Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cookie Day 4: White Chocolate Cheesecake Cookies

The holiday spirit is definitely wafting through our kitchen! With a blanket of fresh snow on the ground, it definitely feels more like the holidays. And in my kitchen, I love the warmth my oven is giving off after baking a few batches of cookies! Speaking of cookies, it's Cookie Day #4 of our holiday countdown. Today, I'm highlighting these White Chocolate Cheesecake Cookies that were made by my friend, Katie. These pillows of sweetness are easy to make with only a few add-ins to your favorite sugar cookie recipe!

These cookies are packed with cheesecake flavor! The combination of both cheesecake pudding and cream cheese also make these especially soft while maintaining their shape. You can also put on your own spin on these cookies but adding in chopped pistachios and dried cranberries for a pop of festive color too!

White Chocolate Cheesecake Cookies
recipe from my friend, Katie

1 package cookie mix (+ ingredients needed per package)
1 small box of cheesecake flavored pudding mix
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 teaspoons cake spice mix
1 oz softened cream cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, combine cookie mix, ingredients needed for cookie mix per package directions, pudding mix, chocolate chips, cake spice mix and cream cheese.

Once well combined, form dough into 1 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned on edges.

Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cookie Day 3: Pecan Disco Whirls

Happy Monday! We're onto Cookie Day 3 on our holiday countdown and I'm excited to share these Pecan Disco Whirls. Another great cookie from my mother in law, these are a holiday favorite in our family. My sister in law is also a huge fan. A swirl of brown sugar, milk and cocoa with some chopped walnuts mixed in gives these cookies a distinctive look that will look fabulous on any cookie swap table...

My mother in law loves to make rolled cookies that can be sliced and baked. I love her technique because the cookies always come out beautifully. I tend to lean towards drop cookies because I'm lazy lol. Nonetheless, these cookies not only look impressive, they taste delicious! Each bite has a bit of chocolate and walnuts set in a buttery cookie. Feel free to use pecans or other nuts in place of walnuts for a different variation.

Pecan Disco Whirls
from my mother in law, Marnee
makes 7 dozen

1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed (free of lumps)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 heaping teaspoon milk

In a large bowl, cream together butter (or margarine), sugar, egg and vanilla.

In another large bowl, re-sift flour, slat and baking powder. Blend into creamed butter mixture to make a stiff dough. Chill dough for 1 hour for easier handling.

Mix together the brown sugar, cocoa powder, and milk.

Divide the chilled dough in half and roll out each half of chilled dough on a floured surface into a 10 inch square.

Spread each dough with the cocoa mixture and sprinkle with chopped walnuts, leaving about 1/2 inch uncovered at opposite sides of dough.

Roll up tightly, beginning at one side where dough is not spread with filling.

Wrap in waxed paper and freeze until firm for several hours or overnight.

Remove dough from freezer and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375; line baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray. Arrange oven rack set above the oven center.

Cut room temperature dough into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on prepared baking sheet/

Bake cookies on the oven rack set above the oven center for 14-15 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.

Remove to wire racks to cool.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cookie Day 2: Chicago Crunch Cookies

We're onto day two of our Holiday Cookie Countdown! Today I'm featuring one of my favorite cookies that my mother in law makes each year. These are her Chicago Crunch Cookies which has a little bit of everything. Each cookie is loaded with texture and flavor from all the ingredients involved. Chocolate chips, rolled oats, crisp rice cereal and nuts make sound like a lot packed in each bite, however it's perfectly balanced. These are especially great with a tall glass of milk near by...

The dough for this cookie is just as balanced as the many ingredients incorporated into it. Both butter and margarine is used in the dough, just as both white and brown sugar. The recipe also allows for variation too. An alternative to this cookie would be substituting 1 cup chocolate chips with 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries. You can even experiment with other chips aside from chocolate chips... such as toffee bits, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, etc. The delicious possibilities are endless!

Chicago Crunch Cookies
recipe from my mother in law, Marnee
makes 90 - 100 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, margarine, white sugar, and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and mix well; then slowly add oil, milk and vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add this flour mixture to the egg and oil mixture, mixing to combine.

Add the chocolate chips, cereal, oats, and nuts.

Drop heaping teaspoons of dough on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for 3-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cookie Day 1: Chocolate 'Vegan' Brownie Cookies

Let's kick off our Holiday 12 Days of Cookies Countdown with chocolate! These Chocolate Vegan Brownie Cookies are pretty amazing. What surprised me the most was that they were vegan! My friend Melissa prepared these cookies and I fell in love with how chewy they were, just like a brownie. The rich chocolate comes through in every bite, studded with more chocolate if that weren't enough. If you love cookies and brownies, these are definitely for you...

The basis of this cookie is coconut oil. It's interesting how one ingredient is used in two different forms - melted and solid. This is key to achieve the right cookie texture. Another critical step is ensuring the dough is thoroughly chilled before baking. This helped the cookies hold its shape so it doesn't result in a puddle of chocolate in the oven. If the idea of a vegan cookie gives you doubt, this recipe will turn you into a believer. And you just might keep some coconut oil stocked in your pantry going forward!

Chocolate 'Vegan' Brownie Cookies
recipe from my friend, Melissa
makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil, solid
1 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups vegan dark chocolate chips
In a large bowl, combine melted coconut oil with sugar. Add in vanilla extract and solid coconut oil.
In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and flour.

Slowly add the cocoa powder and flour mixture into the coconut oil mixture, one cup at a mine, mixing in between each addition until fully incorporated. 

Stir in the chocolate chips into the dough. 

Chill the dough in the freezer for about 45 minutes or until firm enough to scoop.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the chilled dough from the freezer and roll into 1 inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheet roughly 2 inches apart. Bake cookies in preheated oven for 10 minutes until slightly puffed. Be careful not to overbake so they come out chewy!

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 3-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Repeat process until all cookie dough has been baked.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

12 Days of Holiday Cookies!

We are just about done with the month of November... and that means the Holidays will be in full force in no time! To celebrate the season, I'll be featuring 12 days of Holiday Cookies starting tomorrow, December 1st. You can expect to find some cookie ideas to get into the spirit, some tips on hosting your own cookie swap and some sweet giveaway surprises to brighten your day!
As we get further into the month, we'll switch gears and talk holiday appetizers to get you ready for celebrating the new year. Be sure to check back each day for something delicious and new!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cranberry Pretzel Pie

Cranberries are a popular ingredient these days. With Thanksgiving around the corner, most people will use it for the traditional cranberry sauce to serve with turkey. But there are other uses for cranberries, especially when it comes to dessert! This Cranberry Pretzel Pie is a spin off of a similar dish made with strawberries. The combination of a sweet and salty crush, creamy filling and a topping of tart cranberries make it a great dish for all the tastes!

This pie can be made using other flavors of gelatin and fruit for other holidays or celebrations throughout the year. For Thanksgiving, this is definitely perfect. It's also when you can find cranberry flavored gelatin! 

At first, pretzels and gelatin may sound like an odd pairing, but in this recipe, it works really well. It's the combination of sweet and salty base that hits you first... then the creamy and tart filling balances it all together. Aside from making this as a pie, you can also prepare this in a 9x13 baking pan to cut into bars.

Cranberry Pretzel Pie
recipe adapted from AllRecipes

  • Crust:
  • 1 1/4 cups crushed pretzels
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

  • 1 (8oz) brick cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed 

  • 1 (6oz) package cranberry gelatin mix
  • 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 (16oz) package frozen cranberries

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the crust by combining crushed pretzels, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl. Mix well and press into a pie pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cool.

While crust is cooling, prepare the filling by combining cream cheese and 1 cup confectioner's sugar in a medium bowl; beat until smooth. Stir in whipped topping; spread mixture in crust and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, combine gelatin mix and boiling water; add cranberries. Let gelatin mixture thicken slightly, and then pour over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tomato & Pesto Crostini

Before the big Thanksgiving meal, I love indulging in appetizers. In fact, I probably would enjoy a plateful of appetizers over the Thanksgiving meal itself! When it comes to appetizers, I'm drawn to simple bites packed with flavor and color. These Tomato & Pesto Crostini is one such bite that's quick and easy to make...

Honestly, this really isn't much of a recipe but rather ingredients I love together. Buttery toasted bread rounds are topped with a sweet slice of roma tomato, a dollop of pesto and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. To make these a bit heavier, you can add a slice of salumi. These can be served as is or drizzled with a bit of good olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar.

As for making these, I would advise not to assemble them too much in advance. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are, it's best to assemble just as guests arrive or better yet, have them help in putting them together. Another alternative is to set all ingredients out and have guests assemble them at their leisure for a 'crostini bar'.

Tomato & Pesto Crostini

Toasted bread rounds
3 roma tomatoes,sliced
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
olive oil and balsamic vinegar for serving (optional)

On top of each bread round, top with tomato, a dollop of pesto and garnish with a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

To serve, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar if desired.

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