Peanut Butter Blossoms

Today’s cookie is brought to you by the half a bag of Hershey Kisses that I have had in my pantry for 2 months. Sometimes you need to clear the decks and make something that uses up an ingredient you have on hand. That was the case today. I have had 2 half bags of Hershey Kisses in my pantry since right before Halloween – one of dark chocolate and one of caramel filled. I got them for free from couponing but really haven’t done much with them. So today, my nine year old is home with a low grade fever and it seemed like a good time to make some cookies. I have never made these with a filled Hershey kiss before so I am especially excited about the caramel filled ones. And since there are a few leftover, I might have to find another cookie to make with them – maybe something where they are in the middle of the cookie as a surprise! Wouldn’t that be fun?

Dark choc on the left and caramel filled on the right

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ingredients:

  • 48 HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup REESE’S Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Granulated sugar

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

Short term pain = long term gain

I am taking a break from baking today. My freezer doors will not close anymore since I have it packed full of cookies and quick breads. In place of the usual recipe, I am going to tell you a little story.

My six year old learned a valuable lesson last night – temporary pain for long term gain. He has had a loose tooth for a few months now that has not really wanted to go anywhere. Well, unbeknown to us, it has been hurting him whenever it wiggles. So, he has not been chewing with it or brushing it and his long term plan was to ignore it. He learned this week that that ignoring something does not make the problem go away, it only makes it worse.

When I realized that the tooth was hurting him, I called the dentist to ask them what we needed to do about it. They informed me that often a tooth will hurt when it is time for it to come out and that with him wiggling it, it should work it’s way out in the next week or so. If the tooth was still in there and still painful in a week, we were to come in for an appointment. When he got home from school, I told my son what the dentist had said. I thought he took it well until bedtime last night when he looked at me and said that he wasn’t going to the dentist. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but I sent him off to brush his teeth (all except for that one that he wouldn’t brush). Imagine my surprise when he returned a few minutes later holding his tooth. I promptly found out that the tooth didn’t fall out on his own but he pulled it out himself. He had decided that the short term pain of pulling the tooth himself was worth the long term gain of having the tooth gone and not having to go to the dentist.

This is a valuable lesson that we can all learn from my six year old. There are times in life when we don’t want to do something. Times when we want to believe that ignoring something will make it go away. Those are the times when we have to straighten our spine, dig in our heels and face the problem head on. Even if it hurts.

So, this blog post is dedicated to my very brave son. I am proud of you for taking care of the problem yourself and not waiting for someone else to do it for you. I am proud of you for pushing through the pain and looking down the road at the final outcome. Now, go enjoy the $2 the tooth fairy left for you – you worked hard for it.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

I have never been to Maine so I can’t attest for how accurate the name of this recipe is but I do know that this is one of the best pumpkin bread recipes that I have ever had. And I have had a lot. I have probably tried 2 dozen different recipes over the years trying to find one that is moist and tender but not too spicy or bland. And since this recipes makes several loaves of bread, it is great for giving away at the holidays. This year I borrowed a couple of mini loaf pans from BFF and set forth to make some tiny treats. Enjoy!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (I used 2 cups of pureed roasted pumpkin from my secret stash)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, applesauce, water and sugars until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cake Balls

Just when you thought you had made it through the week of cookies and it was safe to go back into the kitchen……here come the cake balls. Huh? What? Cake balls? Yes, cake balls. You can make these in any combination of cake/icing that you prefer but I chose to make them in Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Icing. These are very simple to make and deliciously rich. My 9 year old daughter help to make these with me yesterday and she loved getting her hands in them to mix them up. This is the perfect way to get your kids involved in the kitchen.

Here is a step by step tutorial:

First, gather your ingredients.

Bake your desired cake flavor, following the directions on the back of the box for a 9×13 cake.

Crumble cake into a large bowl and dump in a full tub of icing, whatever flavor strikes your fancy.

Find a kid who loves to get their hands dirty and convince them to mix it all up for you.

This is what it looks like when it is all mixed, don’t worry, it tastes better than it looks.

Get the same kid to do the rest of the hard work, scooping up cake mix and rolling into balls. She actually thought all this was fun, see what happens when you train up your kids right…

Place the cookie sheet of rolled cake balls into the freeze to firm up.

This is what they looked like before they were dipped in chocolate.

These are the gorgeous cake balls after they have been fully coated.

Pete Schweddy would be proud!

Recipe:

Cake Balls
1 box cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate chips (regular or white chocolate)
wax paper or silpat

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Using a cookie scoop, roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet.
4. Chill for several hours or you can speed this up by putting in the freezer
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package or use the lil’ crockpot.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper or silpat until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

Linzer Cookies

A few years ago, we were blessed to meet a very sweet lady from Germany, Ms. Anita. At Christmastime, Ms. Anita would bake these cookies and give them out as gifts. They are so buttery and sweet that you can’t eat more than 1 at each sitting but they are heavenly at Christmas, especially with a big steamy mug of hot coffee. These are the most labor intensive cookies that I make at Christmas so I saved them for the last post this week. Don’t be intimidated by the long directions, you can actually make the dough a few days ahead and save the baking and assembly for another day. Or do what I do and knock them out and then freeze them. Delish!

On a side note, I used the jam that I made in October to place in between the cookies. Jam is super simple to make and makes a great gift at Christmas. If you have a little extra time, try making your own jam. It is well worth the work.

Linzer Cookies

Makes about 20 – 2 inch (5 cm) sandwiched cookies.

Ingredients:

• 1 cup pecans, toasted & ground (hazelnuts or almonds can also be used)
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2/3 cup granulated white sugar, divided
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 large egg yolks
• Zest of 1 lemon
• Confectioners’ (Icing or Powdered) Sugar for dusting
• 1/2 cup seedless Berry Preserves or Jam (I prefer Black Raspberry that I make myself)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Toast the almonds (or pecans) on a baking sheet for about 8-10 minutes (or until lightly browned and fragrant). Once the nuts have cooled, place in a food processor and process with 1/4 cup the sugar from the recipe until finely ground. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Beat in the ground nuts. Add the flour mixture beating just until incorporated. Divide the dough in half and shape into two rectangles about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap the two rectangles of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least one hour and up to several days).

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

5. Remove one rectangle of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2 to 3 inch cookie cutter cut out the dough. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the centers of half of the cookies on the baking sheet. (You will be sandwiching two cookies together and there will be a small ‘window or cut out’ in the top cookie so you can see the jam underneath.)

6. Re-roll any scraps and cut out the cookies. Remove the other half of the dough from the refrigerator and roll and cut out the rest of the cookies. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until they are very lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

7. While the cookies are cooling place the raspberry jam in a small saucepan and heat gently until it has thickened slightly. Strain if there are any lumps in the jam. Let cool.

8. To Assemble Cookies: Place the cookies with the cut-outs on a wire rack and lightly dust the tops with the confectioners’ sugar.

9. On the bottom surface of the full cookie (top of cookie will face out) spread with about a 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Place the cut-out cookie on top and gently sandwich them together, making sure not to smug the confectioners’ sugar.

Note: You can store the unassembled cookies in the refrigerator for several days in an airtight container. It is best, though, to assemble the cookies the same day as serving in order to keep the cookies crisp.

Rodi Christmas Card

Merry Christmas to all!

Every year we send out Christmas Cards. This year I dressed everyone as alike as I could manage and we headed north to Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge in Cumming to make our annual Christmas Card picture. The kids groan and complain but they know me well enough to realize that I will not rest until I get a good pic. And this year, I had so many good ones that I had to find a card that would use them all.

In years past, I have used Shutterfly to make our Christmas cards and have been delighted with the way they turned out. My dear friend and fellow blogger, PJ, had given me a discount code to use on Shutterfly.com so I went off in search of a card style that I like. Well, they had so many to choose from, I had a really hard time! Here is the project that I ended up making, which I absolutely love.

Dazzle And Shine Christmas 5x7 folded card
Shop Shutterfly for elegant custom Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday my daughter came home and told me that she has not been happy with the cookies of the day. She demanded to know what cookie would be made on Friday so that she wouldn’t be disappointed when it wasn’t her favorite, Chocolate Chip. Being that it is an everyday cookie and not particularly Christmasy at all, I was not going to make chocolate chip cookies this week. But, we do things for our kids because we love them. And because we love chocolate. So, chocolate chip it is. This one is for you, baby!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2  1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick salted butter, softened (do not use margarine, I beg you!)
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz milk chocolate chips
  • Pecans, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well with wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend sugars at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down he sides of the bowl. Add   eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at medium speed until just blended. Do not over mix.

Add the flour mixture, chocolate chips and pecans, if desired. Blend at low speed until just mixed. Do not over mix.

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough by rounded spoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet or silpat, approx 2 inches apart. Bake 18 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cookies immediately to a cooling rack.

Coconut Macaroons

Day 4 is under way with Coconut Macaroons. This is one of the simplest and fastest cookies to make. Anyone can make them, even if you can’t cook well enough to boil water. Both of the men in my life love Mounds candy bars so you can imagine this would be a hit at our house. This past Halloween my son got an Almond Joy in his candy bucket and commented that it would have been much better if they had left the almond off of it and just called it “Joy”. We had a chuckle and told him that they do that when they make a Mounds. So, maybe we should rename these cookies “Joy to the World” cookies, in honor of him and Christmas. It certainly seems fitting.

On a side note, I plan on freezing these just like the other cookies that I have made this week but decided they would probably freeze better as a cookie than as cookie dough since this dough is pretty sticky. I haven’t frozen these before so we will hope for the best. I drizzled half of the batch with chocolate since I needed a chocolate fix today and as you have probably noted, none of the cookies this week have had any chocolate in them. I plan to remedy that problem soon.

Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 1/2 cups flaked coconut (14 oz bag)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla, using your hands if needed, until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size.
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted. Drizzle with chocolate, if desired.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

If you ask my husband what his favorite cookie is, he will tell you sugar cookies. They are simple, sweet and delicious. Over the years he has become a connoisseur of sugar cookies. Anytime we go anywhere that has cookies, he buys a sugar cookie. He will sort through several packages in a bakery trying to find the ones that are the right softness. I have never seen someone so meticulous about a cookie and what characteristics it should possess. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a chart somewhere rating all the sugar cookies he has taste tested over the years. I know it sounds like I am over exaggerating but when it comes to this man and his sugar cookies, it is impossible. Needless to say, being married to him for 16 years, I have tried several recipes and never been able to create the perfect sugar cookie – until now. In the past all of mine were too dry or too crumbly or not sweet enough or too sweet. It seemed like a futile effort to attempt to make them. But now I have tasted sweet success and it is heavenly.

I rolled these in plain sugar and some pink colored sugar that I had on hand. I will be sure to pick up some red and green sugar for Christmas to roll some of these cookies in, even though I know my sweet love will want them plain. He is wonderful that way.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons milk
  • Sprinkles or colored sugar, for decorating

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Add enough of the milk to moisten the dough and make it soft, not wet.

Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and roll in plain or colored sugar. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet or Silpat. No need to flatten, they do that on their own.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to cool on a rack.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Day 2 of cookie week and the name says it all.

Big. Soft. Ginger. Cookies.

How could anything that sounds like that be short of delicious? At the Rodi Homestead, it is a sin for cookies to be anything but soft and chewy. We do not go for the crunchy snap of gingerbread cookies here. They have their place in the world, mostly adjoining a gingerbread house on display. As a matter of fact, John will often take the cookies from the oven early to ensure that they are soft even if it means they are underdone (he swears that it is impossible to under cook a cookie since he will eat them as cookie dough too!). So when I ran across this recipe a few years ago, I knew I had to try it. It was everything I hoped it would be. This dough also freezes well which is another requirement I have for cookies during Christmas. I shape them into balls using my Pampered Chef cookie scoop and then freeze them that way (waiting to roll them in the sugar until I am ready to bake). Give them a try and I swear you will never want another hard gingerbread cookie again!

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container, if they last that long!