Happy Thanksgiving!

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When there is no time to make pie….make Thanksgiving M&M cookies.  These are not just any M&M cookies.  They are decidedly better since they are made with browned butter! And now that I have experienced using brown butter in baking, I might have to use it all the time.  The brown butter bumps up the flavor several notches, yet the cookies are so easy to make.

Browned Butter M&M Cookies

(recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 cup (2 sicks) salted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

2 cups plus 2 rounded Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups M&M’s (for Thanksgiving, use the fall colored ones)

*the recipe calls for also using 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup pecans, but I did not use them–if you use the chocolate chips, you might want a ratio of 1 cup M&M’s and 1 cup chocolate chips instead of the 2 cups M&M’s.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place one stick of butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixture to let it soften (or bowl if you have a hand-held mixer).

Add the other stick of butter to a medium skillet over medium heat.  Allow it to melt and bubble for 3 to 4 minutes, swirling the pan to keep the butter moving around.  When the butter is a medium golden brown, remove the pan from the heat (it will continue browning in the pan over the next 30 seconds or so).  Pour the butter (and any solids in the bottom of the pan) into a heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Cream the softened butter together with the brown sugar and regular sugar until it is combined.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth, scraping the bowl if necessary to make sure everything is incorporated.

With the mixer on medium-low, slowly drizzle in the cooled melted butter, making sure to add all the darker brown solids. Scrape the bowl, mix again for 20-30 seconds, until everything is combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir together, then add it to the butter mixture in 1/3 increments, mixing on low, until it is totally incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and beat for a few more seconds.  Stir in the M&M’s (and the chocolate chips and pecans if you like).

Scoop by heaping teaspoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or baking mat. You can refrigerate scooped dough for 10 minutes (but if not, it’s fine).  Bake for 7 – 8 minutes, or until deep golden brown.  Wait a minute or two, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the dough.


Homemade Apple Pie for the holidays!


It’s that time of year when we get out all the baking ingredients, supplies and cookware. We begin the holiday baking with wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, making everyone so happy to be home! OH…..not at your house? Worried that those wonderful smells you dream of creating will really be smells of food burning and failed efforts?

Then try a group effort.  Make pie in a group.  That’s what was happening last Thursday at my church. We decided to get past the fear of making a homemade pie by doing it together….and using a no-fail recipe.

I brought all the ingredients (the delicious apples came from Harner Farm–one bushel is $30), everyone brought a pie dish….and took home an apple pie. It was informative and pie-tastic! I was so proud of these ladies!


Foolproof Flaky Pie Crust

4 cups flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 and 3/4 cup Crisco shortening

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt; mix together with a fork. Add the shortening to the flour mixture, and mix all together with a pastry cutter (or two knives); cut well until the shortening is in medium-sized pieces.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix well:

1 Tablespoon vinegar

1 egg

1/2 cup water

Combine the egg mixture to the flour mixture with a fork until all is moistened (you may need to use your hands for this).  Mold the dough into a ball, place into the same bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a least ½ hour (or until it is easy to roll out).
When the dough is firm, cut the large ball into 4 equal pieces.  Roll those into balls.  You now have 4 rolls of pie dough, enough for 4 single crust pies (pumpkin, chocolate cream, etc.) or 2 double crust pies (apple, blueberry, peach, etc.)
This dough can be left in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or it can be frozen for several months, just put the extra balls of dough into a plastic sandwich baggie (one per bag) and throw them in the freezer for another day. 
Apple Pie
from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
Basic Pastry for a 9-inch two-crust pie
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
6 large, firm apples (Granny Smith/Empire/Rome)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out one ball of dough to fit the pie dish. Line a 9-inch pie pan with half the pastry dough (using a bench scraper to carefully pull the dough up from the counter is a help)  Set aside.

Mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl.

Peel, core, and slice the apples and toss them in the sugar mixture, coating them well.

Pile the apples into the pastry-lined pan and dot with the butter.  Roll out another ball of dough to be the top crust* and drape it over the pie.  Crimp the edges and cut several vents in the top.  Bake 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 – 40 minutes more or until you see bubbling of the pie filling and the crust is browned. If the pie crust is brown but the filling is not bubbling, place a sheet of foil over the pie and continue to cook–the foil will prevent the pie from getting too brown.

*You can make a lattice top instead.  Just roll out the ball of dough, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into stripes and lay them across the pie, alternating t hem over/under as you can see in the photo (or check out this you-tube video–just DON’T use the box pastry!!).





Shrimp Lo Mein


Kids CAN cook!

When a child sees those around him cook, when he is taught by parents and grandparents, when healthy food is encouraged and he is allowed to experiment with it, he not only learns the basics of cooking and eating well, but gains confidence that he, indeed, can cook.

This is my observation as I have taught many children to cook through my cooking classes.

Case in point, recently, my student was a 9 year old boy.  He received my cooking class as a birthday present from his grandmother. This was not your average present. His grandmother had cooked with him, and knew of his interest and desire to learn more.  When we scheduled the lesson he said he wanted to make Shrimp Stir Fry.  I thought, “OK, this boy is very adventurous!”  (I did not like shrimp until I was an adult!)

When he arrived, he was able to “graduate” from just mixing things — we also made an apple cake — to cutting the veggies for the Stir Fry with a small knife.  He clearly had the skills as I watched him carefully, giving him a few knife tips and marveling at his confidence.  He also was happy to peel and clean the shrimp that we used.  He did not shy away from what some would consider a gross job.

As we started putting all the ingredients together in the fry pan, he said that he really liked spinach, and could we add more than the recipe called for to the pan?  ABSOLUTELY!

So, not only a cooking phenom, but a veggie eater too!

The future is bright!


Shrimp Lo Mein

(this is called Lo Mein since noodles were added to the stir fry)

For the Lo Mein:

1/4 pound shrimp (about 15 shrimp), fresh or frozen (if frozen, follow package instructions for thawing)

8 ounces Lo Mein egg noodles (or you can substitute spaghetti)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

3 cups baby spinach

For the sauce:

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

Clean the shrimp; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, ginger and Sriracha sauce; set aside.

Clean the shrimp by removing the legs, shell and the back vein.  Instructions here.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the Lo Mein noodles according to package instructions; drain well.

Saute the shrimp in a large skillet or wok in the olive oil over medium high heat until each side is pink. Remove from the pan into a bowl, and set aside.

Add the bell pepper and carrots to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 – 4 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and garlic and let them heat up to cook the veggies. Stir in the shrimp. Stir in the spinach and let it “wilt” (cook down), about 2 – 3 minutes.

Stir in the soy sauce mixture and gently toss to combine. Add the Lo Mein noodles and stir to combine.

Serves 4 people.

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