December 24, 2011

Sugar Cookies with White Chocolate and Candy Canes

This is an easy, festive Christmas treat. Bake up your favorite sugar cookies. Spread with melted white chocolate and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Pretty easy, right? For most, I would think this would be a piece of cake, but for me it's a little harder. I'll explain.

I can't make sugar cookies. I've tried several recipes, but they never turn out right (the ones pictured below are super crunchy). Also, I can't melt white chocolate chips. The chips may be the problem, so maybe melting white chocolate in a block would work better.

Anyway, if you can do sugar cookies and melt chocolate, go ahead and try this. I'm not even going to give you a recipe. Follow the instructions above. Some day when I master sugar cookies, I'll let you know.

December 22, 2011

Apple Butter

One of my favorite almost-weekly purchases at the farmer's market is local apples. The farmer I buy them from has several different varieties each week. I think he said they grow about 50 kinds. They are super flavorful - really, so complex and delicious most store bought apples are not in the same league.

The farmer recommended a certain variety for apple butter, and so I thought I'd try it. Then I found this fabulously easy recipe to make apple butter in a crockpot. What could be easier or more delicious?

I didn't have the 5-6 pounds of apples recommended in this recipe, so I had to guess on the amount of sugar and spices. But, fortunately, it turned out great.

Apple Butter
from Dawn's Recipes

5 or 6 pounds of apples, or enough to fill slow cooker
2 1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
zest and juice from 1 small orange

1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and spices.
2. Core and quarter the apples. Do not peel them.
3. Lightly grease the inside of the slow cooker.
4. Alternate layering the apples and sugar mixture in the slow cooker. Pour the orange juice and zest on top.
5. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.
6. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender until smooth. Or use an immersion blender directly in the slow cooker.
7. If you want the consistency of the apple butter to be a little thicker, cook an additional 30 to 60 minutes with the lid off. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally to prevent scorching.

Can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or in the freezer for 3 months.

December 21, 2011


My mom's all-time most famous and favorite Christmas recipe has got to be toffee. And so, because we are almost the same person, toffee is my favorite Christmas recipe. My mom has never used a candy thermometer; neither have I. We know exactly what the toffee looks like when it's done. Most of the time I get it just right. It's really a small miracle. But because I can do it, I know you can.

The secret seems to be to cook the toffee mixture until it is dark enough. It starts out a pale yellow and gradually turns more brown. When it is brown like a grocery sack, it's ready. You'll know it's just long enough if you see a streak of very dark brown or smoke. Even with a little smoke, it still seems to turn out. Apparently other recipes for toffee say to cook it to 300 degrees. So you can always try it that way if you don't trust me. You'll know you've cooked the toffee just right because it will be crunchy but not stick to your teeth.

Also, use a heavy-bottomed pot. I've used cast-iron, an enameled dutch oven, and even a shallow skillet. A thinner bottom pot will burn the toffee before it's finished.

If you're a scaredy-cat and want to try some fail-proof candy, look here.

from my mother

2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter only)
1 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. water
milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips or bars broken into small pieces
finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)

Prepare two pie plates or one 9x13 dish. Set aside. In a heavy-bottomed large pot, add butter, salt (if using), sugar, and water. Cook on medium high heat and stir constantly. Cook until the mixture turns the color of a brown paper sack or reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer , but at the first sign of smoke or dark brown streaks, remove from heat. Immediately pour half of the mixture over each pie plate or all of the mixture in the 9x13 dish. Top with chocolate and all to sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is melted and spreadable. Spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee. Top with chopped nuts. Let cool completely. Use a butter knife to break apart into bite-size pieces of toffee.

Alternate method for double sided toffee: line a 9x13 dish with parchment paper and one other similar (or larger) sized dish (like a cookie sheet or another 9x13 pan). Follow all steps up to letting the toffee cool. As soon as you can after topping the toffee with chocolate and nuts, flip the pan over onto the second parchment lined dish. Add more chocolate, allow it to melt, spread it evenly, and top with more nuts. Let cool completely. Use a butter knife to break apart into bite-size pieces of toffee.

December 15, 2011

Lemon Fritters

I tagged these fritters back in August and kept thinking about them until a few weeks ago, when I finally gave in and made them. I only made half the recipe, and I recommend only making what you can eat while they are warm.

Lemon Fritters
adapted from Tartelette

1 -2 cups canola oil
1 cup sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
2 eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Heat oil in medium large cast iron pan (or other heavy pan) until temperature reaches 375F.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, juice and eggs until well blended. Add the flour and baking powder, along with the milk. Mix well until the mixture is smooth. Drop by large spoonfuls into the hot oil. Do not over crowd the pan or it will lower the heat too much and you will end up with soggy fritters. Let cook for 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 20 to 30 small fritters.

December 10, 2011


Popcorn has long been one of my favorite foods. It's near the top of my list along with black licorice. I love popcorn, but only home-popped in oil on the stove. Microwave popcorn, no way. It smells amazing, but the taste never lives up. Air-popped is better, but I miss the deep flavor that comes from cooking it in oil. All it needs is a little butter and salt, and I've got the snack of my dreams. Seriously, I get cravings for popcorn, and not just recently.

UPDATE 3/28/13: I have been using a foil lid for the pan instead of the pan lid, and it works much better. Prepare a piece of foil with holes pricked with a fork before heating pan of oil. Once popcorn kernels have been added to the pan, quickly secure the foil over the pan as a lid. This method yields more popped kernels for some reason.


1 Tbsp. canola oil or ghee
1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
fine sea salt, to taste

Get out a large bowl and place it near the stove. Heat canola oil in a large pot. Add one kernel and wait for it to pop. Once it does, carefully remove it from the pot. Add enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer. Quickly cover it with a lid. Using a potholder, carefully hold the lid on the pot and shake it every 10 seconds or so. Keep shaking until the popping stops or almost stops. Remove from heat and pour into large bowl. Pour on melted butter and salt, and mix to combine.

December 9, 2011

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

These cookies are addicting. Lemon flavor is always welcome, and so are cookies. What's not to love?

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
from Lauren's Latest

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

December 7, 2011

Glazed Cranberry and Ginger Loaf

Here's my second fresh cranberry recipe. This quick bread has lemon zest and chunks of crystallized ginger topped with a lemon glaze. I love ginger, so any bite with some ginger is a pleasant surprise. I am getting addicted to baked goods with fresh, tart cranberries. I'll be buying more and sticking them in the freezer to use in the next few months.

Glazed Cranberry and Ginger Loaf
adapted from Cookin Canuck

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp whole milk
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

3/4 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
4 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
Pinch salt

For the bread, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer) set on a medium speed, beat together butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition.

Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture and milk. Beat until just combined. Take care not to overbeat or the bread will be tough.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and chopped crystallized ginger.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and level with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached, 60 to 70 minutes. Let the bread sit in the pan for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the outside and turn the pan upside down to release the bread. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then glaze.

For the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest, and salt until combined. Drizzle over cooled quick bread.

December 5, 2011

Cranberry Muffins

Baked goods with fresh cranberries are such a delight (another cranberry post coming). Found these muffins and loved them - super moist and delicious. Maybe I'll add a little orange zest next time, but they are fabulous as is too.

Cranberry Muffins
adapted from Alice

2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar or coconut sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sour cream or plain yogurt
1 c fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried
raw sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt by whisking. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar using a mixer. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed butter and sugar; blend well, scraping sides of bowl. Fold in sour cream. Fold in flour mixture. Fold in cranberries.

Use an ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measure to fill 14-16 paper lined muffin tins. Sprinkle tops of unbaked muffins with raw sugar and bake for 18-20 minutes.