Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Another Birthday ... including Brownies

This is the year for milestone birthdays at our house.  Our daughter will be 21 in a few days, our son will be 18 this year, my husband is reaching a momentous decade mark, and as for me I'm feeling old and pleading the fifth.  With our daughter away at college, it distresses me to no end that we can't be there to celebrate with her on her day.  So we decided to make our birthday care package a little more special than usual.

20 packages, all numbered and boxed in order so she would open them from #1 through #20. 
Package #1 ... one CD
Package #2 ... two barrettes
Package #3 ... 3 packages of her favorite gum
Package #4 ... a box of microwave popcorn, a 4-pack of course
you get the drift?
Package #16 ... 8 pairs of socks
Package #19 ... 19 homemade brownies, and
Package #20 ... 20 chocolate kisses
But it's birthday #21, you say.  Package #21 is still to come.  She'll just have to wait.

The brownies are a great, one bowl concoction that would be a quick fix in a chocolate 911 situation.

1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Stir everything together in a medium bowl.  Pour into a greased 8- x 12-inch baking dish (or 8- x 8- inch if you want a thicker brownie).  Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven before they look done.  Let cool or not, depending on how urgent the need.

And if she's anything like her Mom, she went straight for package #19.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate and Toasted Almonds

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I started out the year making several nice lean dishes but I've been craving cookies.  And I love shortbread.  And I love trying new flavors of shortbread.  These are actually an adaptation of a Bon Appetit clipping from a couple of years ago, I think.  So ... these aren't exactly lean, but they don't have a lot of sugar in them.  How much butter, you ask?  And I reply, "they have very little sugar in them."  Butter or no, they are delicious!

Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate and Toasted Almonds

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons grated orange zest, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan.  Blend flour, sugar and salt in a processor.  Add butter, 2 tablespoons of orange zest and the vanilla; process just until blended and dough goes from this ...

to this, forming clumps ...

Press dough into buttered pan, spreading evenly.  A wooden toothpick is a good tool to test the thickness and help you even out the dough.  Pierce dough all over with a fork, then using a sharp knife cut into 12 squares.  Cut each square in half diagonally resulting in 24 triangles.

Bake shortbread about 45 minutes until firm, golden brown, and crisp around the edges.  Remove from oven and immediately recut along the same lines.  Place pan on a wire rack to let cookies completely cool.  Remove cookes and place back on the wire rack or on waxed paper.

Toast almonds and mix with remaining tablespoon of orange zest.  Set aside.

I wish I had a nickel for every pan of nuts I've lost to the toasting process.  Perhaps I get distracted too easily.  It was close this time ...

Melt chocolate in a small metal bowl placed over a pan of hot, simmering water.  Using a fork or the back of a spoon drizzle chocolate over cookies.  Sprinkle with almond and zest mixture.

Allow chocolate time to harden. then enjoy.  Or depending on how strong that cookie craving is, just enjoy while the chocolate is still soft and gooey!

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Tangerine Chess Pie

Being the parent of a high school band student, or the parent of any school child for that matter, means you will have the pleasure of fundraising at least several times each school year.  Our band's major fundraiser of the year is their annual fruit sale.  This one is actually a pretty easy sell as some folks want to buy fruit every year and they will seek out someone who is selling so you just have to be in the right place at the right time, order form at the ready.

Our purchase this year was a box of tangerines, quite good but way too many to just eat, leaving me scrambling for ways to use them before it was too late.  I discovered there aren't many recipes out there that call for tangerines. 

One solution ... take a basic chess pie recipe and citrus it up with some fresh tangerine juice and the result ... delicious!

Tangerine Chess Pie

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 - 9-inch pie shells

Cream butter on medium speed, add sugar and continue to mix until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add tangerine juice to batter, then mix in flour and cornmeal until well blended.  Pour into pie shells.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until set.

I may order tangerines again next year just so I can make this pie.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year with Gingerale Fruit Delight!

Here's something cool, green and refreshing to start off 2012.  Mother received this recipe ages ago from a family friend as a result of a recipe chain letter ... remember those?
For the next 25 years or so Gingerale Fruit Delight sat on our kitchen counter every Christmas because it was one sister's favorite.  A particular cranberry salad was mine and the other sister's favorite ... we got our wish at Thanksgiving. 

As with some older recipes where you have to read somewhat between the lines, this one didn't specify what size boxes of jello to use so I came home with both the large and small sizes.  After mixing up the small I decided it looked about right.  And it was.

Also, I was puzzled about the "lemon-lime jello" listed - could not find that combination at all.  I'm not sure if it's not produced anymore or if it's just not offered locally or if I just couldn't see it ... or is it just assumed you would use one lemon and one lime?  I assumed and made some adjustments to the written recipe.
This is a nice, citrusy congealed salad with a sharp twist on top.  It would be great during the warmer months but is especially good to brighten up a winter menu.

Gingerale Fruit Delight

2 small packages lemon-lime jello
(1 small lemon and 1 small lime)
1 3/4 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups gingerale
1 - 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved
2 large bananas, diced
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine jello with boiling water and gingerale in a medium bowl.  Chill just until mixture begins to thicken slightly.  Fold in pineapple, bananas, marshmallows and pecans.  Pour into a 13- x 9- inch dish and refrigerate until firm.


1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
reserved pineapple juice
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
1 cup (maybe a little more) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine sugar and flour; add egg and juice.  Heat to boiling point, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Let cool completely.  Fold in whipping cream.

Spread cream topping over congealed jello mixture.  Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.