely cool.  Break into pieces and enjoy!

Thin Mint Cookie Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, softened, divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
  • 3/4 cup thin mint cookies, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Directions:

  1. Line a 9-in. square pan with foil. Grease the foil with 1 tbsp butter.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, sour cream and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil and cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat; stir in white chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted.
  4. Fold in crushed cookies and extract. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Chill until firm.
  6. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares and store in the refrigerator.

*Yield: 2 pounds

White Chocolate Chex Mix

Ingredients:

  • 5 cup white chocolate wafers
  • 3 cups each of wheat, rice and corn Chex (if you don’t use all three just make sure you have 9 cups)
  • 3 cups plain Cheerios
  • 1 8 oz. bag of small pretzels
  • 2 cups peanuts
  • 1 cup Craisins
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. On a flat countertop, lay out several sheets of wax paper.
  2. In the largest bowl you own, combine cereals, pretzels, peanuts, and Craisins.
  3. Place wafers and oil in a microwavable bowl and heat for about 1 ½ minutes or until melted being sure to stir chocolate halfway through.
  4. Pour chocolate over cereal mixture and combine with wooden spoon (I also use my hands to mix everything up since it’s hard to get to the stuff at the bottom of the bowl).
  5. Spread out mixture over the wax paper and allow to harden completely.
  6. Break up into pieces and enjoy!

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Filed under Desserts

Venetians


I am excited for this post because it’s about my husband’s (and my) favorite Christmas cookie of all time — Venetians!  Venetians are those pretty 3-layered (pink, yellow & green) cookies that are covered in chocolate.  They are an Italian cookie that has almond paste inside the cake layers and raspberry jam (sometimes apricot) spread between the layers of cake.  They are delicious and we absolutely love these cookies!  When I was little, I used to eat each layer one at a time starting with the chocolate top all the way down to the chocolate bottom.  I love this cookie, but I must confess that this is a very time consuming recipe, probably one of the most difficult I make.  First, you need 3 cookies sheets that are the same size.  This enables you to make each layer the exact same size or at least close to it.  Also, there are several steps from allowing the dough to refrigerate overnight, to covering in chocolate, allowing the chocolate to dry, flipping over and covering the other side in chocolate, allowing that side to dry, etc.  However, if you have the time, patience, and 3 of the same-sized baking sheets on hand, definitely give these cookies a try.  You will love them because they’re not only delicious, but also very pretty too!  You will be sure to wow your family and friends with these.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 12 ounces almond paste
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups raspberry jam
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and line 3 15 x 10″ baking pans with parchment paper and grease parchment.
  3. In a stand mixer with a wire whisk attachment, beat egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff, 2-3 minutes.
  4. In a stand mixer, cream butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar until smooth. Add egg yolks and almond extract.
  5. Break up almond paste into little pieces and add to the mix until blended.
  6. In a small bowl, combine flour and salt and add to mix.
  7. With wire whisk attachment, fold in egg whites.
  8. Divide dough into 3 equal portions.  Add 2-3 drops of green food coloring to one batch and 2-3 drops of red coloring to another.  Leave one batch of dough natural color.
  9. Evenly spread dough into each baking sheet.  (To spread easier, wet knife occasionally and note that each layer will be thin.)
  10. Back each dough for 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
  11. Cool completely.
  12. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper and place green layer down first.  Spread 1 cup of jam evenly over.
  13. Place yellow layer of cake on top of jam and spread 1 cup of jam evenly over top.
  14. Place the pink layer over the top of the jam and cover with plastic wrap.
  15. Place a cutting board on top to weigh it down and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  16. Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips  and spread thinly over the red layer. Allow to sit until dry.
  17. Flip cake over onto parchment and melt 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Spread evenly over green cake and allow to set until dry.
  18. Using a serrated knife, trim edges and cut into 1″ squares.

Yield: About 80 cookies

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Filed under Desserts

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting


My sister-in-law’s birthday was yesterday and I decided to make her these yummy chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream frosting.  These chocolate cupcakes are moist and have the slightest hint of peppermint.  The frosting is creamy goodness with more of that peppermint flavor that everyone loves around this time of year.  I decided to sprinkle some mini chocolate chips on half the cupcakes and then pipe the frosting on the other half.  Unfortunately, my sister-in-law had car trouble and wasn’t able to come out to eat her treats, but hopefully tonight she’ll be enjoying these goodies.  These cupcakes are delicious and boast the perfect flavor combination for the holiday season.  Enjoy! 

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup  flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

Peppermint Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • Red food coloring (2-3 drops)
  • Mini chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and the water until the cocoa powder is dissolved and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking soda, and a pinch of salt.
  4. In another bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar and beat in the whole egg and the egg yolk, beating until the mixture is combined well.
  5. Beat in the cocoa mixture alternately with the flour mixture, beating well after each addition, divide the batter among 12 paper-lined 1/2-cup muffin tins.
  6. Bake the cupcakes, in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
  7. Turn the cupcakes out onto a rack and let them cool completely.

For the peppermint frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat together 1 cup of powdered sugar and butter with an electric mixer until smooth and well-blended.
  2. Slowly incorporate another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and add the milk and peppermint extract and mix until smooth, about a minute.
  3. Add additional powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time if needed to reach appropriate consistency.
  4. Add 2-3 drops of red food coloring and mix until incorporated.
  5. Place frosting in a piping bag and pipe frosting on tops of cooled cupcakes.
  6. Top cupcakes with mini chocolate chips.

*Makes 12 cupcakes

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Macaroni & Cheese with Fresh Sage & Garlic Bread Crumbs

This past weekend, my husband and I made a date to sit in front of our TV at 5:30 p.m to watch our favorite college basketball team (Go Cuse!) on ESPN 2.  Watching college basketball in our house is a big deal and since this game would begin and end during dinner time, I decided to make something conducive to throwing in the oven to cook while watching the game and then eating easily on the couch.  I love homemade macaroni and cheese, but honestly do not make it enough.  It’s not the healthiest thing for you, and it’s just one of those easy recipes that I often overlook.  But it’s gooey and delicious, and I decided it was the perfect meal to make — I could prepare it before the game started and then during one of the time-outs, throw it in the oven to bake.  I spiced up the breadcrumbs with some sautéed garlic and added some fresh sage to the milk, cheese, and onion mix.  Instead of using heavy cream, I used milk and also used Barilla whole wheat shells to make it a tad bit healthier.  This dish is so creamy and comforting — Syracuse won too, so it was a good night!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shells
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 1 small, yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 3 cups white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to season

Bread Crumb Topping:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and stir it for 2 for about 3 minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps.
  4. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and sage. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
  5. Stir in cheddar cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a casserole dish. Top with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan and add the garlic.  Let cook 1 minute.
  8. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat.
  9. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until bread crumb topping is golden brown.

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Filed under Main Course, Pasta