Sunday, December 20, 2009

Orange Balls

This is the first time I made this. Big shout out to Gina who brought her husband's version into work on Friday. I took the basic recipe and added a slight twist.

Orange Balls

  • 1 1/2 12 oz boxes vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • sifted powdered sugar and cocoa (equal amounts of each) for coating


Combine cookie crumbs and 1 cup confectioners' sugar; blend in butter. Stir in orange juice concentrate; add vanilla. Shape mixture into balls about the size of walnuts; shake in food storage bag with sifted powdered sugar and cocoa. Arrange orange balls in single layer on waxed paper-lined cookie sheet; store uncovered overnight in refrigerator for best flavor. Makes about 3 dozen.

Optional Variations

Cut back on the orange juice by a few tablespoons and replace with pineapple or coconut flavored rum

Roll balls in coconut instead of powdered sugar/cocoa


This one seems to be a holiday favorite. If you're craving it at another time of the year, these can be altered by using white chocolate melting chips and food coloring. We made these over the summer and covered with red tinted white chocolate. Then using some black decorating icing, we decorated them as lady bugs then added half a black jelly bean for the head! The kids had a blast making them and of course eating them!

1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 (12-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Beat peanut butter and butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla, beating well. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended.
Shape into 3/4 inch balls; place on wax paper lined cookie sheets. Insert a wooden tooth pick into top of each ball. Freeze at least 2 hours.
Place chocolate morsels in top of a double boiler; bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Dip each frozen ball into chocolate, coating three- fourths of ball. Place on wax paper-lined cookie sheets, and chill until chocolate is set. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Yield: 9 dozen

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup white, gran. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
48 candy kisses, unwrapped

Combine all ingredients except candy kisses on lowest speed of mixer. Beat until dough is firm. Using rounded teaspoon, form dough into balls and roll balls in sugar. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 375 for 10-12 mins. Top each warm cookie with a chocolate kiss.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Crowd Favorite: Danish Wedding Cakes

This seems to be the most requested cookie in my arsenal. I have to admit, it's one of my favorites as well. As this is my signature sweet, I can't give away my tricks. But here's the basic recipe:


1 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 c flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add flour half cup at a time until dough is smooth. Form dough into balls about 3/4" in diameter. Using your thumb, make a well into the dough. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. Cool completely and fill wells with icing.


Melt 1/2 stick butter with 1/4 cup milk or half and half. Beat in powdered sugar until proper consistency. Add 1 tsp. vanilla and food coloring if desired. *OPTIONAL: add a few drops of mint, orange, cherry, or any other flavoring in place of vanilla*

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again....

This is my favorite time of year to bake. I get so excited! This will be my first installment of my Christmas Goodies series. Today's selection:

Corn Flake Holly


1 Large bag of jumbo marshmallows
Corn Flakes (you'll use about 2/3 of a large box)
1 Stick Butter
1 Small Bottle Green Food Coloring
Red Hots (optional)

In a large pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add food coloring and marshmallows. Stir constantly until marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in corn flakes. Quickly drop on to wax paper.
*Optional: Add red hots in clusters to make "holly berries"*

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I thought I was a genius...turns our Betty Crocker beat me to it

Crownies...or Brookies

So I thought I was being totally original. Take two of the best things on the planet, cookies and brownies, and combine them. What a great idea, right? I made these a while back and they turned out great. The next time I was at the store, guess what I saw?
I was so disappointed. But, to be quite honest, my semi-homemade version turned out soooo much better!

Preheat oven to 350.

3/4 c sugar
6 T crisco butter flavored baking sticks
1 T brewed coffee
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2/3 c flour
1/2 c cocoa
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 c peanut butter chips (optional)

Combine sugar, crisco stick, and coffee. Stir in egg and vanilla. Slowly stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. When mixed thoroughly, stir in peanut butter chips. Spread into 8x8 pan.


1 1/4 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c crisco baking sticks, melted
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
1 c chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in baking sticks, sugars, vanilla and egg. When mixed thoroughly, add chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto brownie batter, making sure to drop evenly around brownies. Slightly press cookie dough into brownie batter. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Best served hot with a scoop of ice cream on top. Yum!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chicken 'n' Noodles

Sounds simple enough, but for some reason, my mom makes the best. It's to the point where I would almost swear she puts some sort of opiate in them. They tend to produce a euphoric state and are highly addictive! I won't even attempt to say mine are better, but they're good enough.

Chicken broth
Chicken pieces

In a large bowl, put a bunch of flour (3-4 cups) and a few teaspoons (2-3) salt. Mix together. Form a well in the center and add eggs. Start out with 2 or 3. Mix the eggs together in the well then slowly incorporate flour. This should form a very thick dough. If the eggs are all incorporated and it's still sticky, add more flour. If you have too much flour in the bowl that won't mix into the dough, add more eggs.
Grab a hunk of dough about the size of a softball. Roll this out until it's paper thin. That's the key to great noodles! Go back to my Kitchen Tips blog and see the section about the marble rolling pin. I couldn't even imagine making these without the marble rolling pin. When the dough is paper thin, use a very sharp knife and section the dough out to rows about 1 1/2" wide. Stack 4 or 5 of the rows up, then slice them into very narrow noodles. Repeat this process with remaining dough. Since my husband volunteered me to make these for his pitch in at work....with 50 guys....I roped him into doing all the rolling. Lay the noodles out on wax paper lined cookie sheets and let dry overnight. If you don't want to wait that long, stick them in the freezer for a few hours.

After they have dried, get out a large stockpot and put in about 4 small cans of chicken broth, chunks of chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. Set on medium to medium to high heat until broth is at a full rolling boil. When broth is boiling, slowly sprinkle in noodles. Keep sprinkling in noodles, constantly stirring. **Hint** If you don't continuously stir when adding noodles, you'll end up with one very large noodle ball. Once all noodles have been added, turn heat down to low and let simmer, covered. Stir noodles every few minutes.
At this point, it's the same as any other pasta. Just keep cooking until they are soft. My husband loves eating these over mashed potatoes. But he's one of those evil people that can eat all those carbs and still fit into his 29x32 jeans. I hate him. If you have more noodles than broth, put the extra dried noodles in freezer bags and they'll be ready to go next time. You can also use turkey in the noodles if you're making them at Thanksgiving. If you don't want the strong chicken flavor, use a couple cans broth, then add a few cans of water.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kitchen Basics...Hints and Tricks to Make Life Easier

Whether you cook on special occasions or every day, there are many things you can do to make your time spent in the kitchen easier. Here are just a few...

1. Stock the kitchen
You don't have to have an entire grocery store in your kitchen, but there are a few basics. Flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, butter (for baking...sometimes you simply cannot substitute), lemon juice, vanilla, salt, pepper, and depending on your tastes, various seasonings.

2. Know your substitutions
Applesauce has many uses. Any time you're baking (cakes, cookies, brownies), you can substitute applesauce for cooking oil. Not only does it make your decadent dessert even tastier, it also makes it lower in fat and keeps everything nice and moist. If you're not concerned with fat content, substitute Crisco baking sticks for butter or margarine. That's the secret to keeping cookies chewy. If you're making a cake or brownies and the recipe calls for water, use coffee. You won't taste the coffee, but it will make the flavor deeper. A lot of older recipes call for soured milk. I don't know about you, but I don't let soured milk hang out it my refrigerator. The easy way to make sour milk? Add about 1 tablespoon vinegar to every half cup milk. Wait a few seconds and the milk with begin to curdle.

3. Parchment Paper
One of the worst parts of cooking, in my opinion, is cleaning up the mess. Parchment paper cuts the work in half! But there are more benefits. Parchment paper promotes more even baking and it's easier to work with than aluminum foil. Line a cake pan with parchment paper. After it cools, simply flip it out of the pan and peel back the paper. No more cakes falling apart or half of it sticking in the pan!

4. Kitchen Utensils
Most people have the basics: spoons, spatulas, tongs, etc. Some other items that may help you out are pastry brushes (great for making garlic bread), multi-surfaced cheese graters (for all your pasta dishes), and my favorite of all, the cookie scoop. Pampered Chef has 3 sizes available. All of your cookies will be the same size and shape, which allows for even baking times.

5. Mom
I prefer my own, but in a pinch, someone else's mom will do. Is something just not turning out right? My mom seems to always have an answer. Maybe not the right one, but her answer generally makes things turn out ok. Or maybe you remember a dish you loved as a kid, but have no clue how it was made.

I'm sure you have an oven. But is it working properly? The easiest way to check is to make something from a box mix. Make it exactly as the box says. Most box mixes give a range for baking time. If it says 13-15 minutes, bake it for 14. If it's overdone, then your oven runs hot. If it's not quite done, it runs cool.

7. Baking Needs
Invest in a marble rolling pin. The weight allows you to roll crusts out in about half the time as a wooden rolling pin. Rolling pins are also great for crumbling graham crackers, cookies, or crackers when using them as a topping or crust. Thermometers are a necessity for making candy, but meat thermometers can also ensure meat is cooked to the proper temperature.

8. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment
We all have that one recipe that's great, but is missing something. Think about the main flavors in your recipe, then add something that compliments it. For example, I had a good recipe for double chocolate cake. Basically, its a dark chocolate cake baked in two round pans. The cakes are stacked together with a layer of chocolate ganache between. One day this summer, I decided to add strawberry slices between the layers and on top. The strawberries pushed it over the edge! It's one of my husband's favorites now!

9. Fresh Produce
Whether you're making taco salad or fruit salad, make sure everything is fresh and ripe. It's nice to have things out of your own garden too. It seems like things always taste better when you've put the hard work in to growing them!

10. Clean Work Space
You don't want raw chicken juice mixed in with your fresh lettuce. It also makes the final clean up a lot easier if you've been picking up after yourself the whole time. Speaking of raw chicken juice, try using different cutting boards for meats and fresh produce.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crustless Pumpkin Cheesecake

14oz Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/3 c brown splenda
1/3 c splenda
3 eggs
1 c pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 350. Line 8x8 glass pan with parchment paper. Fill 11x13 pan about half way full of water and put on bottom rack of oven.

Whip neufchatel cheese until smooth and creamy. Slowly add sugars until well blended into cheese. Add eggs and pumpkin. In small bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients then slowly add to wet mixture. Mix with electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes. Pour mix into lined pan and bake for 40 minutes with pan of water still in the oven. Cheesecake will still have movement in the center when it's done. Allow to cool about 20 minutes on the countertop. Using a butterknife, slowly pull cheesecake away from the side of the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until fully cooled. Can be served alone or topped with chocolate chips, whipped cream or chocolate syrup.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not Just for Cooking

cThere are a lot of things to do in the kitchen other than cooking, especially when there are kids involved. Last Sunday was our first "Arts and Crafts Sunday". And I would call it a success. The kids have asked to do it again. Here are some of the crafts we did:

Native American Head Dresses

Construction Paper
Wide Tape (I suggest painter's tape)

Cut the construction paper into four long strips. Measure child's head and staple strips together so that it will fit snugly just above the ears. Select feathers to use and lay them out side by side, quills next to each other. To attach the feathers, lay out a piece of tape twice as wide as the feathers. Wrap the quills of the feathers together using tape. Then staple the tape to the construction paper on the inside.

Thanksgiving Tree

Construction Paper (many colors)

Using brown construction paper, make a trunk for your tree. Attach this to the wall. Have kids make leaves using various colors. If you want a more traditional tree, use red, brown, yellow and orange paper. If you want the kids to be more imaginative, let them use any color they want. I would suggest making a few patterns for them to trace and cut out. You'll need several leaves, so this could take a while! After all leaves have been cut, have them write something they're thankful for on each leaf. Glue leaves together, edge to edge so you can read what they wrote, in a large circular pattern. Once your leaf cluster has dried, tape this to the wall above the trunk. If you used several colors that don't normally appear on trees (i.e. pink or blue), have them name their tree. Maybe it's a Rainbow Oak?

Next Sunday will be another Arts and Crafts day, so I'll be sure to post some of our activities then too!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Many of you already have my pumpkin cookie recipe, but I have been fiddling with it and have made some adjustments.
Tips for this recipe:
Invest in a cookie scoop. I suggest Pampered Chef's scoop.
Use parchment paper, not aluminum foil. And by all means, NEVER spray the cookie sheets! Quit being cheap and spring for the parchment paper.

1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (if using cinnamon flavored applesauce, cut cinnamon below in half)
2 cups flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk
2 cups chocolate chips (can substitute white chocolate chips or use a mixture of both)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat over to 365 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Batter will be slightly stiff. Drop cookies onto PARCHMENT PAPER lined cookie sheet. These cookies don't spread much when baking, so I suggest lifting the cookie sheet about 4 inches from the counter and dropping it. That will slightly flatten the cookies, but will still leave that smooth, gooey center. Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes. They're done when you can touch the top of the cookie and your finger doesn't sink in. Let cool about 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cookies. Store them in the refrigerator. They're great served chilled!

Chicken Lasagna

Two things to notice in this blog:
1) I make a TON of cookies, cakes, pies, etc. So it's not very often you'll see a main dish here. This is one of those rare occasions, so take note!
2) I don't measure...anything. I put the measurements in when I can take a guess that I'm 99% sure is about right. Blame my mother for this. She taught me the cooking basics, and rule #1 is NEVER trust the cookbooks. Trust your senses. Texture is almost as important as taste, so if something looks too runny or too thick, it probably is. Adjust accordingly.

For this recipe, if you make lasagna the normal way (tomato sauce and ground beef), think about how much sauce you generally use and make that amount of this white sauce.

Boil lasagna noodles as you normally would. Cook 4 large chicken breasts and cut into bite size pieces. Wash and chop fresh spinach. In large bowl, combine cut chicken and chopped spinach along with fresh cheeses such as parmesan, ricotta, and mozzarella. You don't have to use all three and can substitute your favorites. I like to add mizithra cheese, but it can be hard to find.

In a small bowl, mix together more chopped spinach and mozzarella cheese. Keep this separate until final step.


In 2 qt sauce pan, mix together flour, milk and butter. You'll only need about 2 T butter. As to the milk and flour, use 3 parts milk to 2 parts flour. Heat on medium heat until mixture becomes thick. STIR CONSTANTLY!!! You'll know it's right when you lift the spoon out of the mixture and it drops off slowly. While still stirring, add 1 small can of chicken broth and a handful of fresh parmesan cheese and a handful of shredded fresh romano cheese. Keep stirring until everything is melted together. Sauce will be slightly thick at this point.

Spoon just enough sauce in your baking dish to cover the bottom. Add one layer of noodles. Spoon another layer of sauce then a third of the chicken/spinach/cheese mixture. Repeat this process two more times, then add another layer of noodles. On top of the noodles, sprinkle the spinach/mozzarella cheese from your small bowl. Bake at 375 until cheese browns on top and sauce is bubbly throughout. (40ish minutes) Let stand and cool for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy! I recommend serving with garlic bread and a cesar salad.

Pina Colada Cookies

Here's my recipe that I entered in the Morgan County fair. I only got second place, but that's because my name isn't "Margaret" or "Betty Sue" and I'm not old enough to be a member of AARP. Nevertheless, these are some awesome cookies! My only tip is to make sure you use REAL butter. No margarine in these cookies.

Piña Colada Cookies

½ c Soft Butter
3/8 c Powdered Sugar
¼ c Shredded Coconut
1/3 c Diced Fresh Pineapple
1 c Flour

2 c Diced Fresh Pineapple
¼ c Sugar
2 Shots Pineapple Rum

Cream butter and sugar. Add coconut and pineapple until completely incorporated. Add flour ¼ c at a time. Form dough into small balls and place on cookie sheet. Press thumb into each cookie forming a well. Bake at 350 degrees 11-13 minutes until bottoms begin to brown. Take out of oven and allow to cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet, then immediately transfer to wire cooling rack.
While cookies are baking, add all topping ingredients to small saucepan. Bring to boil at medium-high heat. Allow to boil until liquid is cooked out (about 30 minutes), stirring frequently. Spoon onto each cooled cookie while topping is still hot.