December 2005

Hello Everybody,

Well at my house the countdown is on to get ready for Christmas. I baked gingerbread houses last week. I put one of them online in the Christmas section at Razzle Dazzle Recipes. I have a couple of more to decorate and hope to get them done this week. Today I am starting my cookie baking and freezing them. Usually by this time my shopping is done but not this year! I did a lot of it the other day, I decided to do something practical and do spice baskets this year. We had a Penzey's open near us in the spring and I do love shopping there. If you've never heard of Penzey's they are online and I think their Chinese Cinnamon is the best cinnamon I've ever had. I'll be doing a couple of newsletters this month with lots of holiday goodies. For those of you making Food Gifts for Christmas don't forget about our newest site - Food Gifts From the Kitchen  There are recipes for mixes, mixes in a jar, breads, fudge, gourmet popcorn, candy, truffles, cakes, muffins, pancakes and more. I've also added new recipes to the Christmas section at Razzle Dazzle Recipes and will be adding a few more this week that I have. Enjoy!

     Mary Ellen        

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RECIPES FOR DECEMBER - CHRISTMAS COOKIES

FUDGE-FILLED PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (divided use)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup of the peanut butter, the shortening and the sugars until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until smooth.

In a small bowl, add the flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture until blended.

Shape the dough into 48 one-inch balls. On an ungreased baking sheet, place the balls 1 inch apart. Flatten the balls to 1/4-inch thickness by pressing them in a crisscross pattern with a fork that has been dipped in a small bowl of water to prevent the tines from sticking.

Bake about 8 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown and the tops are a pale tan. Transfer from baking sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small nonstick pan on low heat, add the chocolate chips and stir until softened and smooth. Add the remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature or until thickened.

To form the sandwich cookies, place 1 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture onto the flat bottom of one cookie and press the bottom of another cookie against it. Let the cookies stand about 1 hour or until chocolate is firm. When cool, store in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies

DATE PINWHEELS

Filling:
1 pound dates, chopped fine
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
Dash of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Dough:
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten well
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make filling, combine dates, sugar and water in a pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add salt and pecans. Allow to cool slightly.

To make dough, combine butter, sugars, eggs, flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, mixing well. Chill dough 30 minutes, then divide into four balls.

Roll out a ball of dough between 2 pieces of wax paper into a sort of rectangle. Spread 1/4 of the filling on dough evenly. Roll up long side, like a jellyroll; wrap in wax paper. Repeat with all dough and filling. Refrigerate rolls, wrapped in wax paper, overnight.

At baking time, slice rolls into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place on cookie sheet lightly coated with baking spray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

Yields 5 to 6 dozen

Nutritional analysis per pinwheel, based on 5 dozen: 113 calories, 4 grams fat, 19 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 82 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 31 percent of calories from fat.

HAZELNUT ESPRESSO TRUFFLE COOKIES

Cookies:
1 1/2 cups shelled hazelnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar, see note
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Truffle filling:
1 container (1/2 pint) whipping cream
9 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Decorating trim:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet; roast until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Remove from oven; rub briskly in a clean towel while still warm to remove most of the skins. Let cool completely. Finely chop nuts; set aside. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat the sugar, butter and salt in large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in whole egg, egg yolk and vanilla until mixed; beat in espresso powder until mixed. Reduce mixer speed to low; beat in reserved nuts.

Beat reserved flour mixture into batter until just mixed. Divide dough in half; shape into 2 discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, for truffle filling, heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just to a boil; remove from heat. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl; add cream, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chocolate thickens and is spreadable, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide one disc in half; return 11/2 discs to refrigerator. Roll out the half disc on a lightly floured board to 1 8-inch thick. Cut into trees or other shapes with cookie cutter; place cookies 1/2-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until edges just begin to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Cool on sheet 1 minute; transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Spread truffle filling on the bottom of 1 cookie; place a second cookie on top of the filling, sandwich style. Place filled cookies on wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies. (If chocolate thickens too much before cookies are filled, set the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and stir to soften.)

For decoration, heat chocolate chips in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly; spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a fine writing tip. Pipe thin lines of chocolate back and forth over the top of each cookie; place sheets of cookies in freezer until chocolate sets, about 10 minutes. Store cookies in airtight containers in refrigerator, 5-7 days, or freeze up to 3 months.

Note: Superfine sugar is sold in supermarket baking sections; you also can process regular sugar in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Yield: 40 cookies

Nutrition information per cookie:
227 calories, 56% of calories from fat, 15 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrates, 2.8 g protein, 43 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber

GRANDMA'S BUTTER COOKIES

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Add egg and flavorings. Sift flour, cream of tartar and baking soda into the mixture and combine well.

Divide dough into half and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. Roll out on a lightly floured board or between sheets of wax paper to 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into shapes and transfer to lightly greased baking sheet.

Add sprinkles if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes.

Yields 6 to 7 dozen

Nutritional analysis per cookie, based on 6 dozen: 49 calories, 3 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 9 milligrams cholesterol, 44 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.

JELLY THUMBPRINTS

4 sticks (2 cups) butter, softened
6 egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 cups flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons grape jelly

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; slowly beat in flour, zest and salt just until blended.

Roll scant teaspoonfuls of dough into tiny balls; place balls on lightly greased baking sheets. Make indentions in balls with the smallest end of a melon baller or your finger or thumb dipped in flour, being careful not to poke through the dough.

Fill indentations with jelly. Bake until edges begin to lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from sheet to wire rack; cool 30 minutes.

Nutrition information per cookie:
92 calories, 56% of calories from fat, 5.8 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 9.2 g carbohydrates, 1.1 g protein, 47 mg sodium, 0.2 g fiber

KAHLUA FILLED COOKIE CUPS

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 24 miniature muffin cups. Beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla extract, almond extract and egg yolk. Blend well. Stir in flour and salt. Mix well. Chill one hour. Place 2 teaspoons dough into each muffin cup and press up sides to form shell. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Filling:
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
Grated chocolate

Carefully remove cookie cups from muffin tin; let cool. In small bowl, beat cocoa and butter until fluffy. Add confectioners' sugar and liqueur. Blend well. Spoon filling into pastry bag or a zip-type bag with the corner snipped off) and squeeze into cookie cups. Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

NUTTY MOCHA CINNAMON BISCOTTI

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons coffee beans ground for espresso
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
3 eggs
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped coarsely

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In an electric mixer bowl using a paddle attachment, mix sugars, olive oil, milk and eggs for 5 minutes. Beat in dry ingredients just until incorporated; dough will be sticky. Mix in nuts.

Place dough on a floured surface. Divide evenly into two pieces. Roll the dough into two 12 inch logs. Place on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet and pat the logs down so they are about 3 ˝ inches wide. Bake until they spring back when pressed lightly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow the logs to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, cut into biscotti about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange on the baking sheet, with one cut side down.

Bake again, at 350 degrees, for 6 minutes. Turn and bake 4 minutes more, or until toasted as desired. Cool on racks. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 48.

Per cookie: 71 calories (32 percent from fat), 2.6 g fat (0.4 g saturated, 0.8 g monounsaturated), 13.5 mg cholesterol, 1.5 g protein, 10.8 g carbohydrates, 0.4 g fiber, 43.7 mg sodium.

Christmas Cookies at That's My Home
Christmas Cookies at Razzle Dazzle Recipes

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DECORATE THE TREE

NONEDIBLE DOUGH ORNAMENTS

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour and salt well. Gradually add water, stirring with a large spoon. Finish mixing with hands. Knead until soft and pliable.

Roll out on floured surface about 1/8 -inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets.

With a toothpick, make a hole in the top of the ornament for threading string.

Bake at 325 degrees until hard, about 1 hour. Decorate with paint and varnish to preserve.

Makes about 15 ornaments.

More Ornament Recipes

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QUICK, EASY DINNERS

GOOD AND EASY CHICKEN POT PIE

1 package Pillsbury Ready Made Pie Crusts (two 9-inch crusts)
5 tablespoons butter
5 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups warm chicken broth
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked and cubed chicken or turkey
1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 pastry sheet and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and continue whisking or stirring until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in chicken or turkey and vegetables. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate.

Roll out second pastry sheet and use it to cover top of pie, pressing edges sheets to seal. Cut several slits in top crust to release steam.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in center of oven about 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

FOIL-BAKED COD WITH GINGER, ORANGE AND CUMIN

1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger root
Juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups fresh spinach, tough stems removed, well rinsed
Fine sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
6 (5- to 6-ounce) cod fillets, preferably Atlantic cod
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together ginger, orange juice and olive oil in a nonreactive small bowl. Set out 6 (12-by-20-inch) pieces aluminum foil.

Put equal amounts of spinach in center of each piece of foil and season it with salt and pepper. Season fish with salt and pepper, and lay 1 fillet on each bed of spinach. Drizzle orange mixture over fish. Divide cumin and red pepper flakes among fillets. Wrap foil around fish to form a tight package, pressing down on seams to seal.

Bake parcels directly on oven racks 18 minutes until fish is firm and opaque. Remove packages from oven and place on plates. Cut open with a knife and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 224 calories, 33 percent calories from fat, 8 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 78 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, .81 gram total fiber, .90 gram total sugars, 2 grams net carbs, 33 grams protein, 137 milligrams sodium.

Toast cumin seeds by placing them in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Shake pan and toast seeds until fragrant and slightly darkened, a few minutes. Watch carefully; they burn easily.

QUICK SKEWERED CHICKEN WITH PEANUT SAUCE

Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, fish sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each cut lengthwise into 3 strips
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and crushed red pepper in a small bowl; set aside. Place chicken strips in a medium bowl; set aside.

Process the garlic, cilantro and brown sugar in a food processor until cilantro is finely chopped; pulse in 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture. Add to chicken; toss to mix.

Combine remaining soy sauce mixture and peanut butter in the same food processor bowl; puree, adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach a thick consistency. Transfer to small serving bowl.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium high; thread chicken on 12 skewers. Grill, turning once until cooked through and browned, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with sauce for dipping.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving:
359 calories, 47% of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 73 mg cholesterol, 13 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 1,419 mg sodium, 2.9 g fiber

OVEN BAKED DRUMSTICKS

3 cups fresh white bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter
9 tablespoons Dijon mustard
24 chicken drumsticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two large baking sheets.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, onion powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper in large bowl and stir to blend.

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove saucepan from heat. Add mustard and whisk to blend.

Brush drumsticks generously with butter mixture, then roll in bread-crumb mixture, coating completely. Arrange drumsticks on prepared baking sheets.

Bake drumsticks until golden brown and cooked through, about one hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 servings

LOW-FAT CRANBERRY CHICKEN

1 (16 oz.) package fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. low-sodium beef bouillon
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground celery seed
1/2 cup fat-free sun-dried-tomato vinaigrette
6 (6 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a medium-size, heavy saucepan, combine the cranberries, water and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries pop and the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the beef bouillon, garlic powder, celery seed and dressing, and stir to combine.

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared pan, top with the cranberry mixture and cover the pan with foil. Bake for about 30 minutes, covered, then remove the foil and continue baking until done, about another 15 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about: 374 calories, 5 grams fat, 104 milligrams cholesterol, 313 milligrams sodium, 44 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein and 3 grams fiber.

Quick and Easy Recipes

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CANDIES AND FUDGE

FRUIT JELL-O DIVINITY

Any flavor of fruit gelatin can be used. Try strawberry, raspberry or lime flavors for the holidays.

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
2 large egg whites
1 (4-serving-size) package fruit gelatin
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Grease a 9-inch-square baking pan; set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a good simmer and cook mixture to hard ball stage, 265 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, beat egg whites to soft peak stage on high speed of an electric mixer. Fold in dry gelatin and continue beating to very firm peaks.

Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin, steady stream into egg white mixture, beating constantly. Continue beating until candy loses its gloss and holds its shape. If pecans are used, fold into mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Let stand several hours to firm up. If you wish, you can drop the mixture by teaspoons onto oiled wax paper instead. Makes about 24 servings.

Per serving (with pecans): 176 calories, 18 percent calories from fat, 4 grams total fat, .31 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 37 grams carbohydrates, .48 gram total fiber, 37 grams total sugars, 37 grams net carbs, 1 gram protein, 30 milligrams sodium.

Per serving (without pecans): 142 calories, no fats, no cholesterol, 36 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 36 grams total sugars, 36 grams net carbs, .64 gram protein, 30 milligrams sodium.

CHOCOLATE RUM RAISIN TRUFFLES

1 1/2 tablespoons raisins, chopped
1 tablespoon rum
1 cup chocolate
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl. Soak for at least one hour.

Melt chocolate, cream and butter in a double-boiler over low heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat; stir in rum-raisin mixture. Refrigerate at least four hours or until firm enough to handle. Shape into 1-inch balls using a scoop or teaspoon and roll in cocoa powder to coat. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Microwave instructions: Combine chips, cream and butter in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl. Heat on medium power (50 percent or level 5) for two to three minutes, stirring well after each minute initially, then at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Proceed as directed above.

Makes 16-20 1-inch truffles

CHOCOLATE NUT CRUNCH CANDY

1/2 cup chopped nuts (choose your favorite)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, plus some for greasing pan
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
6 1-ounce squares semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Butter an 8-inch-square pan. Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the buttered surface.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and boil gently for four to five minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour carefully and evenly over the nuts in the pan. Sprinkle chopped chocolate on top. Cover the pan for two minutes to allow the heat to soften the chocolate. When it's soft, spread it evenly over the candy.

Chill until very firm. Remove from pan and break or cut into pieces.

Makes about 1 pound

CHERRY FUDGE TRUFFLES

Reynolds® Color Plastic Wrap
Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper
1/3 cup black cherry all fruit spread
2 tablespoons margarine
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 package (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer cookie crumbs
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped sliced almonds

Place fruit spread, margarine and almond extract in medium microwave-safe bowl. Stirring halfway through cooking time, microwave on HIGH until melted, 45 seconds to 1 minute.

Add chocolate morsels and stir until morsels are melted. Add cookie crumbs and powdered sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir until well blended. Shape by teaspoonfuls into 40 balls.

Place chopped almonds on a sheet of Reynolds Cut-Rite Wax Paper. Roll balls in almonds. Serve at room temperature.

Line decorative boxes with individual nests of Reynolds Color Plastic Wrap for gift giving.

To make individual nests, place thumb in center of 6-inch sheets of crystal rose, green, blue, violet or yellow plastic wrap. Mold plastic wrap around thumb to form nests. Place truffles in nests and arrange in decorative box.

Makes 40
Source: Reynolds Kitchens

COOKIE CUTTER FUDGE

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Decorator icing or candies (optional)

Place six 3-by-1/2-inch cookie cutters in simple shape, on 5-inch squares of foil. Seal foil around outside of cutters. Place on cookie sheet. Spray cutters with cooking spray.

In glass bowl, mix chips, milk and butter. Microwave uncovered on high 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until chips are almost melted. Stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture into cookie-cutter molds, filling to tops. Refrigerate uncovered 2 hours or until firm. Decorate as desired.

Carefully remove foil. Gently press fudge out of molds.

Recipe note: Run a thin knife around the cutters before attempting to push out fudge from the bottom. You can use an 8-inch square pan instead. Line with foil and pour the fudge into pan. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Cut into squares.

Yield: 6 cookie-cutter servings.

Christmas Candy Recipes at That's My Home
Christmas Candy Recipes at Razzle Dazzle Recipes
Fudge Recipes

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DESSERTS

CHOCOLATE CHUNK PECAN PIE

2 unbaked 9-inch pie shells or 1 unbaked 10-inch deep-dish pie shell
2 cups pecan halves
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
5 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees; place pie shells in greased pie pans. Prick crust's bottom and sides with fork in 9 places. Bake 10 minutes; remove from oven. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, reduce oven to 325 degrees. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Break nuts into small pieces; transfer to a large bowl.

Chop the chocolate into 1/2-inch pieces; add to bowl. Add the flour; stir until pecans and chocolate pieces are well coated.

Cream the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate each before adding the next. Add the corn syrup, molasses, liqueur, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

Pour mixture over the chocolate and pecans, stirring to combine; pour filling evenly into pie shells. Transfer to the lower oven shelf. Bake until filling is nearly set in the center, 55 minutes for 9-inch pies or 1 hour, 10 minutes for the 10-inch pie. Cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 16 slices from 2 pies):

482 calories, 57% of calories from fat, 32 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 89 mg cholesterol, 49 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g protein, 247 mg sodium, 2.1 g fiber

Yield: Two 9-inch pies or one 10-inch deep-dish pie

WHITE CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CHEESECAKE

White Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cream
1/3 cup sugar

Crust:
15 double graham crackers
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

Caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
few drops vinegar or lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Cheesecake Batter:
2 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, very soft
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole macadamia nuts

Ganache:
Place white chocolate chips and butter in medium bowl.

Boil cream and sugar and pour over chips. Stir then cover immediately with plastic wrap for 3-5 minutes to let chocolate melt.

Remove wrap, stir again to smooth, and chill till ready to use - but not longer than 1 hour or mixture may set too much.

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Double wrap outside of 10 or 12 inch springform pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, covering bottom and up sides to catch any batter leakage.

In food processor, process graham crackers to fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into springform pan. With hands, mix in melted butter and brown sugar until crumbs hold together; use your knuckles to press crumb mixture up sides and over bottom of pan.

Bake 10 minutes. Cool.

Caramel:
In heavy saucepan, bring sugar, water, and vinegar to boil over medium high heat. If crystals form on sides of pan, cover pan for 30 seconds or as long as 5 minutes so steam rinses off sides. When caramel darkens you may swirl pan to even color. Take caramel to an amber gold color.

Meanwhile dissolve cornstarch in cream. When caramel is desired color, remove from heat and quickly add cornstarch cream mixture. Caramel will bubble up.

When foaming subsides, stir in butter. Reheat a minute to even out mixture to smooth, thick texture. Cool by setting saucepan in bowl of cool water; caramel will thicken even more.

Cheesecake Batter:
Set oven rack in lower third of oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F.

With mixer, beat cream cheese for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down when necessary. Still on medium speed, gradually add sugar. Add eggs one by one, mixing each only until absorbed. Don't over mix during these intervals or batter could "break". On slow speed, add vanilla and mix a few turns.

Assembly:
Set aside 1 cup cheesecake batter in measuring cup. In addition, set aside 1/2 cup caramel for top of cake. Mix 2/3 of remaining cheesecake batter with all of the ganache. Pour into baked crust.

Mix larger amount of caramel with remaining 1/3 of cheesecake batter. Pour over ganache, to within 1/2 inch of sides.

Top caramel layer with 1 cup reserved cheesecake batter, smoothing to edge of pan. Set cake in shallow roasting pan and place in oven. Carefully pour hot tap water into roasting pan so it comes to within an inch of top of cheesecake.

Bake 1 hour, 45 minutes. The top will still jiggle slightly, but knife should come out clean. Take cake from water. If necessary, use a bulb baster to remove some of the hot water. Cool in pan on rack.

Topping:
Toast macadamia nuts on baking sheet at 350° F. for 5-8 minutes, tossing a little. Pour onto cutting board and chop to size of corn kernels. Heat and stir the reserved 1/2 cup caramel on low heat, just to make it pourable. Stir in macadamias and spread over top of cooled cheesecake.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight. Cut with knife dipped in tall glass of hot water, then wiped dry.

Before serving, set cake out at room temperature for 45 minutes.

TORTA DI RICOTTA

Pastry:
2 cups all purpose white flour
3/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons dry Marsala wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks

Filling:
1 (32-ounce) container ricotta cheese (about 4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2 medium-sized oranges, grated peel of
2 medium-sized lemons, grated peel of
Confectioners’ sugar
Orange twists for garnish

First prepare pastry dough: In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat flour, margarine or butter, sugar, Marsala, salt, and egg yolks just until mixed. Shape dough into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Into 10 inch by 2 1/2 inch springform pan, press three-fourths of dough onto bottom and up side of pan to within 3/4 inch of top; keep remaining dough refrigerated.

Bake crust 15 minutes or until golden; cool in pan on wire rack.

While crust is cooling, prepare filling: Into large bowl, press ricotta through fine sieve. With mixer at medium speed, beat ricotta just until smooth; slowly beat in sugar, scraping bowl often with rubber spatula. Add heavy or whipping cream, flour, vanilla extract, salt, eggs, orange and lemon peel; beat until well blended, occasionally scraping bowl. Pour cheese mixture into crust.

On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll out remaining dough into 10 inch by 5 inch rectangle. Cut dough lengthwise into ten 1/2 inch wide strips. Place 5 dough strips about 1 inch apart across filling. Arrange remaining strips at right angles to make a lattice. Trim ends of strips even with crust.

Bake cheesecake 1 1/4 hours.

Turn off oven; let cheesecake remain in oven 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or until well chilled.

When cheesecake is firm, with spatula, loosen pan side from cheesecake and remove; loosen cake from pan bottom; slide onto plate. Sprinkle cheesecake with confectioners’ sugar. Arrange orange twists around cake.

Servings: 16

Source: Good Housekeeping Desserts

TRES LECHES CAKE

Cake
6 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream
1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk
1 (14 1/2 -ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks (If you are worried about eating raw egg yolks, use pasteurized eggs.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Meringue
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg whites

Cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Lightly beat the yolks; set aside. Beat the whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until glossy. Add the yolks gently so you don't deflate the whites. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into the batter. Mix the milk with the vanilla and stir in gently. Pour into the pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick. Let the cake cool in the pan.

Ten minutes after the cake comes out of the oven, begin preparing the cream.

Cream: mix the ingredients together and beat well. Place the cake, still in its pan, on a plate to prevent spills. Pour the cream over the cake. Be patient -- it will all be absorbed. Once it is, chill the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Meringue: cook the sugar, 1 cup water and cream of tartar on medium heat until a thick syrup forms. (When you place a wooden spoon in it, the syrup will look stringy.) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. While continuing to beat the whites, slowly add the sugar syrup until a meringue forms. Continue to beat as the mixture cools. Remove the cake from the freezer, unmold and spread the meringue over it.

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APPETIZERS

BACON WRAPPED BREADSTICKS
You can find the crunchy breadsticks in the snack aisle of your market. The most common brand is Alessi. You should have an extra piece or two of bacon.

1 (16-ounce) package bacon
1 (4.4-ounce) box sesame seed breadsticks
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap bacon in a spiral around breadsticks. Place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked through. Reverse the sheet halfway through for even cooking.

Place cheese on a plate. When breadsticks are done, remove from baking sheet, and dredge in Parmesan while hot. Set aside on a clean baking sheet or cooling rack, and allow to cool and crisp before serving.

14 servings

Per serving: 205 calories (percent of calories from fat, 68), 10 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 15 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 584 milligrams sodium.

SPICY CHINESE FIVE SPICE RUBBED CHICKEN WINGS WITH CREAMY CILANTRO DIPPING SAUCE

For the chicken wings:
20 wings (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

To prepare the wings: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In a large bowl, place wings and sprinkle with five-spice powder and cayenne. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Rub the mixture into all the wings until no more loose rub remains. Line up the wings on a baking sheet so the side of the wing that has the most skin is facing up. Roast until cooked through, browned and crispy, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a bowl, combine cilantro, sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

20 servings

Per wing: 80 calories (percent of calories from fat, 68), 5 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 445 milligrams sodium.

OVEN BAKED ROSEMARY POTATO CHIPS


Because the potato needs to be sliced thinly and evenly for proper baking, a mandoline, a hand-held slicer, is highly recommended for this recipe - and makes it a snap to prepare.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 russet potato, peeled
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 large baking sheets lightly with oil. Arrange potato slices in one flat layer on baking sheets. Brush lightly with oil, and bake until golden throughout, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often. Transfer to paper towels, and sprinkle with salt and rosemary while hot.

4 servings

Per serving: 46 calories (percent of calories from fat, 66), trace protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 3 grams fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 31 milligrams sodium.

MUSHROOM STRUDEL

3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup diced sweet red pepper
7 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons fine bread crumbs
1/3 cup melted clarified butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup diced black forest ham
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
8 sheets phyllo pastry
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

In large frying pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Cook onion, red pepper and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms; increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are tender and all moisture has evaporated. Season with salt, pepper, thyme and lemon juice. Remove from heat; stir in ham, mozzarella cheese, parsley and breadcrumbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool.

Divide mushroom filling in two portions. Brush 4 sheets of phyllo pastry lightly with melted butter; stack neatly one on top of the other. About 1 inch from one long edge of phyllo pastry, spread half of mustard in a 2 inch wide strip, leaving a 1 inch border on both sides. Over mustard, spread half of the mushroom filling. Dust filling and phyllo pastry with half the parmesan cheese. Turn up bottom edge of pastry over mushroom filling; turn both side edges in the brush this exposed phyllo pastry on bottom and edges with butter. Roll up, jelly roll fashion, loosely but compactly. Place, seam down, on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo pastry, butter, filling and parmesan cheese. Brush top with butter; with sharp knife cut 8 slits on diagonal, on top of each roll, through top 2 layers of phyllo pastry.

Bake at 375 degrees F. oven for about 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp. Let cool for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Appetizer Recipes at That's My Home

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RESTAURANT RECIPES

EAST CITY MUSHROOM BISQUE
Although the taste of this bisque is rated tops as soon as it is made, you will find the flavor improves even more if made a day ahead.

l large basil leaf
10 black peppercorns
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 pounds baby portobello mushrooms
3 tablespoons light olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large leek, white part only, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup port wine
1/4 cup red wine (we used a merlot)
2 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken broth (homemade, canned or 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base dissolved in 1 quart water)
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry sherry wine or to taste
3 to 4 good dashes Tabasco sauce
3 to 4 good dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup (or more depending upon the number of servings) fresh-grated parmesan, for garnish
White truffle oil, for garnish, optional
Chopped chives, for garnish, optional

In the middle of a large piece of cheesecloth, place basil leaf, peppercorns, sprigs of fresh thyme and sprigs of flat leaf parsley. Tie with a long piece of cotton string, leaving about 12 inches of string to hang over side of pot for easy removal; set aside.

Clean mushrooms. Remove and discard any hard stems. Halve or quarter mushrooms so they are all similar in size. Set aside.

In a nonreactive large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions, leeks and garlic about 2 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add mushrooms and continue to saute 3 to 5 minutes more or until mushrooms wilt and begin to brown. Stir in port and red wines and simmer a minute. Add potatoes, broth and spice bag, pushing bag in well but letting string hang over edge of pot.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so mixture is at a good simmer; partially cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in heavy cream, return to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 12 to 15 minutes, or until everything is very tender.

We opted to let the mixture cool about 45 minutes at this point, stirring occasionally so it was cool enough to process. Remove and discard spice bag. In a good blender or a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process bisque in batches until as smooth as possible (there will still be small bits). Press mixture through a medium- to large-hole strainer (you just want to remove largest pieces) into a large soup pot. When all is strained, return to a boil and swirl in butter. Add sherry, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. If too thick, thin with a bit of additional chicken broth or water. If too thin, cook 15 minutes or so or until right consistency. Serve at once or let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat over medium to low heat before serving. Serve garnished with about 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese per serving, a few drops truffle oil and a sprinkling of chives. Makes about 11 cups.

Per (1-cup) serving: 286 calories, 56 percent calories from fat, 24 grams total fat, 13 grams saturated fat, 71 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams total fiber, 4 grams total sugars, 11 grams net carbs, 7 grams protein, 129 milligrams sodium.

HARRIS RANCH PECAN DROP COOKIES

2/3 cup egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet or line cookie pan with parchment and set aside.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in small bowl of mixer and beat at high speed. Slowly add brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Continue beating 3-5 minutes, or until egg whites stiffen and soft, glossy peaks form.

Fold in pecans. Drop cookie dough in teaspoon-sized mounds onto prepared cookie pans and bake 10-15 minutes. Cool cookies before removing from pan.

NEW ENGLAND SOUP FACTORY BIG SOFT AND CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

2 sticks whole butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure bourbon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted all- purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 oz. Ghiradelli double chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for about 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix. In a separate bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix to combine. Do not over mix or you will have tough cookies. Add the chocolate chips in by hand and stir. With an ice cream scoop that is medium sized scoop batter onto parchment lined cookie sheets 3-4 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets after 1 minute and let cool on cooling racks.

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COOKIE BAKING TIPS

One of life's simple pleasures is enjoying the delightful taste of a home-baked cookie still warm from the oven. Here are a few tips to consider when baking your favorite cookie, whether it be a sparkling sugar cookie cut into whimsical figures, a chewy-gooey chocolate chip cookie, or an oatmeal cookie studded with raisins and nuts.

First, always preheat your oven and position oven racks (normally the top shelves, unless otherwise instructed) 10 to 15 minutes before you need to bake. To be sure of your oven's temperature accuracy, try keeping an oven thermometer in the oven at all times and make adjustments for the temperature accordingly.

Butter should always be used at room temperature or slightly. Cold, hard butter will not cream as easily when you incorporate it with the sugar resulting in flat, so-so cookies.

Always use large eggs, ground spices, and all-purpose flour, unless otherwise indicated.

If a recipe calls for light or dark brown sugar be sure you firmly pack it into the measuring cup for an accurate measurement.

When using nuts, be sure to toast them before adding them to the batter for maximum flavor. (Also taste them before using to make sure they haven't gone rancid.)

Don't use imitation vanilla extract--use the real stuff--it does make a difference.

Use only real chocolate. Those chocolate-flavored morsels are cheaper, and that's exactly what they taste like.

When adding dried fruit like raisins or currants to the dough make sure they are soft, not hard and shriveled. To reconstitute hard, dried fruit pour boiling water over them, let sit 4 to 5 minutes then strain. Proceed as recipe directs.

Keep the cookie size consistent. Measure the batter out carefully so all the cookies will be the same size and thus they'll all bake at the same speed.

Halfway through baking remember to reverse the top and bottom sheets and also rotate each cookie sheet from front to back.

If the recipe specifies, for example baking cookies 10 to 12 minutes, check them at 10 minutes, but to be on the safe side, take a peak after 8 or 9 minutes of cooking. Prefer soft and chewy cookies? Then just under bake them a bit and allow to cool several minutes on baking sheets before transferring to a cooling rack.

Only bake one or two cookie sheets at a time. And if you're making several batches of cookies make sure you cool the cookie sheet completely before using it again or your batter is apt to melt and run off the pan.

Shiny, light colored cookie sheets do a better job of evenly browning the bottoms of cookies than dark sheets do. Shiny silver sheets heat much more evenly, and if sticking is a concern use parchment baking paper for the best results. The paper also keeps the bottom of the cookies from over-browning. Parchment paper can be reused several times, both front and back.

And last, but not least, store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Source: Laurann Claridge, Chef and Food Talk Columnist for the Houston Chronicle, Houston, Texas USA.

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