Friday, February 15, 2013

Soft Raisin Cookies #52cookies

This is a cookie my Mom used to make when I was a child but I haven’t made it in forever because I live with a raisin hater! 

Yes, Hubby HATES raisins – so much so that he wouldn’t even try one of these cookies!  The worst part about his hate for raisins is it seems he has somehow passed on the genetic hate of raisins to our children.  They both tried a cookie but they picked out the raisins!  Seriously!  Freaking crazy kids!

Oh and when I told them that raisins were merely just tried grapes – they did not believe me.

Anyway, I like these cookies but they were not a panel favourite and now that I have had some feedback and looked at the ingredients, they are more of a muffin than a cookie.  So if you are looking for an excuse to eat cookies for breakfast – here you go!

At Home Panel:

Little Boy: (as he is spitting out a raisin) it’s good, I like them, I don’t like the raisins.  They are very soft.
1 out of 5 stars

Little Girl: Are there raisins in them?  I don’t like raisins. They are tasty. 
2 out of 5 stars

Hubby: refused to allow a raisin to pass his lips.

At Work Panel:

Brent:  It’s not a cookie.  It’s a muffin.  It’s a good muffin.  It tastes like a chocolate chip muffin without the chocolate.
1 out of 5 stars

Bryce: Good, unique.  I would call it a breakfast cookie.
4 out of 5 stars

Sandee:  Too dry, they don’t have a lot of flavour.  The raisins are good, I like that they are round and thick.
2 out of 5 stars

Barb: Not my favourite.  You would probably like them if you liked scones.
2 out of 5 stars

Adam: Like grandma’s cookies.  (He came back for more.)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Sarah: I like the softness, needs more raisins or something.  Something is missing?  A spice?  Cinnamon maybe?
3 out of 5 stars

Average rating: 2.9 out of 5 stars

Soft Raisin Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375F.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Using either a stand mixer or by hand, beat together the butter and sour cream until well mixed.  Add in the brown sugar, vanilla and eggs and continue mixing, scraping down the sides as needed.  Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, then add in the raisins and stir until incorporated.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes until nicely browned and set.

Yield: 3 1/3 – 4 dozen cookies.
Little Girl's plate of picked out raisins.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Family Photos

I realized I haven't shared these photos with you all yet, so I'm going to share picture overload, there are just too many good ones I can't pick only one or two.


They were taken back in September at Spruce Meadows on an extremely hot day where I insisted everyone where jeans; can you tell we are over heating in these pictures?

A little note about Spruce Meadows: it's open to the public 7 days a week when they don't have a show on.  You're welcome to walk through the barns, bring your dog, and don't forget a bag of carrots!

Monday, February 04, 2013

#52cookies - Chocolate Florentines

One of the best parts about this cookie challenge is I am making cookies I normally wouldn’t make and finding out my family likes them.
Before I tended to stick to sugar cookies, chocolate chip and the odd peanut butter thrown in, but now – well I obviously need to expand my repertoire if I am going to get 52 different cookies made.

I have never made Florentines before and I think I might have only ever eaten one, so there was a little trial and error and I also wasn’t really sure what I was looking for in texture etc.  Thankfully my At Work panel was very knowledgeable in Florentines and gave me some great info / feedback.

At Home Panel: (The chocolate had not had a chance to harden; hence their comments about the mess.)

Little Girl: Kinda slimy, kinda chocolaty inside.  I like it.  A bit messy.
5 out of 5 stars

Little Boy: Sandwich cookie.  I really like it.
5 out of 5stars

Hubby: Extremely chocolaty, it’s almost a little overpowering.  Pretty messy.
3 out of 5 stars

At Work Panel:

Barb: Very tasty; hard – are they supposed to be hard?  Mine is hard on the outside.
3.5 out of 5 stars

Sarah: These are good.  5 out of 5!  One cookie is enough at a time.  Soft fancy cookie.
5 out of 5 stars

Sandee: I love Florentines; I usually have the nougat ones, I’ve never had this kind before.  They’re great.  They are chewy but not too much so they tick in your teeth.
5 out of 5stars

Andy: It’s very good; but anything chocolate is a hit for me.  I like the texture; I like chewy cookies.
4 out of 5stars

Bryce:  Really good.  I like the oatmeal part; a bit too sweet because the chocolate is so sweet.
4 out of 5 stars

Brent:  Pretty good.  I like these.  This is an overload of my favourite cookie.  Definitely needs a coffee.  Just the right amount of crunchy and chewy.
5 out of 5 stars

Amber: Delish.  Good cookie to chocolate ratio.  I like that they are chewy.
4.5 out of 5 stars

Overall rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars

My notes:

The original recipe calls for milk chocolate chips, I only had semi-sweet chocolate chips so that is what I used.  If you used milk chocolate they wouldn’t be as sweet, and you could use dark too if that was your favourite chocolate.

I used 2 different cookie sheets to make these; one was a nice thick one and the other one is thin.  The cookies made on the thick sheet turned out better.  They were softer and chewyer.
It is very easy to under cook these cookies, if you under cook them THEY WILL NOT COME OFF THE FOIL!  At the same time it is pretty easy to overcook them.  I suggest if you are making these and need specific amount, make extra – the first few might not turn out.
It is also quite a long process of baking (unless you have 10 cookie sheets which I do not).  So plan for the time – you need to let you cookie sheets cool down between batches – I ended up using my 2 thick cookie sheets once I learned the thin ones don’t work as well and it really slowed down my afternoon.

But these are cookie made to impress, they look great and a definitely taste good.

Chocolate Florentines

2/3 cup butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup corn syrup
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet or dark)

Preheat oven to 375F.
Line baking sheets with foil and spray lightly with cookie spray.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, remove from heat and stir in the oats, white sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk and vanilla.  Stir until fully incorporated. 
Using a scoop (small) or rounded teaspoon, drop onto cookie sheets.  Make sure to give lots of space since these cookies will spread a lot.  Use a rubber spatula to spread the cookies out.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until theyare just starting to turn golden. 
Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on wire rack.  Once cooled, peel off the foil.
Take your time, there is a bit of trial and error to getting the right doneness of the cookies.
Once all your cookies are done, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20-30 second intervals stirring in-between until smooth.
Spread chocolate on the bottom side of one cookie and top with another one to make a sandwich.
Allow to set for a few hours before consuming.

Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on how big you make them).


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pork Piccata

This recipe is originally Chicken Piccata and I’ve made it before and the whole family loved it, but the other day I pulled out a pork tenderloin from the freezer with no plan for it.

When I came home from work with 2 hungry kids in tow, I had to come up with a plan fast, and although there are so many ways to make / work with a pork tenderloin, nothing was speaking to me and I didn’t have time for it to marinate (my favourite way to eat it, marinated and BBQed).

So I modified this recipe to be a pork dish because pork is such mild flavour it worked very well.  The kids thought it was chicken (and ate it well) and Hubby and I both went back for seconds.

Pork Piccata

1 pork tenderloin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

To prepare the pork tenderloin, first cut remove silver skin, then cut into thirds, take each third and butterfly.  Using a meat mallet to pound out each piece to an even thickness (I got mine to about 1.5 cm thick).

Sprinkle both sides of each piece with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in the flour.

Over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with olive oil; once hot cook the pork pieces on both sides until just brown (about 3 minutes / side).  Make sure not to over crowd your pan, you might need to do 2 batches.  Remove pork from pan and set aside.

Add chicken broth, lemon juice and capers, bring to a boil and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the pork to the pan, turning over to coat in the sauce and simmer until cooked through (5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork).  Using tongs take the pork out of the pan and place on serving platter.  Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then remove from heat and pour sauce over the pork.  Garnish with parsley and serve alongside your choice of starch (I did rice).

Yield: 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe in Giada’s Family Dinners cookbook.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Soft Ginger Cookies - #52cookies

I have some very fond memories of soft ginger cookies; to me they are a cold winter, comfort food cookie.  Now I am sure I could have called my Mom and had her dig through her recipes to maybe find the one from my childhood, but instead I scoured the internet for one that sounded good and I thought would bring back some memories.

Now the interesting thing about this cookie is that it was not good warm.  It was too soft and gooey and it actually stuck in your teeth, but cold, well that is a different story – so different in fact that I had Hubby try one again the next day and allowed him to revise his earlier opinion of the cookie.

This cookie pairs very well with a cup of tea or coffee – it’s not really a dunkable cookie because it is so soft, but it is yummy and has just the right flavour to pair with coffee or tea.

At home panel:

Little Girl:  Gingery; so sprinkly; gummy in my teeth (eating it warm); sugary.
6 out of 5 stars (We might need to work on that a little still.)

Little Boy: yummy; sprinkly; brown.
2 out of 5 stars (Not sure he understands this either since he kept asking for more.)

Hubby: (Trying it warm) Too gummy, sticks in your teeth; I don’t really like them but I will eat them because they are sweet and cookies
1 out of 5 stars

Hubby: (Trying it the next day cold) Much better today, too crunchy with all the big sugar crystals, not bad.
3 out of 5 stars

At work panel:

Brent: Damn good!!! Chewy, I like chewy.  Good flavour.  This would go even better with a coffee, can I have another one, I need to go and get a coffee now.
4.7 out of 5

Sandee: Ohhh, I like the softness; too much sugar on top, the one I tried rolled in regular sugar I liked better.  Perfect consistency, perfect ginger balance.
4.5 out of 5 stars

Barb: Mmmmm, I would make these and feed them to my family, nope, I would eat them all myself!  I like the sugar is crunchy and the cookie is soft.
4 out of 5 stars

Sarah: Too much molasses; not enough salt; good softness.
3 out of 5 stars
Bryce: Too much sugar, good consistency, nice and soft, good amount of ginger.
4 out of 5 stars

Andy: Really good; moist & sugary.  My favourite so far.
4.5 out of 5

Amber: Perfect, buttery.  I like that they are not over molassesy or gingery.  I like the sugar texture. 
5 out of 5

Overall rating: 4.0 out of 5

 Soft Ginger Cookies
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup molasses
Sugar for rolling*

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.  Add in the egg, water and molasses, scrape down the sides and beat until well combined.  Then slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
Form walnut sized cookies and roll them in sugar.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Removed from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before removing to a wire rack to fully cool.

*I used a coarse decorator’s sugar for rolling and although a few people liked the crunch it provided (and it is much prettier) the overall feeling was the cookies were better rolled in regular white sugar.

Yield: 2 ½ dozen cookies.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spicy Sausage Pasta

If I am lucky I can walk through the front door with the kids just before 5 pm and I know for a lot of working parents that is living in a dream world but for me it is still on the late side.

You see once we walk in the door, I have to deal with the dog, change out of my work clothes, get a snack for the kids, make dinner and be sitting down to eat all within 45-60 minutes.

So you can imagine that one dish meals on a week night are one of my best friends.

This dish did not disappoint.  I used a spicy petite cut tomatoes as I indicated so it had some kick, but you could use a non-spicy version if you are not a fan of spice.
Anyway, it was good, easy and fast.

Spicy Sausage Pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. sausage, raw & sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (540 ml) petite cut tomatoes*
8 oz. (2 ½ cups) raw fusilli pasta
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a large skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the sausage and onion and cook until lightly browned 3-4 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Add in the chicken broth, canned tomatoes, pasta, cream, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally until pasta is done.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
Serve with remaining cheese and sliced green onions.
*I used Spicy Red Pepper – but you could use any type you like.

Source: Modified from Kevin & Amanda.

Monday, January 21, 2013

52 Cookies - Chunky Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

This cookie comes to us from the Nestle Toll House Best-Ever Cookies cookbook.
I have owned this cookbook for quite a while and I make their chocolate chip cookie recipe as my standard but I haven’t tried a lot of other recipes yet.
The overall rating on this cookie is more positive than negative but you will notice one major trend, everyone wanted more peanut butter in this cookie.
I did make a few minor changes:
The original recipe called for 2 cups of chocolate chips – I dropped it down to 1 ½ cups because there was a good chocolate chip ratio at 1 ½ cups – add more if you want, but I don’t think you need the full 2 cups.
The original recipe also said to bake them for 7-10 minutes – mine were nowhere near ready at 7 minutes and although I probably could’ve taken them out at 10 minutes, I wanted them to have a bit of colour – but I also got asked if they were a bit over cooked by one person.

At Home Panel:
Little Girl: Yummy; It tastes like peanut butter inside and chocolate chips!  I like the whole flavour; it was delicious!
100 out of 5 stars
Little Boy: I like chocolate chip and peanut butter.
A billion out of 5 stars
Hubby: A little heavy on the chocolate chips, there is a small hint of peanut butter but the chocolate outweighs it.  Needs more peanuts and peanut butter.
4 out of 5 stars
Me: A good cookie but the peanut butter is lost.  I like the added crunch of the chopped peanuts but it felt more like a chocolate chip cookie instead of a peanut butter cookie.
3.5 out of 5 stars
At Work Panel:
Andy: Really good.  Really sweet and yet moist – I hate dry cookies.
4 out of 5 stars
Brent: Needs more peanut butter – about 30% more.  A little too dry, good chocolate chip balance.  It’s a confused cookie – it’s not chocolate chip, and it’s not peanut butter – but it is trying to be both.  Tasty, just needs more peanut butter.
3 out of 5 stars
Sandee: Good but too crisp.  I like softer cookies.  Needs more peanut butter; I like the lots of chocolate chips.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Sarah: These cookies are a solid 5 out of 5.  Nice balance of sweet and salty… and I was glad they were moderately soft.  Well done!
5 out of 5 stars
Bryce: It has more of a peanut butter after taste than a real peanut butter taste.  A little too sweet for me.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Shani: Needs more peanut butter, I like the crunch, but it is unratable because it is lacking one major ingredient – peanut butter.
Overall rating: 3.8
Even though I explained to the kids how a 5 star rating goes, they did not quite get it and I laugh everything I think about their answers.
We had cookies for dessert the following day and they wanted me to write down their thoughts again about the cookie, this is going to be a fun year and I feel sorry for anyone that gives them a cookie after we have done a few more months of this.
Chunky Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: Nestle Toll House Best-Ever Cookies book

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
½ cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter until soft and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides and then add in the egg and vanilla. Once incorporated, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Mix in the chocolate chips and peanuts with a wooden spoon.

 Drop onto parchment lined baking sheets in rounded tablespoons (I used a 2 tablespoon scoop). Flatten slightly with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are set but centres are still soft.
Cool on baking sheet for 4 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.