Turtle Cookies

10 Mar

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I made these cookies as a special treat for some folks who went above and beyond in their recent generosity and kindness. And…maybe I kept a few for myself. Trust me, you would have too! These cookies are out of this world delicious. The base is a rich chocolate cookie dough that is rolled in finely chopped pecans. Once baked, you make a caramel topping to fill in the little cookie crater on top. Then you can drizzle some melted chocolate on top – totally optional, but it serves as a nice finishing touch. You can use the famous turtle flavors of chocolate, caramel, and pecans in so many tasty ways but this is my current favorite!

Turtle Cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookie:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pecans, finely chopped

For the caramel topping:
14 soft caramel candies (I used Kraft Traditional Caramels)
3 Tbsp heavy cream
For the chocolate drizzle (optional):
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp shortening

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Directions:
To prepare the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt; set aside. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour. Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy. Place chopped pecans in another bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, and then roll in pecans.  Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes.

To prepare the caramel filling: Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from the oven, gently re-press the indentations.  Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel mixture. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the chocolate drizzle (optional): Place chocolate and shortening in a small zip-top plastic bag. Set bag in a bowl of warm water to soften. Gently knead the chocolate with your fingers until melted and smooth, placing back in the warm water for a minute or two as needed. (or you can microwave the chocolate and shortening in the bag, a little at a time, until it’s soft and combined) Snip a very small hole in the corner of the plastic bag. Drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies.

Source: The Kitchen Is My Playground

Brownie Walnut Pie

27 Feb

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I saw the lovely Giada De Laurentiis make this pie on her chocolate themed episode on Food Network a while back and have wanted to make it ever since. So when my coworker’s Birthday approached and I found out he prefers pie over cakes and likes chocolate and nuts, this dessert immediately came to mind.

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You can follow the original recipe and make a tasty biscotti cookie crust, but I went with a simple homemade graham cracker crust instead. But, I decided to use dark brown sugar to give it a richer and deeper flavor that really worked with the chocolate and walnut combo. (the crust recipe will be posted soon too!) The consistency of the pie is like a fudgy brownie and is super rich. So just a warning that a small slice will go a long way! You can get creative with the nutty decoration on the top of the pie. Plus if you want to sub another type of nut (pecans would be awesome too) it would be just as delicious!

Brownie Walnut Pie

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Graham cracker crust (pre-made or homemade)
Walnut halves, optional

Yield: 8-10 servings

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the butter and the chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and salt with a spatula. Stir in the nut pieces. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust. Press a ring of walnut halves, if using, into the batter around the top edge.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake until the outer 2 to 3 inches are slightly puffed and dry looking and the center is set, 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted into the center should come out with some moist batter still attached. Cool the pie completely on a rack.

Cut the pie into wedges and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if wanted. Enjoy!

Source: Food Network – Giada De Laurentiis

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

24 Feb

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Apparently I really stocked up on canned pumpkin last fall – I found a few cans in the cabinet recently and suddenly craved a pumpkin spice treat. I found this cookie recipe that sounded amazing and it didn’t disappoint! The cookies are soft and chewy, just the way I like them. The glaze is originally made with maple syrup but I happened to have some gingerbread syrup (like the kind you put in coffee) and gave that a try instead. Delicious!

I could eat pumpkin flavored things all year round, no hesitations. Go ahead and use up that extra can of pumpkin or if it’s too soon in your book, squirrel this recipe away for the fall!

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

For the glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp gingerbread syrup (or maple syrup)

Yield: 2 dozen

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium blow, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Drop or roll the dough by the Tablespoonful onto the pan, leaving 1 inch apart. Flatten the dough a little with your hand. Bake for 12-15 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.

For the glaze, whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Once the cookies are completely cool, dip the tops into the glaze and allow to set on a rack. Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Real House Moms

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

4 Feb

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I love learning new dessert skills and lately I’ve been wanting to venture more into the realm of cookie decorating. I see such impressive cookies on blogs and think, “Hey, maybe I can do that too!” Though I’m confident I can get there eventually, I feel like I have A LOT to learn and want to take it one step at a time for now. This weekend, I wanted to make a cute Super Bowl dessert, so got a simple football shaped cookie cutter, a recipe that looked easy enough, a basic decorating idea I could handle, and went for it!

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I wanted to bake a simple chocolate cut out cookie and make a small batch of royal icing to pipe on some basic football lines. I really liked this chocolate sugar cookie recipe – the dough was quick and easy to whip up, simple to work with, and the final product was delicious. The cookies have a great chocolate flavor and are a bit crisp but still have a nice chew to them, especially in the center. I actually got 4 dozen cookies out of the recipe which was way more than I needed! I halved the royal icing recipe that was included on the original page (see link below) since I only needed to do simple piping. Overall, these turned out great and I can’t wait to try my hand at some more!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Yield: Up to 4 dozen (depending on cookie size)

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.

Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.

Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes (depending on size) or until they are firm around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing, if desired. Be sure that the frosting on the cookies dries completely before storing. (This may take several hours) Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container. Store between layers of parchment or wax paper.

Source: Joy of Baking

Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

27 Jan

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My love for Southwestern style egg rolls started a few years ago when our restaurant at work had them on the menu. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on that crunchy exterior filled with spicy goodness, dipped in a zesty sauce.

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Sadly we don’t serve those egg rolls anymore, so I just decided to make my own version! The main difference is that these are baked rather than fried. You don’t get quite the same texture on the outside, but they’re still plenty crispy. One nice thing is that you can customize these with whatever flavors and ingredients you prefer or have on hand. You could sub beef for the chicken or load on the veggies and go totally vegetarian. Or if you’re a spicy natured person, add some peppers and extra spices to kick it up a notch.

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Feel free to eat these plain, but I definitely suggest dipping them in something. You could stick with a simple salsa or guacamole or go with a zesty creamy choice like a salsa/sour cream combo or some salsa/ranch dressing mixed together. Just some food for thought – enjoy!!

Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

Ingredients:
1/2 bag frozen corn, thawed
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne red pepper
1 package egg roll wrappers
Water for sealing edges

Yield: 1 dozen

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with silicone liner or spray with non-stick spray.

Combine all of the ingredients (except the wrappers of course!) into a large bowl and mix until fully combined. Lay out an egg roll wrapper in a diamond shape and put about 1/4 cup of the filling in the center. Have a small bowl with water nearby and use a brush to line the edges with water to make them stick.

To roll the egg rolls: fold the bottom up to cover the filling, fold the sides in tightly, then roll it up tightly and press the edges to seal. (or see the package for instructions!) Lay the folded egg rolls on the baking sheet, seam side down, and spray/brush the tops with a little olive oil.

Put them in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they’re light brown. Serve while warm with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Nutritious Eats

Creamy Italian Tomato Soup

13 Jan

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I’ve had a hankering for a new soup lately and found this yummy recipe that totally fit the bill. The base is a simple creamy tomato soup but then some Italian twists are thrown in. The cheese tortellini makes this soup extra hearty and filling and the sun dried tomatoes add some great color and flavor. The addition of Italian sausage really beefs the whole thing up but is optional – I used a mild sausage, but a spicy or sweet sausage would be delicious too!

Sprinkle on a little parmesan when you serve and this will keep you extra warm and full on a cold winter day!

Creamy Italian Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cans of condensed tomato soup (10 3/4 oz cans)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 lb ground mild Italian sausage
9 oz package of frozen or fresh cheese tortellini
Shredded parmesan, for garnish

Yield: 4-6 servings

Directions:
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and sauté the garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Add the tomato soup, sun dried tomatoes, half and half, chicken stock, and spices. Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, cook the Italian sausage, drain the grease, and add the sausage to the soup.

Once simmering, add the tortellini to the soup and cook then according to the package directions. (or you can cook them separately and add them when done) When tortellini is cooked, ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle a little parmesan on top. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Mrs. Schwartz Kitchen

Freezer Friendly Breakfast Sandwiches

6 Jan

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Happy New Year to all of you – hope it’s been treating you well so far! We’re off to a great start in our home and can’t believe that in a few months we’ll get to finally meet our little one. Something that my dear husband already accomplished this year was running a full marathon on New Years Eve morning and then a half marathon on New Years Day. What an ambitious guy – I’m proud to say the least!

The two or three weeks leading up to the races, he strove to eat really well to get his body ready for the task at hand. One thing I wanted to make for his quick and healthy breakfasts were sandwiches that you can make ahead, freeze, and reheat. I found a recipe online that ended up being a keeper. You simply bake an egg in a ramekin, cook some turkey bacon, pile them onto an English muffin, freeze, and zap in the microwave for an awesome on-the-go breakfast. The only problem is that I got hooked on them too, so now have to make even more!

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The beautiful thing is that you can personalize these with a variety of things depending on what you like or how healthy you want to make it. You could use a biscuit instead of a muffin, ham, Canadian bacon, or sausage instead of turkey bacon, or even add a slice of your favorite cheese.

These are definitely becoming a staple in our house – they’re delicious, easy to make in bulk, and much cheaper than store bought sandwiches. Hope you enjoy too!

Freezer Friendly Breakfast Sandwiches

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste
6 English muffins
6 slices turkey bacon

Yield: 6 sandwiches

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray ramekins with nonstick spray. Crack one egg into each ramekin and use a fork to break the yolk and mix the egg a bit.

Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, until set. Let them cool for about 10 minutes and gently slide the eggs out of the ramekins. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper, if wanted.

Cook the bacon in the oven or on the stovetop according to package directions. Let it cool completely.

Slice the English muffins and cut each piece of bacon in half. Put one egg on each muffin and top with a slice of bacon. (you could also add cheese at this point)

Wrap each sandwich individually in plastic wrap and freeze. To reheat, remove the sandwiches from the plastic wrap and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave for 1 minute on 50% power. Flip the sandwich over and microwave for 1 more minute on regular power. Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Flying on Jess Fuel