Blond Brownies — because it’s still snowing!!

 

IMG_4906aMarch First!!  The day I look forward to all winter long.  The day I realize that the weather, as bad as it is, will not be as bad 31 days from today.  You can’t say that about January or February!!

As the saying goes, when like gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Well, today, when life is giving us snow and ice, we are making brownies–with double the amount of chocolate chips.

Blond brownies are that wonderful combination of chocolate AND brown sugar. The brown sugar gives the brownies a chewy texture with a slightly maple flavor.  Try this simple recipe that uses only a microwave, a bowl and a wooden spoon.

This is an easy recipe for kids to make.  I used this recipe last summer during my Shorts and Sports cooking camp lessons.

Also, this is a great recipe to feed 20 hungry teenagers a treat.   I tripled the recipe, poured the batter into two 9×13″ pans and baked for about the same amount of time. The kids ate every–single–one!!!

Blond Brownies

Makes 18 small brownies

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chocolate chips (I doubled it using 1 cup!)

–Grease a 9 x 9 inch square pan.

1.  With a fork, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl (yes, I said one bowl used–I forgot about this bowl!).

2.  Melt butter in a large microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute on high or use “butter” button to melt.

3.  Mix into the melted butter the brown sugar and stir until it is dissolved.

4.  Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture.  Mix well.

5.  Stir in the dry ingredients.

6.  Stir in the chocolate chips and place the batter into the greased pan.

7.  Bake in the oven, set at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the brownies are set and a toothpick comes out clean.  Depending on how chewy or not you like your brownies, let them brown longer for drier brownies.

8.  Take out of oven and let cool for about 15 minutes — cut into 18 pieces.

 

Valentine’s Cookies

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Make some cookies for your Valentine!!  Not just any old sugar cookies, but special cookies! Martha Stewart’s Sandwich Cookies, filled with your favorite jam or melted chocolate will make your valentine feel fine!!

These cookies look like they are difficult to make, but they are not—-the dough is made in a food processor. They do take some time only because you need to let the dough rest in the refrigerator a couple of times, so plan accordingly.  Originally hazelnuts are used in the recipe, but I used toasted almonds in the dough and they were terrific! The shapes are from Linzer Cookie Cutters (also from Martha) but any cookie cutters in various shapes will work.  Just experiment.

Sandwich Cookies

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies

(makes about 3 dozen)

2 and 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup almonds, toasted

1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature

2 egg YOLKS

2 teaspoons vanilla

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

3/4 cup desired filling

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a food processor, pulse the almonds with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture until very finely ground.  Add remaining flour mixture and process to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until dough just comes together.  Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough between floured parchment paper to 1/8 inch thickness.  Stack dough in the parchment on a baking sheet; refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.  With a lightly floured Linzer Cookie cutter (or anything else you have) cut out the dough (if the dough becomes too soft, put it back into the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm it up).  Place cookies 1 inch apart on two parchment-lined baking sheets.  With the smaller side of the cutter, cut out the dough in centers of half of the cookies. Bake until cookies just begin to brown at edges, 10 – 12 minutes.  If desired, bake the small cut-outs 5 – 7 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool completely.

Lightly sift confectioners’ sugar over cut-out tops.  Spread about 2 teaspoons filling on bottoms of remain cookies, and sandwich with sugar-dusted tops.  Store cookies in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

Some filling ideas:  Nutella, strawberry or raspberry or apricot jam, melted semisweet chocolate, peanut butter.

 

Happy New Year with Roasted Vegetables

asparagus

Today, I want to talk about vegetables. I don’t want to talk about dieting and vegetables.  I just want to talk vegetables. Although vegetables ARE very good for your overall diet and health.

During the holidays, I don’t think about how all the tomatoes in the grocery store taste terrible.  How we will not see fresh corn on the cob for MONTHS!!  I just focus on feeding the family and making our special holiday treats.

But now, we are in that long stretch of what could be called…..boring vegetables. Yes, it’s a long time until gardens are planted and even longer until they are harvested.  We have to make due with what we can find in the grocery store and the farmers market. And although we can find some of our summer favorites flown in from places from the southern hemisphere, I usually want to eat local vegetables.

The above picture was taken on Christmas Eve, part of our traditional dinner buffet–food favorites of our family. Asparagus is a spring vegetable, but I bought the bunch for our special Christmas Eve meal.  These asparagus were roasted.

On the regular days in January, February and March, I buy the usual vegetables that are not costly or special:  potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, beets, turnips.

If you cook these vegetables they way most people do, ie, boiling or steaming, they will quickly become boring, and you might give up serving your family fresh veggies.

But, all of these vegetables can be roasted in the oven, which brings out a sweeter, sometimes nuttier flavor of the veggie.

Here is a picture of sliced carrots and parsnips, almost ready for the oven. If you haven’t tried parsnips, they look like a white carrot and taste sweet.

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Once the vegetables are washed, peeled (if you want to) and sliced, place in a pan (this one is a stoneware pan, but any metal or glass pan will do), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  You can also add herbs to your veggies (We love rosemary mixed in with red skinned potatoes). Toss the veggies with a spoon and put in the oven at 400 degrees.  Cook about 30 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft when pierced with a knife.

In the picture below, you can see carrots, red pepper, potatoes, white and red onions in the pan, roasted until some of the tips of the onion are brown and a bit burned…..yum!!!  We like them that way!  But you can roast as long or short as you like.

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With the cold temperatures outside, the oven will warm your home, the smells of vegetables cooking will warm your soul with the thought of feeding those you love wholesome food. And those roasted veggies will satisfy hungry people who will NOT call them “boring!”

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