Friday, October 29, 2010

Quick and Easy Pecan Brittle

I love to eat brittle and I found this recipe on the Good House Keeping website, it's super easy and quick to make and you can pretty much use any type of nuts you want.  It makes a really cute garnish to put on top of pumpkin pie or ice cream.  You can even just eat them as a snack and pack them up in cute little bags to give your friends since the recipe is super simple and delicious!
Pecan Brittle!
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chopped pecans

  1. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and place cookie sheet on wire rack since the foil and cookie sheet will get very hot when topped with the caramel/nut mixture. 
  2. In heavy 2-quart saucepan, heat sugar and water on medium until mixture turns golden, about 5-8 minutes. 
  3. With a heat-safe spatula, stir in pecans and cook 30 seconds. 
  4. Working quickly and carefully, pour hot caramel/nut mixture onto foil and carefully lift and tilt cookie sheet slightly (holding foil in place) to spread caramel into a thin even layer. 
  5. Let brittle cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  6. When cool, peel foil away, and break brittle into pieces, pack up as sweet snack or use as a garnish.
Cookie sheet lined with foil.
Cooking the sugar and water until it's golden brown.
Spreading the caramel/nut mixture on the foil.

Breaking the brittle into pieces!
Using the pecan brittle as a garnish for pumpkin ice cream! yum!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cut-Out Butter Cookies - Happy Halloween!

I have tried many cut-out cookie recipes and this Martha Stewart recipe definitely has to be my favorite, the cookies taste really light, not too sweet and are soft but crispy.  I really like to bake cookies for my nephews, they always ask me to bake them different shapes and decorate them a certain way so I am always on the look out for cookie cutters and decorating ideas.  Halloween is almost here and I promised my niece I would make her some cookies and send them to her (she lives in WA).  I spent most of the morning decorating them but it was definitely worth it, they turned out great and I know the kids will love them :)
Happy Halloween!

3 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Mix butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer.  
  2. Add flour and salt to the butter/sugar mixture, beat until it is the texture of a course meal.
  3. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla.  Add to the large bowl and mix, mix until the dough forms.
  4. Divide dough in half; form into two balls. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. 
  6. On a floured surface, roll out one ball at a time to a thickness of 3/16 inch.
  7. Cut dough into desired shapes; carefully transfer to baking sheets. 
  8. Place the baking sheet with the desired shapes for 10 minutes into the refrigerator (this will help the cookies hold their shape better).
  9. Bake until edges are firm (not brown), 10 to 15 minutes for 3-inch cookies. Cool 1 to 2 minutes on baking sheets; cool completely on a wire rack. 
  10. Decorate as you wish. ** I used some store bought frosting, adding food coloring, put the frosting in Ziploc bags, cut the tip and used that to pipe out the frosting to decorate the cookies.
  11. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  1. In order to make the candy corn cookies, divide the dough into 3 pieces.  
  2. If you do not have orange food coloring, mix the red and yellow food coloring together to make orange and add to the first piece of dough. 
  3. Add yellow food coloring to the second piece of dough.
  4. Leave the third piece plain.
  5. Roll out each piece of dough into logs and stick together, yellow at the bottom, orange in the middle and the "white" or plain piece on top, now shape into a triangle.  It works better if you wrap all three pieces together in plastic then shape into a triangle.
  6. Place dough into the refrigerator for 1 hour or until cool.
  7. Once cool, slice by the desired thickness and bake at 350 deg C for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Cool 1 to 2 minutes on baking sheets; cool completely on a wire rack.
I love colored dough, it looks so pretty and fun!
Shaping the candy corn cookies, so festive!
Candy Corn!! Baked and ready to eat!
Rolling out the dough and cutting some pumpkins.
Decorating the cookies, check out my awesome Ziploc bags frosting bags. I had some leaf sprinkles so I added them to the pumpkin cookies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mexican Sweet Bread (Conchas a.k.a Seashells)

I love Mexican Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread), it has such a light flavor, it's perfect with coffee, tea or better yet hot chocolate! I was born in El Salvador and since there were never any Salvadorean Bakeries in the areas where we lived in Canada and the U.S. we would always opt for the next best thing, Mexican Pan Dulce.  I've been eating this stuff for years and finally decided to try to make it for myself, this was my first attempt and although I didn't get the topping quite right, they still turned out amazing! This recipe comes from and have great reviews!
Fluffy and ready to eat!

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 deg F)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/8 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping #1:
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping #2:  
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp melted butter


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the yeast and warm water. Mix in the milk, 3/8 cup sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, salt, egg and half of the flour. Gradually mix in the remaining flour, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter to knead as soon as it pulls together enough.
  2. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a large greased bowl, and turn the dough to coat. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Make the topping while the dough rises. In a medium bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour until the mixture is the consistency of thick paste. Divide into two parts, and place one part in a separate bowl. Mix cinnamon into one half, and vanilla into the other half.** You can also add food coloring to make different colored conchas.
  4. When the dough is done rising, cut into 12 even-sized pieces. Shape into balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet, spacing about 3 inches apart. If using Topping #1: Divide each bowl of topping into 6 balls, and pat flat. Place circles of topping on top of the dough balls patting down lightly. Use a knife to cut grooves in the topping like a clam shell. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. ** I felt like I used too much topping since my conchas were quite small, the topping tended to grow quite a bit, so I would recommend using 1/2 a topping ball per pastry if your conchas are small.  If you want to try Topping #1, bake the bread with no topping
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
  6. Decorating with Topping #1, as soon as you take the bread out of the oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle sugar on top and let dry, see pictures below.

Making the dough!

After the dough was left to rise for about 2 hrs I divided it into 12 balls
Making Topping #1! Orange in honor of Halloween or OSU ;)

Making them Clam looking

And they're done! Yum, yum!
Making some sugar ones with Topping #2!

Sugar ones are ready to eat! They kind of resemble Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) bread :)
Mexican Sweet Bread Feast!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flan from an Ex

This recipe comes from the wife of one of my college professors.  She got the recipe from my professor who got it from one of his ex-girlfriends who happened to be from Spain.  Weird story right? I am not a big fan of flan but my family and boyfriend love it so I decided to make this recipe for them.  Flan tastes a lot better homemade than from a package, the texture and flavor is so different, especially this recipe, the flan tastes so smooth it's to die for! This recipe requires lots of egg yolks, so maybe make it in the morning and use all those extra egg whites for a healthy omelet :)
Flan with Caramel #2!


**I have provided two caramel recipes, just try one of the two, caramel #1 is a much lighter syrup and takes a lot longer to make than caramel #2. 

Caramel #1:
2 cups white sugar
2/3 cups of water

Caramel #2:
2 cups white sugar

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tsp lemon peel
8 egg yolks
2 eggs

DIRECTIONS: (makes about 10 Flans in 60 oz ramekins)

Caramel #1: *This is a lighter syrup.
  1. Over medium heat, in a small sauce pan, mix white sugar and water together, stir until all sugar has melted
  2. Cook until the sugar turns golden brown (about 15mins if done over medium heat)
  3. Poor into the bottom of the ramekins or the dish you are using for the flan.  Don't worry if it hardens, once they bake with the flan mixture the caramel will become syrupy.
Caramel #2: *This syrup has a darker flavor but is faster to make
  1. Over medium heat, in a small sauce pan, cook the sugar until all the sugar has melted and become a golden brown syrup

  1. In a medium sauce pan mix whole milk, heavy whipping cream, white sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the milk mixture comes to a light boil (about 20-30 mins)
  3. Once it starts boiling remove from heat and let cool 20 mins
  4. In a separate bowl, Beat the egg yolks and eggs
  5. Slowly add 1/2 cup of milk mixture to the eggs while beating constantly.  This is done to temper the eggs.  Now add this mixture to the milk.
  6. Strain the mixture.
  7. Pour into the caramel lined ramekins or dish.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F.
  9. Place ramekins in a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with about 1-2 inches of hot water. Bake for 60-70 minutes in the water bath and check with a knife just to the side of the center. If knife comes out clean, it's ready.
  10. Now refrigerate (refrigerate for at least 1 hour before eating) **TIP: to take them out of the ramekin, place the ramekin in hot water for about 1 minute, then create an air pocket by sliding a knife in and out on the side (just once), now you can flip it over on a plate and enjoy!
PICTURES OF PROCESS: ** Sorry there are not more pictures of the process, I forgot to take pics of the milk cooking!
Adding the syrup to the dish and spreading it around, if you can't spread it around because the syrup has hardened don't worry, once cooked the syrup will melt through the bottom and when taken out of the dish it will just melt on top of the Flan. (Pic is of Flan with caramel #2)

I only had 6 small ramekins so I had to improvise by using some glass dishes in order to use up all of the Flan mixture.  So here is the Flan in the oven in a water bath. Oh yeah don't forget to cover with tin foil!! Or else the top will burn, bubble and become dry and rubbery!

All cooked and ready to be cooled in the fridge :)

Flan with Caramel #1, delicious!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Olive Garden Chicken Giardino

Few people know that the Olive Garden (OG) has some recipes on it's website! Not all of their recipes are on there but many of the dishes they "discontinued" serving are listed, so check it out!  My best friend and I LOVE this dish, we would drive an hour to the OG just to get Chicken Giardino, breadsticks and salad.  We were devastated when they stopped serving it so it was awesome when we found this recipe, we made it immediately!  This dish takes some time to make and it makes A LOT (probably like 8 LARGE servings) but it's definitely worth it! You can just freeze the left overs and it almost tastes better re-heated.
Chicken Giardino!


Sauce: **We doubled the sauce recipe listed on the site because the ingredients actually turn out to be a lot more than expected and who doesn't love extra sauce right?
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp garlic pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced width-wise into ½” strips
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small rosemary sprigs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ bunch fresh asparagus (remove bottom inch of stem; cut remainder into 1” pieces)
1 zucchini, julienne cut
1 yellow summer squash, julienne cut
2 roma tomatoes, cut into ½” pieces
½ red bell pepper, julienne cut
1 cup broccoli florets, blanched
½ cup frozen peas
1 cup spinach, cut into ½” pieces
½ cup carrots, julienne cut

1 lb farfalle pasta (bow ties), cooked according to package directions


Sauce Preparation:
  1. MELT butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in thyme, garlic pepper and rosemary. Whisk to thoroughly blend and cook for 1 minute.
  2. COMBINE chicken broth, water, wine, milk, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Add cornstarch and whisk until cornstarch has dissolved and there are no lumps.
  3. ADD liquid mixture to sauce pan. Whisk all ingredients together and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat.

Chicken & Vegetables Preparation:
  1. COMBINE all chicken ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well.
  2. MARINATE for 30 minutes.
  3. HEAT a saute pan over medium high heat. Add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.
  4. SAUTE chicken strips until internal temperature reaches 165°F. ***I grilled the chicken on a George Foreman grill instead of sauteing them
  5. ADD all vegetables and sauté until cooked through.
  6. ADD cooked, drained pasta and sauce to sauté pan. Stir until pasta is thoroughly coated with sauce.
  7. TRANSFER to a serving platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

Veggies and all other ingredients!
Grilled Chicken and Mini Farfalle Pasta (yes, mini, I love mini pasta!)
Mixing the sauce
Cooked veggies, then putting everything together
Chicken Giardino with some shredded Parmesan cheese, time to eat!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Snickerdoodles !!

This recipe comes from the Joy of Baking and was found by my lovely fellow blogger, Nicolee.  The recipe is great as is but I like to use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar, I think it makes the texture of the cookies softer.  Either type of sugar you use the cookie will turn out great! My friends and I love making these during the holidays and packaging them up to give to our friends and family.  I made these today for my nephew Max, he came over to celebrate my mom's b-day and was really disappointed I didn't have cookies for him.  His pouting made me feel so guilty I decided to make him snickerdoodles since they are super easy and quick to make! The ingredients are also something I always have around and the cookies are delicious :)

Snickerdoodles! I love saying that, it makes me feel like a kid!

2 3/4 cups (360 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar (or powdered sugar)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 deg F (190 deg C) and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. 
  3. In another bowl beat the butter and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough. If the dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls (one to two hours).
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  **When baking cookies I love using parchment paper, it prevents from the cookies from sticking to the baking sheet and over cooking at the bottom.
  5. Shape the dough into 1 inch (2.5 cm) round balls.
  6. In a medium shallow bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Then, using the bottom of a glass or your fingers, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.
  8. Bake the cookies for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  **The cookies take exactly 8 mins to cook in my oven so just watch them carefully the first time so you don't over cook them and they become hard. 
  9. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, at room temp, for about 10 - 14 days.

Coating + Cookie Dough

Rolling the dough balls in cinnamon sugar mixture.
Flattening out the cookies with my fingers!
Cooling on the rack, ready to eat!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mary's NO FAIL Pie Crust ....

This is a recipe I got from my sister.  Her mother in-law is a great cook/baker and has a lot of recipes that have been in her family for decades and this is one of them.  This is literally a NO FAIL pie crust recipe.  I had tried many recipes before and my pie crust never turned out well until I tried this amazing recipe! It's simple, easy and always turns out well!  I think what makes the dough so manageable is the apple cider vinegar, try it for yourself and tell me what you think! 

**You can use this recipe for any kind of pie, I was making pumpkin pie so that's why my crust looks the way it does in the picture below.

Perfect Pie Crust ;)

 INGREDIENTS: (Makes 2 pie crusts)

3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1 well beaten egg (I like to use the butter flavored kind)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
5-6 tbsp COLD water

  1. In a large bowl, beat the egg and shortening together
  2. Add the flour, salt and apple cider vinegar
  3. Next add water, 1 tbsp at a time until the dough forms into a ball.
NOTE: You can use a mixer to mix all the ingredients, using a dough hook or just some regular beaters.

The recipe is for two pie crusts, after making the dough I split it in half.  I wrap the half I am not rolling out in plastic so it doesn't dry out while I roll out the first crust.

The dough always sticks to my rolling pin so I like to use parchment paper to aid in the rolling out process.  It allows me to roll out the dough as thin as I like without it sticking to my rolling pin.

I place parchment paper on one half of the rolled out dough and fold it in half in order to make it easy to place onto my pin dish.
It's important to make sure there are not air pockets between the dough and the pie dish.   Cut-off the excess edges and decorate to your liking, I also like to prick the dough with a fork before I add the filling so it cooks evenly and doesn't bubble.

Baking a Pumpkin!! (Making Pumpkin Puree)

I was always afraid to bake my own pumpkin and I would usually always use Libby's Pumpkin from a CAN to make all of my pumpkin recipes like pumpkin pie, yum! But my massage therapist totally convinced me to make my own, she made it sound super easy so I decided to give it a go and it turned out perfect! It was so amazing and delicious, I can't wait for you guys to try it!

1 small cooking pumpkin (There are TWO different types of pumpkins the ones for jack-o-lanterns, which are BIG and not as sweet and small ones used for cooking that are sweet and tasty)

4 cups water

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 deg C
  2. Wash the pumpkin in luke warm water
  3. Cut the stem off the pumpkin
  4. Cut the pumpkin in half
  5. Place the pumpkin face down on a cookie sheet (yes, seeds and all)
  6. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and pour the water on the cookie sheet, my cookie sheet was large enough to hold the 4 cups, if you are using a smaller cookie sheet just make sure the water covers about an 5-10 cm of the pumpkin this will prevent the pumpkin from drying out.
  7. Bake in the oven for 60-70 minutes or until it is soft enough for you to poke a fork into the pumpkin. **NOTE: The time may varying depending on the size of your pumpkin so just keep an eye on it.
  8. Let cool for 5-10 mins.  The pumpkin will be very soft and tender, so I would recommend lifting it off the cookie sheet with a spatula to a plate or cutting board.
  9. Scoop out all the seeds and fibrous material from each pumpkin half and throw away or place it in your compost :)
  10. Scoop the flesh out of each pumpkin half.
  11. You can now puree the pumpkin flesh in the food processor or if it is soft enough you can just mix it with a spoon and use it as is. 
Chop, chop, chop!

Adding the water, this was probably the trickiest part!
After an hour of baking.... notice the fork pricks!

Scooping out the seeds! It was so soft, the skin was pretty much just peeling off it!

Pumpkin Puree! Blend in the food processor or use as is!

Making my own puree was really fun! Even though it was so simple to do I felt so accomplished doing it, it's nice to be able to stay away from the canned stuff and make my own puree.  Don't get me wrong, the canned puree is SUPER convenient and I will probably keep using it from time to time but the taste of freshly made puree is so much more delicious it's definitely worth making it from time to time.