Thursday, December 16, 2010

Milk Chocolate Gingersnaps

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Excuse the "brown on brown" picture here but this was taken right before my desserts class started and I was in a hurry.  I am so excited, though, because I have asked for a really cool light for Christmas to help with my food photography.  Can't wait to take some much better pictures! 
I have to tell you a funny story about these cookies.  These have become a must when baking for friends and family during the holidays.  They are fantastic!  Last weekend I was a baking fool and spent all of Saturday and Sunday within the confines of my kitchen.  My plan was to double this recipe which would make about 60 cookies.  So I whipped them up and when I went to scoop and roll them in the sugar I could tell the consistency was not right.  I double checked the recipe and I had QUADRUPLED the BUTTER.  What?!?!  By the time I started on these Sunday afternoon I think I had lost my mind a little reading "a cup of this, a teaspoon of that, etc" all weekend!  So I got out my gigantic plastic pop-up Pampered Chef bowl that Ben said I'd never need and put all the dough in that :) Then just doubled everything but the butter and added that to the bowl.  There was so much that I just had to use my hands to mix it all up.  So instead of 60 cookies I made 120!  It turned out to be a good thing, though, because I just put them in the freezer and have been adding them to plates for friends AND the kids and Ben have been able to eat them without me slapping their hands and saying "These are for our friends and family not us!"  :) 
Check out the site because it is really great.  She has so many holiday cookie recipes that I want to try!


2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1½ cups (about 9 ounces) milk chocolate chips
¼ cup granulated sugar

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and brown sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Add egg and molasses and mix until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate. Mix in the chocolate chips.

3. Spread granulated sugar on a large piece of wax or parchment paper. Roll a rounded Tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands into a 1¼-inch ball. Roll ball in sugar. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until they feel firm on top but soft in the center and have several cracks, about 14 minutes.

4. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: About 30 cookies

Cooking Tips
*Cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
**Finished cookies may also be frozen until ready to place on cookie platters.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Italian Mac-N-Cheese

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Are you ready for some major comfort food?  Pasta is definitely a comfort food to me and this dish is up there in my top favorite pastas.  I started making this years ago when Rachel Ray was just getting popular and everyone was in love with her.  I must say that I've tried many many of her recipes and pretty much hated most of them but this one was exceptional.  This is one of her "30 Minute Meals" too which makes it even better!  Honestly, though, it only takes 30 minutes IF you have everything chopped and prepped before you start.  So misleading!  Italian sausage, mushrooms, creamy sauce, tomatoes, cheese...mmmm!!!  I love how the parmesan gets crispy on the top.  Ben and I fight over the crunchiest pieces!  I looked up this recipe on the net just for ease of putting it on the blog but it's been changed a little.  I wouldn't change a thing so I am giving you the original version.  This is the perfect meal for a cold winter night! 

Source: Rachel Ray

1 lb Penne pasta
1 lb bulk Italian sausage (not the sweet kind!)
2 TB Extra virgin olive oil
1 TB butter
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
12 fresh button or baby portabello mushrooms
Salt and Pepper
2 TB all purpose flour
1 C chicken stock or broth
1 C heavy cream
8 oz shredded Italian 4 Cheese Blend cheese
1 can (15 oz) plain diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 C parmesan cheese

Cook pasta 9 minutes or until it is al dente (not quite done).  Brown and crumble sausage, drain, set aside.  Add EVOO to the same pan over medium heat and add butter, garlic, and mushrooms.  Season with S&P liberally.  Saute 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are golden brown.  Add a little more olive oil if the mixture gets too dry while browning.  Preheat broiler to high.  Add flour and stir to make a roux.  Whisk in chicken stock and heavy cream.  Bring to a bubble then stir in half of the cheese blend.  When cheese melts, add tomatoes.  When sauce boils add pasta and sausage then transfer to a baking dish.  (9x13) Add remaining cheese and grated parmesan to the top.  Cook until browned.  This will only take about 5-10 min on top rack under broiler so keep an eye on it.  Serves 6-8