Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lemon Cookies

Not so long ago, I was but a single maiden living in Provo, Utah living with five other single maidens. (Let me tell you, living with five single maidens is not fun. TOO. MUCH. DRAMA.) Down the street from our single maiden apartment was a cookie shop where they would make bouquets of baked goods and deliver. However, you could also go in and buy cookies. I had one roommate who was a big fan of their lemon cookies. They only had them close to the summer but when they had them she went sometimes once a day. (Let me interject here to say this particular roommate was a RAIL. I mean stick thin. She only ate dessert once a day, which to mean sounds inhuman, so you know that the dessert she ate had to be good.) She always wanted to find a recipe for lemon cookies that was just as good as the ones from the cookie shop.

Fast forward to my dear sister, Jackie's, Christmas cookie party. At these cookie party , the winning cookie was none other than a delicious lemon cookie. I took the recipe home to my roommate and we decided to make them. My roommate loved these cookies, in fact I made them for a bridal shower I hosted for her a few months after. Once I was a married maiden I made them for a party with my husband's family and for all the parties after that it was requested that I bring these cookies, with the recipe attached.

These cookies are amazing. They taste just like summer. They are heaven and what makes them so great is how easy they are to make. The recipe suggests putting the glaze on once the cookies have cooled but I like putting it on while they are still warm because it melts into the cookie a little bit adding another layer of flavor. Also, the recipe for the glaze calls for a little lemon zest to act as a little decoration on the top which is completely optional. In fact, I can say with 100% honesty, I've never done it.

These are the PERFECT addition to your summer parties!!!!

Lemon Cookies
Makes A LOT depending upon the size of your dough balls

3/4 c. shortening (not butter shortening)
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 pkgs. (9 oz.) instant lemon pudding
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
3/4 t. soda

1 1/2 T. milk
1 T. butter
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. grated lemon

Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs and beat. Add pudding (dry mix) and dry ingredients. Mix well, roll into balls. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

For glaze: melt butter with milk in a pan. Take off heat and stir in powdered sugar--wisk until smooth. Add lemon juice and rind--wisk. Spoon over the tops of warm or cooled cookies. (***Note: this is NOT a lot of glaze so make sure you don't go crazy with the glaze on the first batch. You only need a small amount per glaze as the glaze spreads a ton! Also, make sure you taste your glaze so you know how much powdered sugar and lemon you like best. I like to test and add either lemon or sugar depending on the flavor I like.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Peanut Butter Krispie Bars

There are a few combinations that I am sure were just MFEO (made for each other). Some of these would be french fries and ranch dressing, lobster and butter, and Mr. E and me. But, the combination that I am so sure was destined for greatness is peanut butter and chocolate. I will eat anything that has peanut butter and chocolate. In fact, I'd probably eat it on chicken, in soup, in a box, with a fox, and wearing socks. It's heaven. Heaven.

Did I mention that chocolate and peanut butter are heaven? Because, they are.

I was excited to find this new recipe in the newest issue of Everyday Food. It was the final recipe and in my mind, they saved the very best for last. I decided to make some to give to my husband as he attended to his ecclesiastical duties in visiting some families.

These are really delicious but there is only one thing I would change...MORE CHOCOLATE. The recipe originally called for one bag which you put between the layers of the rice krispies and then a thin layer on top but this recipe needs a TON more. A TON. In fact, add three bags if you really need it and please, while the recipe called for semi-sweet chocolates, use milk chocolates. Semi-sweet chocolate just seems unnatural.

If you are curious what I really added to this recipe it would be the use of the foil (or you could use parchment paper) in he dish. I put the foil in so that there was a could couple of inches hanging over the sides. This way, when I went to pull the dish and cut it in to the bars I was didn't have to try to work around the sides of the pan. Instead I just pulled the sides of the foil out and then could cut really easily...plus I didn't have to clean a dish!

If you are curious what I really added to this recipe it would be the use of the foil (or you could use parchment paper) in he dish. I put the foil in so that there was a could couple of inches hanging over the sides. This way, when I went to pull the dish and cut it in to the bars I was didn't have to try to work around the sides of the pan. Instead I just pulled the sides of the foil out and then could cut really easily...plus I didn't have to clean a dish!

Peanut Butter Krispie Bars
makes one 8x8 pan

3 T. unsalted butter
4 c. miniature marshmallows (plus an extra cup to snack on whilst you bake)
1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 t. coarse salt
6 c. puffed rice cereal
nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
2 packages (24 oz.) milk chocolate chips (I think it might even be delicious to try dark)
1/4 c. chopped, roasted salted peanuts
aluminum foil or parchment paper

Put a layer of aluminum foil or parchment paper in the 8x8 pan with some of the foil/paper overlapping of the sides. This will make the bars easier to remove and keep the pieces together. Spray the foil/paper with nonstick spray or butter. In a large pot, combine marshmallows, peanut butter, butter, and salt. Cook over medium, stirring CONSTANTLY, until melted, about four minutes or so. Add cereal and stir. With a wooded spoon greased with cooking spray or oil, press half the cereal mixture into dish. Spread half of the melted chocolate on top. Repeat with remaining cereal mixture and chocolate. Sprinkle top with peanuts.

(Store in an airtight container for up to three days.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Caramel Heaven

I love homemade caramel. Then again, who doesn't? I learned to love homemade caramel candy after feasting on a batch made by my friend Cheryl. The delightful little candies were creamy and smooth. I could have eaten a hundred of them. (I probably have since first trying them.) Cheryl also showed me the joy of licorice caramels when she added anise extract to a batch of her fabulous creations. Since I love black licorice, there was no question about whether or not I'd love the caramels. When Mr. C and I were dating, I took licorice caramels to some of his family members as I met them. (The C family is a black licorice loving bunch!)

Imagine my joy back in May when some homemade caramels were given to me as a favor at a Mother's Day tea party I went to. It had been a while since I had nibbled on some homemade goodness, so I dove in and had a piece. HELP ME RHONDA, my caramel world stopped. These caramels were, far and away, THE BEST homemade caramels I'd ever had. They were so soft, chewy, and bursting with that unmistakable caramel flavor. PLUS, they had a layer of nuts on the bottom. In all my years of caramel munching, I'd never had homemade caramels with nuts. Having tried this new version of my old classic, I knew I'd never go back to where I'd been. There was one good/bad thing about my gifted treasures. They had been made with walnuts. This was bad for Mr. C who is deathly allergic to walnuts. But, this was good for me because it meant I got to eat them all myself! (I did tell Mr. C I was sorry he couldn't have any as I repeatedly stuffed them in my mouth!)

After arriving home from the tea party, I immediately emailed the hostess BEGGING for the recipe. She kindly obliged. (Thanks Kristi!) When I needed a treats to put with a church message this week, these caramels seemed the perfect option. Plus, the recipe gave me a chance to finally use the new digital thermometer my dad's wife had given me for Christmas. (I've been on a year long hunt for a reliable digital candy thermometer and Donna surprised me with one from Williams-Sonoma!)

Homemade Caramels with Nuts
1 c butter
1 16-oz pkg. brown sugar (2 1/4 c)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 c light corn syrup
1 t vanilla
1 c chopped nuts (I use pecans)
Line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with foil extending edges over the pan. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle prepared pan with nuts. In a heavy 3 qt. saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add brown sugar, condensed milk, and corn syrup. Mix well. Cook and stir over med-high heat to boiling. Cook and stir over med heat to 238 degrees. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Immediately pour caramel mixture in to the prepared pan. Let cool. When caramel is firm, use foil to lift it out of the pan and lift the caramel piece off the foil. (I cut mine directly on my countertop.)  Use a buttered knife to cut in to 1" squares. Wrap squares in wax paper squares. Makes 2 lbs.

This recipe was very similar to the version I had been using with a couple of exceptions (besides the nuts). My old recipe calls for 1 1/2 c of light corn syrup. This one only uses 1 c. And, my old recipe called for 2 c of white sugar while this one uses 2 1/4 c of brown. (I'm convinced the brown sugar is one of they keys to this version being as fabulous as it is.) If you don't like nuts, you can easily not use them. If you like nuts, USE THEM. It takes your candy to a whole new level!

Oh yeah, and the digital thermometer worked like a dream. I'll never go back to the dial kind.

Two quick side notes. First, make sure you have your caramel off the heat when you pour in your vanilla (or other extract you are using to flavor your candy). Even off the heat, the extract will react a bit with your hot caramel. On the heat, it's just plain dangerous. I always stand back just a bit when pouring my extract in so I'm free of splatters and the inevitable vapors that result. Second, the recipe says you can use 2 c of light cream in place of the condensed milk if you want, but it will double the time it takes to get to 238 degrees. You'll be stirring for 45+ minutes rather than 15-20.

Mr. C was so kind to wrap all my little beauties as I tried to cut them. (The recipe isn't kidding when it suggests a buttered knife. I had to spray my knife with Pam after cutting each row.) He ran in to a bit of trouble when some of the wax paper squares I'd cut were too small for square caramels so he started rolling and wrapping them in an oblong shape. I will confess a couple got gobbled up before being wrapped. I still had quite a few left after what I needed for my church stuff and also filling a container for Mr. C to hand out at work. After having 2 of them for breakfast the next morning, I started farming them out to friends. They're a great way to add a little to happiness to some one's day. Plus, I knew I was doomed to eat them all if they continued to live in my kitchen. Double bonus!

Go make a batch of these...right now...go make them. And just so you won't get too sick from eating them all, share them with your friends and neighbors. I will confess to still having a couple here in the house. Just thinking about them is making my mouth water. OK, that's it. I'm going to find one.

P.S. If you want licorice flavored caramels, or any other flavor for that matter, add a dram or two (depending on how strong you want your flavor) to the caramel mixture when you add the vanilla. But, stand back. The oil will react like the vanilla and cause some vapors for a few seconds. It's nothing major, but I thought you should know. Consider yourself warned!

P.P.S. on 10/6/11...So, I've done a little revamping of this post.  After making my caramels again, I'm back to my original 238 degree stopping point.  I have updated that in this post.  Also, the bigger your pan, the thinner your caramels will be, so choose your pan size accordingly.  (I typically use a 7 X 11 pan because I like my pieces about the size of a caramel square you'd get at a candy shop.)  I've also found an easier way to cut my pieces, rather than getting my knife all gummed up, is to roll a pizza cutter back and forth really quickly.  The thicker the caramels the gummier your cutter will get, but it can be better than a knife at times.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm still here!

My deepest apologies to all our faithful blog readers! Mr. C and I made a big decision a month ago to put our home up for sale. The past few weeks have been a blur of home repairs, paint, packing items for storage, and cleaning places in this home that have NEVER been cleaned. Sadly, those projects left no time for blogging. I'm happy to say that the house is now ready, and on the market, so it's time to get back to cooking. (I swear, we ate more 3 for 1.00 tacos over the past 2 weeks than we have in the past year.) Stay tuned...a yummy recipe posting is on the way!