Friday, November 30, 2012

Red Velvet - Peppermint Swirl Brownies

Red Velvet-Peppermint Brownies

When I read the title of this recipe, I knew I had to make it.  I love red velvet anything, add peppermint and cream cheese,  and I am in dessert heaven.   Being it is the holiday time, I do not need an excuse to bake something yummy.   I don't worry about the calories,  I just go for it.   I was surprised on how easy these brownies were to make.  You make two layers - the chocolate layer and the cream cheese layer.  Swirl them together and you have beautiful and tasty brownies.
For the chocolate layer:  The chocolate is melted with  the butter in the microwave.  Eggs are then added along with the food coloring, peppermint extract and vanilla extract.  Stir until everything is combined and stir in the dry ingredients.  The batter is poured into a lined 13x9-inch baking dish.
For the cream cheese layer: Next you make the cream cheese topping.  Cream cheese and sugar are beat at medium speed until fluffy.  Add egg whites and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Stir in the flour and the cream cheese layer is complete.  Spoon it over the brownie batter and swirl the cream cheese into the brownie layer and bake.  Remove the brownies from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares.
The result: Delicious brownies with melt in your mouth goodness.  They are more fudgy than cake like.  The taste of peppermint is ever so mild and that makes these brownies extra good.  They are a  great treat for your family and friends or to put in your holiday goodie tins:)

Red Velvet-Peppermint Swirl Brownies
From Southern Living Magazine


1 (4-ounce) bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
3/4 cup butter
2 1/4 cups sugar, divided
4 large eggs
1 (1-ounce) bottle red liquid food coloring
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line bottom and sides of a 13x9-inch pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.
2. Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.  Whisk in 2 cups sugar.  Add eggs, 1 at a time whisking just until blended  after each addition.  Add food coloring, peppermint extract, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Gently stir in 1 1/2 cups flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Chocolate and Butter
Melted Chocolate and Butter
3. Beat cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add egg whites and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until blended.  Stir in 2 tablespoons flour until smooth.  Drop cream cheese mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls over batter in pan; gently swirl with a knife.
Chocolate Layer
Dollops of Cream Cheese on Chocolate Layer
Cream Cheese Swirled in Chocolate Layer
4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 32 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack (about 1 hour).  Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles.  Gently remove foil; cut brownies into squares.

Makes about 2 dozen

Baked Goodness

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spiced-Cherry Cheese Log

Spiced-Cherry Cheese Log
During the holiday time, I like having quick bites to eat for family and friends.  One of my favorites is cheese and crackers. I usually make up a cheese ball or log  during the holiday season.  They are quick and easy to make.  This recipe has dried cherries in it along with pumpkin pie spice.  You start by combining cream cheese and Vermont Sharp White Cheddar cheese.  Once the cheeses are combined you add dried cherries and pumpkin pie spice.  Form the mixture into a log and chill for at least 2 hours.  Before you serve, roll the cheese log in some finely chopped pecans.  Serve with crackers.  I love the flavors of this recipe.  The cheese log is very flavorful without a lot of different seasonings.  You use just one - pumpkin pie spice.  The cheeses blend together nicely and the dried cherries add a nice texture and just a slight tartness to the log.

Spiced-Cherry Cheese Log
From Kraft


1 package (8 ounce) Cream Cheese, softened
1 package (8 ounce) Shredded Vermont Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted


1. Mix cream cheese and Cheddar until blended.  Stir in cherries and spice.

2. Shape into a log; wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

3. Roll in nuts just before servings.  Serve with crackers.

Makes 24 servings, 2 tablespoons spread and 5 crackers each

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sugar-and-Spice Nuts

Sugar-and-Spice Nuts
Sugar-and-Spice nuts are perfect for the holidays.   The seasonal spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves blend so well with the sugar coating in these delicious nuts. The egg white is what coats the nuts with the sugar-and spices and gives them a delicate crunchy texture. It is hard to eat just one.  These nuts are addicting.   You can make these nuts very quickly and they are easy to make.    Start by combing the sugar with the spices.  Toss the nuts with a lightly beaten egg white and coat with the sugar-and-spice mixture. I use a combination of pecans, cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts.    Bake for about 20 minutes on a baking sheet.  For easy clean up, I line my baking sheet with parchment paper.     Let them cool for about 1 hour.  They are ready to eat and enjoy. If you make these nuts in advance, store in an airtight container.  They will keep up to 2 weeks.  Need a quick gift?  These nuts make a wonderful gift from your kitchen.  

Sugar-and-Spice Nuts
From "Ten" by Sheila Lukins


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces mixed nuts
1 large egg white, lightly beaten


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a bowl.  Stir well and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, toss the nuts with the egg white to coat them.  Then add the sugar-and-spice mixture and mix well.

4. Spread the coated nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet.  You may need to use your fingers to separate the nuts as much as possible.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and use a metal spatula to scrape up the nuts and break them apart.  Return the nuts to the oven for 5 minutes more to dry them thoroughly.

5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and shake it to break up the nuts.  Let the nuts sit on the baking sheet in a cool dry place for 1 hour to cool and harden. (Stored in a tin in a cool dry place, the nuts will keep for up to 2 weeks.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Herbed Olives

Herbed Olives
This week in French Fridays With Dorie we made Herbed Olives.  I made them a few days early so I could serve them at Thanksgiving.  I did just as Dorie suggested -I got the plainest olives I could find.  The olives are marinated in seasoned olive oil.  The olive oil is seasoned with coriander, fennel, black pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, chili flakes, lemon zest, and garlic.  I took a a taste right after I prepared the olives and they were ok.  Let them macerate in the refrigerator overnight and the next day they are wonderful.  They were some of the best olives I have eaten and so easy and inexpensive to make.  I'll be making this recipe again and again.
You can find this recipe on  pages 16-17 in "Around My French Table."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Soup From Chili's

Chicken Enchilada Soup
This recipe is perfect for using left over turkey or if you need to feed a crowd during the holidays.  I usually make it on Black Friday after a full day of shopping.  It is a hearty  filling meal and super easy to make.  To save time, I usually dice the onions, cube the cheese, and cube the turkey (chicken) the night before.  To prepare the soup you place vegetable oil, chicken base, onions and spices in a very large pot.  I used an 8 quart- stockpot.  The onions and spices are sauteed for about 5 minutes.  The Masa Harina is mixed with one quart of water and stirred until all lumps are dissolved.  I used 1 cup of the Masa Harina and the soup had  a medium consistency.  You bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes.  You then add the tomatoes.  The cheese and chicken (turkey) are then added to the soup.  Ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with some shredded Mexican cheese.  The result is a hearty, slightly spicy soup that is loaded with chicken (turkey).

Chili's Chicken Enchilada Soup


1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chicken base
3 cups diced yellow onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2-2 cups Masa Harina (Note: Depending on how you like your soup, 1/2 cup makes a thinner soup while 2 cups makes a thicker soup
4 quarts water (divided)
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound processed American cheese, cut in small cubes
3 pound cubed cooked chicken - approximately 9 cups
Sour Cream
Shredded Mexican Cheese


1. In a large pot, place the oil, chicken base, onion, and spices.
2. Saute until the onions are soft and clear, about 5 minutes.
3. In another container, combine Masa Harina with 1 quart water.  Stir until all lumps dissolve.

4. Add to sauteed onions and bring to a boil.
5. Once mixture starts to bubble, continue cooking 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
6. Add remaining 3 quarts of water to the pot.
7. Add the tomatoes; let mixture return to a boil stirring occasionally.
8. Add cheese to soup.  Cook stirring until the cheese melts.
9. Add the chicken and heat through.
10. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of shredded Mexican cheese.

Makes 16-20 servings

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake

Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake
This coffee cake is perfect for Thanksgiving morning.  It sets the mood for the goodies that are to come later on in the day.  What makes the coffee cake so yummy are the spiced cranberries, spices and orange zest.  Cranberries are cooked with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and orange zest.   A truly delicious and seasonal filling for the  cake. I prepared the filling the night before and brought it to room temperature when I was ready to use it.  The cake is made with butter, flour, sugar, salt, eggs, buttermilk, orange zest, baking powder, and baking soda.  Once you have prepared the cake batter, you spread half of it in a prepared 9x13-inch baking dish.  Dot the batter with half of the cranberry sauce and swirl it in the batter.  Cover the cranberries with the rest of the batter.  Dollop the remaining sauce on the batter and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.  Bake.  Drizzle a confections' sugar icing over the warm cake.  Delicious:)

Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake
From Woman's Day


3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 cups spiced cranberries, recipe follows
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter and lightly dust with flour.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, then the buttermilk and orange zest.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
3. Spread half the batter into the prepared baking dish. Dollop 1 cup cranberry sauce over the top, then gently spread, swirling it into the batter.  Top with the remaining batter, then dollop with the remaining cranberry sauce.
Batter Spread in Bottom of Baking Dish

Dots of Cranberry Sauce On Top Of Batter


Remaining Batter Placed On Top of Cranberries

Dotted With Remaining Cranberries

4. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top and bake until the cake is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean,  45-50 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

Sprinkled With Chopped Walnuts

5. While the cake cools, make the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth.  Drizzle the icing over the warm cake, then let cool completely before serving.


Confectioners'  Icing

Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake

Spiced Cranberries

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest


1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and the sugar to a boil.
2. Add the cranberries, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and grated orange zest, and boil until the skin burst, about 7 minutes.

Spices and Orange Zest

Popped Berries

3. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Serves 12

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cranberry and Pepper Shortbread Bites

Cranberry and Pepper Shortbread Bites
Cranberry and Pepper Shortbread Bites sounded interesting to me and looked so festive in the picture.  Perfect for the upcoming holidays.  I knew I was going to make this recipe.  At first, I thought the shortbread was a combination of cranberry and pepper.  That isn't the case.  The dough is halved and one part has cranberries the other part pink peppercorns.   The dough for the shortbread is made in a food processor,  so it is easy.  The ingredients for the shortbread are  toasted almonds, flour, sugar, cornstarch, salt, butter and vanilla.  The dough is then divided in half.  You knead crushed pink peppercorns into one half and finely snipped dried cranberries in the other half.    Chill the dough for 30 minutes and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.  You then cut the shortbread with a round cutter.  Sprinkle the shortbread with coarse salt or pearl decorating sugar and bake. Transfer  to a wire rack to cool.  Be sure to let the shortbread cool completely.  It firms up as it cools.
My favorite shortbread was the peppercorn ones topped with salt.  They had a light peppery salty taste.  A very flavorful savory bite.  For the cranberry shortbread,  I sprinkled the tops with sugar.  They were a slightly sweeter shortbread.  The kids and spouse preferred these.

Cranberry and Pepper Shortbread Bites
From Better Homes and Gardens


1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons very finely snipped dried cranberries
Coarse salt or pearl decorating sugar (optional)

1. In a food processor, process almonds until finely chopped.  Add flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt; process with several on/off turns until mixed.  Add butter and vanilla; process until slightly crumbly.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Add peppercorns to one half and knead until smooth.  Add cranberries to other half and knead until smooth.  Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.
Toasted Almonds
Ground Almonds
Peppercorn Dough
Cranberry Dough
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll one portion of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with a 2-inch round cutter.  Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with coarse salt or pearl decorating sugar.

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges and bottoms just start to brown.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool.  Repeat with remaining portion of dough.

Makes 48 servings