Monday, December 22, 2014

3-Ingredient Gingerbread Truffles

These little make-ahead truffles just taste like Christmas to me.  It's like eating gingerbread cookie dough, but better because this "dough" is dipped in white chocolate.  And they're bite-size so you don't have to make a whole big dessert out of them, although you could.  Instead, just pop one or two or four in your mouth and move on to the rest of the holiday goodies.

Bonus:  This couldn't be any easier.  Seriously, get the kids to make these, they'll love it!

16oz. pkg. frosted gingerbread cookies, finely crushed
8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1c white melting chocolate (Ghirardelli wafers are my new favorite) 

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the crushed cookies and cream cheese until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.

2.  Roll into 1" balls and place on parchment paper.

3.  Melt chocolate according to package instructions.

4.  Using a toothpick, dip each ball one at a time into the chocolate, turning to coat completely.  Allow excess chocolate to drip off and place truffle on the paper.

5.  Refrigerate and allow chocolate to harden prior to serving.  Store any extras in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

English Muffin Bread

Some days are just made for staying home and baking bread.  Today has been one of those days for me.

It's been cold, dark, and rainy outside ever since I was awakened by a screaming toddler before the crack of dawn.  As it turns out, the cold that seems to be going around lately has officially arrived at our house.  My littlest girl is fighting a fever but, thankfully, is able to rest.  Add to that the older boy is not having a much better day.  He left a bag with clothes and Christmas presents on the Metro and will likely not see it again, had to walk through pouring rain... on and on... you get the idea; he's having an anything-that-can-go-wrong-will kind of day.

So, with nothing I could do but comfort these two, I decided to make English muffin bread.  There's probably some deep psychological root meaning behind it like the memory of my stepmom baking homemade bread and that yeasty aroma in the air.  Maybe it comforted me in some way?  I'm sure it did; it must have....maybe I'm overanalyzing.

But, about this bread... it's perfect for toast. That's it!  When there is freezing rain coming down outside and I am homebound with sick and miserable children, I just want to sit and eat toast.  That's what I did, too, and it was everything I hoped it could be.  

2 3/4c warm water
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1 TBSP salt
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. white sugar
5 3/4c all-purpose or bread flour
1 TBSP butter, melted (optional)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, proof the yeast by pouring in 1 cup of the warm water and the yeast.  Allow to stand for a few minutes while the yeast gets bubbly and foamy looking.

2.  Stir in the remaining water, salt, and sugar.  

3.  Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition.

4.  Cover bowl and place in a cool, dark place.  Allow dough to double in size.  I let mine sit for about an hour.

5.  Punch down the dough and divide equally into two prepared 8x4 loaf pans.  Cover again and allow to rise again, doubling in size.  I allowed another hour for this.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°

6.  Uncover and place in preheated oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.  If desired, brush tops with melted butter 5 minutes prior to finish.

7.  Remove from oven and turn loaves out onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies with Pomegranate and Sea Salt

I was recently gifted two fantastic ingredients - black onyx cocoa powder and vanilla bean paste.  Both of which I had never tried before so had no idea what I was missing out on.  The first thing you should know is, I will never buy plain old vanilla extract again.  The vanilla bean paste has spoiled me forever on that.  Secondly, people are not joking when they say black onyx cocoa absolutely needs to be blended into regular cocoa.  It's that rich.

The pomegranate seeds not only add a nice pop of color but also a lighter contrast in flavors to the intensity of the dark chocolate.  And just a little sprinkling of sea salt at the end brings it all together.

1/2c butter, melted
1 1/4c white sugar
1/2c cocoa powder
1/4c + 2 TBSP black onyx cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
1/3c all-purpose flour
1 pomegranate, seeded

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, both cocoa powders, salt, and vanilla paste.

3.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each.

4.  Gradually stir in the flour just until blended.

5.  Pour batter into a prepared 8x8 baking dish (batter will be thick!) and top with 1/2c of the pomegranate seeds.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional salt and pomegranate seeds.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wild Rice and Garbanzo Bean Soup

It's been wonderfully dreary and rainy here lately.  Normally, this alone is enough to get me craving a hot bowl of soup but, add in the fact that I'm fighting a stubborn cold that just won't go away, and it's pretty much guaranteed there's going to be some sort of comfort food happening here and this was exactly what I needed.

Cooking this soup, I was tempted to add a little heavy cream, mostly out of habit, but after tasting it I realized it was completely unnecessary.  The turmeric really gives a nice Indian flavor and if you're inclined to add some some sort of carb to the meal, I would suggest a garlicky naan bread.

2c herbed wild rice blend, cooked
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
1/4c yellow onion, chopped
1c carrots, diced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. dried turmeric
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6c vegetable broth
2 - 15oz. cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1.  In a medium size pot, heat olive oil and butter over Medium High heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Cook and stir 4-5 minutes, until softened.

2.  Stir in the garlic, thyme, turmeric, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir an additional 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the vegetable broth and garbanzo beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes.

4.  Remove cover and stir in the cooked rice.  Allow to simmer another 5-10 minutes, or until rice is heated through.  Serve warm.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our New Favorite Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pies have definitely evolved over the years.... I followed the recipe on the Libby's can for awhile and that was okay.  Then came a few years of folding in meringue and topping with pecans, which we all agreed was superior to the pies from the back-of-the-can days.  But then, this happened.  

I took a chance and tried out a new version of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day and the verdict was unanimous... this is THE pumpkin pie we will be having every year for the foreseeable future.

I was feeling fancy and decided to roast a sugar pumpkin rather than using canned but really, canned would work just as well here.

2c cooked pumpkin, pureed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2c heavy cream
1/2c sour cream
1c raw brown sugar
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 - unbaked, deep-dish pie crust

1.  Preheat oven to 425°  Place pie crust on a baking sheet.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, add all filling ingredients.

3.  Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth.

4.  Pour filing into the pie crust.

5.  Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

6.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight; long enough for it to chill throughout.  Serve cool or room temperature.

Aren't these cutouts adorable?!
Since I used a store bought crust, I just rolled out the extra crust in the package, stamped them out with my little cutter, and placed them right over the other crust.  ;)


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