Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD - Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I love, love, love shortbread cookies. The sandy, buttery, melt in your mouth goodness that shortbread cookies are all about. And, since finding Dorie's cookbook, I have learned to bake my own crumbly, crunchy shortbread cookies. This week, Donna of Life's too short not to eat dessert first (which is one of my motto's btw!) chose Dorie's Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. And, what a wonderful choice it was. Thank you so very much Donna! Not only was it a big hit for me, I shared it with the gang at Starbucks and even with a couple of favorite regulars and everyone who tried one Loved! them. Can you say Christmas presents? :)

Super easy to put together. I even made it easier on myself by using mini chocolate chips. I used two packages of Via, Starbucks instant coffee (really good to drink and great in recipes) (And, no, I don't get commission!). The hardest part for me was leaving the dough in the fridge for several hours to chill. Oh, and waiting for the wonderful smelling, as they baked, cookies to bake.

The finished product was a perfect shortbread cookie with a strong coffee flavor and just a hint of chocolate, in spite of how loaded with chips each cookie looks. The espresso was definitely the dominating flavor. Which was fine with me. The only person who really wasn't crazy about these was the hubby. He is not a big coffee drinker and found the flavor to be too strong for his tastes. But, he was in the minority. :)

So once again I would like to send out a great big thanks! to Donna for her choice. This recipe would lend itself to indefinite variations and I can't wait to try some other combinations.  Like cinnamon and apple bits. Or chocolate and peanut butter chips. Or pecans and chocolate chips. Hmmm, wonder if it's too late to start a batch now. :) If you would like to see what the other TWD'ers did, go here.

I will leave you with a couple of pictures of my last two cakes. The mermaid cake was for my Starbucks boss's little girls. They were having a combination birthday/pool party Saturday. And the presents cake was for a co-worker of my daughter. A baby shower cake for the soon to be mom.

Monday, August 16, 2010

TWD - Oatmeal Breakfast Bread (muffins!)

Hi all! I missed the first two recipes this month,(busy working)  but I am here with the third recipe for August.  That recipe, Oatmeal Breakfast Bread, was picked by Natalie of Oven Love. She has lots of yummy recipes posted and great photos to go along with them. Be sure to stop by and check them out.

I have family visiting right now. My Mom, Dad and younger brother are here from Florida. They will be staying till Wednesday morning. Last night we had a house full with the three of them, me and my hubby,  and my two kids came out with their spouses. We had spaghetti, fresh baked bread, and for dessert, chocolate bread pudding (from Dorie's cookbook!) There was a lot of talking and laughing. Tons of pictures taken. Great time!

This morning I decided to bake the Oatmeal Breakfast Bread to have with our coffee. Only I decided to bake muffins instead of a loaf of bread. I thought the muffins would be easier for everyone to grab and eat and that muffins would be ready much quicker than bread.

This was a quick recipe to put together. Mix up the topping using brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. The batter was easy to mix up. Flour, sugar, eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,salt, baking powder, baking soda, oil, applesauce. I folded in some raisins that I plumped with some boiling water. Then lined two muffin tins with baking papers and using my large scoop, I filled each of the muffin papers about 3/4 full and popped them into the oven.

I set the timer for about 25 minutes and when I checked them, they were done. I pulled them from the oven and set them out to cool. My brother was chomping at the bit to try them. He said they smelled delicious, which was true. My Dad said he wasn't interested in them, because he doesn't like oatmeal baked...he likes oatmeal in a bowl with milk and brown sugar, but doesn't like oatmeal cookies or oatmeal bread. Kind of like me with bananas. I love bananas fresh but can't take them baked in anything. Mom was neutral, though she did say the muffins smelled good while they were baking.

Once I had photographed the muffins for my blog, I tried one and my brother tried one. Delicious!! Dorie says to wait for the bread to cool before eating it, but the muffins were wonderful warm from the oven. Soft with a tender crumb, and the light taste of cinnamon. The topping was crunchy and sweet. The raisins nice and chewy. I ate two and my brother ate 4!! He was going to eat more, but decided he was going to show a little self-control. :) Mom tried one and talked Dad into trying one. And, he liked them! He was going to have a second one, but thought I had counted them and didn't want to eat muffins that were set aside for someone else. Oh well, he can have more tomorrow morning!

So, thanks Natalie. Great choice! It was a big hit here at my place. If you want to see what the rest of the bakers thought stop by TWD and check it out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Chicken" and Dumplings with Oven Baked Carrot Fries

Back in early July my daughter's best friend, Leslie,  posted this message on her Facebook page...

"My aunt is putting together a family cookbook and wants 4 recipes from me. I'm pretty sure I know which ones I want to submit, but I need to make sure the recipes are clear and repeatable. Anyone willing to be a recipe tester for me?"

I should probably mention that Leslie is a Vegan, so that meant that any recipes she wanted tested would be dairy-free, meat-free, egg-free, and so on. Not my usual fare, but I have read Leslie's blog, 'Cause I Eats Me Spinach, and have often thought that many of the dishes look and sound delicious. So, when Leslie posted the request I volunteered to try one or two of the recipes. I offered to try either Oven baked Carrot or Sweet Potatoe Fries, or "Chicken" and Dumplings. Leslie took me up on the offer and sent me the recipes for both dishes. So, last week I gathered all the ingredients I would need and printed copies of her recipes, and dived into my first Vegan dinner.

Other than having trouble getting my hands on the "chicken", all the ingredients were easy to find. Carrots, vegetable broth, garlic, flour, spices. I decided to use frozen spinach in my dish, rather than kale or mustard greens. I know I like spinach and I wasn't sure about the others. :) The chicken I finally found in the refrigerator section in the specialty foods section of a local grocery store.

The main dish was very easy to put together. Leslie's directions are precise, clear and easy to understand. I kept the printed copy of the recipe nearby and referred to it as I put everything together.

The carrot fries were even easier to put together. I have done a similar dish with zucchini in the past and was excited to try the carrot version.

I brought everything to the table, and set it in front of the hubby. Bless his heart, he will eat anything I cook at least once. He has often told me I don't have to make a particular dish ever again, but he always gives it a try. He was a bit apprehensive but dug in.

We were both very pleasantly surprised! The soup was rich and flavorful. The dumplings were soft yet hearty. I cleaned my bowl and looked over to see that the hubby had cleaned his too. Next thing I knew, he was standing by the island, eating "seconds" straight from the pot! Even Patches liked the "chicken"! As for the carrot fries...fabulous! Baking brought out the sweetness of the carrots and the spice blend I used added just enough flavor without overpowering the carrots natural taste.

So, if you would like to give a Vegan dish a try, make it this one! I don't think you will be disappointed. Thanks Leslie! It was fun making this and a delicious surprise eating it! :)

"Chicken" & Dumplings
Serves 2

Soup Ingredients:

1 packet fake chicken product of choice (Morningstar Farms' Chicken-Style Strips, available in the freezer section of just about every grocery store anywhere these days, is perfect for this)
2 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you love garlic; I typically use 4)
1 large carrot, cut into half-rounds
2 handfuls coarsely chopped kale, mustard greens, or collard greens (optional - I love the added color and nutritional value the greens give to the soup)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil, or vegan non-hydrogenated butter substitute (Earth Balance is incredible)
4 cups vegetable broth of choice - the richer in flavor, the better!
1 to 2 tbsp animal-product-free Chicken Seasoning OR a combination of rubbed sage, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and basil
1/2 tsp salt

Dumpling Ingredients:

1 cup flour (I use whole wheat, but I think just about any flour would do)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp olive oil, or room temperature vegan non-hydrogenated butter substitute
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, or vegetable broth


1. Brown the fake chicken in a medium-sized skillet with a little olive oil. Set aside.
2. Mix your dumplings: In a bowl, combine all dumpling ingredients and mix until a slightly wet dough is formed. Set aside.
3. In a medium-sized stock pot, heat the olive oil/vegan butter sub over medium heat for just 1 minute. Add the minced garlic and carrot and cook 2 minutes, stirring often to keep the garlic from burning.
4. Add the 1/4 cup of flour and combine with the olive oil/vegan butter sub to make a paste, or roux. Add a little of the veggie broth to help incorporate the flour, if needed, until your roux is a nice, smooth paste.
5. Add the rest of the veggie broth and the seasonings and stir to fully combine. Also add the kale/greens at this point, if you are using them. Bring the soup to a boil, stir in the pre-browned fake chicken, and then make the dumplings by dropping small spoonfuls of the dough into the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the dumplings have cooked and the soup is nice and thick.

Oven-Baked Carrot or Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4 as a side-dish

8 large carrots or 4 medium-to-large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1~2 tsp sea salt

Optional Ingredients:
1~2 tsp chipotle chili powder, Garam Masala, or any spice or combination of spices you like, really.


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, and any spices. Set aside to let the flavors mingle.
3. Chop the carrots or sweet potatoes into large fry-sized pieces. I like "steak fry"-esque wedges for both kinds. These fries - especially the carrot variety - will shrink as they roast in the oven, so you might want to cut them bigger than you think you should. I usually cut a large carrot in half along its length, then cut the thicker upper part into quarters and the narrower part in half.
4. Add the carrot/sweet potato pieces to the bowl and toss to coat evenly with the oil, salt, etc. Spread the pieces on a lightly greased baking sheet so that they aren't touching one another.
5. Let cook in the oven for about 15 minutes. Stir them around a bit, put them back in the oven, and let cook for another 10~15 minutes, until the fries are soft and lightly caramelized. Serve by themselves or with something to dip them in!