Friday, December 30, 2011

Gingerbread Coffee Creamer


Did everyone have a nice holiday?

I certainly did.  It was busy but lots of fun.

Last Friday we went up to visit my aunt Jody and her family.  Then Christmas Eve was spent with my dad & stepmom.


We went to her brother's house for Christmas Eve, where Pappy Vittles battled my little cousin Michelle in a vicious game of... tops?


My dad nicknamed his The Wild Weasel.

They also decided to bet on the game, and after so many "double or nothings," Michelle was in the hole about $10K - until she finally managed to beat The Wild Weasel and zero out her debts.

(Thank goodness for that.  She might have had to tap into her college fund before the end of the night!)

Then we spent Christmas Day with my in-laws, and ate a delicious roast beef dinner at Nana Vittles' house.

The highlights of my day included receiving The Booty Pop from my brother-in-law (in retaliation for giving him fart-filtering underwear last year) and winning the family beer pong tournament with Mr. Vittles on Christmas night.

You may not recall, but last year's tournament included cat-dancing and wearing fake mustaches... this year we got to wear fake noses also.


I would say a glorious holiday was had by all.

Although, I never thought I would say this, but at this point I'm soooo sick of eating.

My pants are pretty sick of it too.  Mr. Vittles may have to roll me to work next week in the event that I don't fit into my car.

But there's still time to enjoy the holiday flavor of gingerbread ... and without having to consume a single cookie.

If you're like me, coffee is a must, so why not make it festive?

Do it while you still can, before you're mentally done with gingerbread until next December.

Happy, healthy 2012 to all!

Gingerbread Coffee Creamer

  • 1/2 C. milk
  • 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Whisk together milk, cream, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in medium saucepan over medium heat.  When mixture begins to steam, remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve and store in refrigerator, up to 10 days.  Makes about 1 cup.

Adapted from Deliciously Organic 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Italian Knot Cookies


I wanted to share with you one of my favorite cookies in the whole wide world.

Yaya Vittles, my paternal grandmother, always has these at the holidays.  Either she makes them herself, or her friends do and bring them over.

However, trying to get the correct recipe out of my grandmother proved to be quite a task.

Years ago, I asked her for it, and she somehow ended up writing half the correct amount of sugar, and forgot the oven temperature.  Needless to say, they came out awful, and I ended up losing the recipe anyway.

Then a few years later, I asked her for it again, and that attempt left out the baking time and the eggs.  

Ummm... yeah.  Not so helpful.  

So then I ended up getting a much more reliable recipe from my mom's side - supposedly this one came from my great-grandmother's family, who was from Italy.  

my great-grandmother (who I called 'Gigi')

(But these days you can find similar recipes all over the internet - it's very popular with Italian Americans.  My brother-in-law's girlfriend Kristen was making them too today, with her family's recipe.)

In any case, they're similar to the ricotta cookies Mr. Vittles loves, but these have anise extract in them. 


Wait, though, before I completely lose you here - let me tell you that I do not typically like anise.  Or licorice, or anything like it.

But in this case, it gives these cookies a subtle, anisette-like flavor that (I think) is awesome.

I know it's kind of an acquired taste though, so I'll usually put half anise & half vanilla extract.  Feel free to do that if you're unsure.  

You can also use all lemon extract, if you like?

Personally, I think they're best with anise, but then again that's how I grew up with them :)  Totally up to you!

Italian Knot Cookies

Cookies:
  • 3 C. flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 t. pure anise extract 
Icing:
  • 1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
  • 4-5 T. milk (first try 4, then add a little at a time if necessary)
  • 1/2 t. anise extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In large bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and anise on medium speed until combined (it's ok to have chunks of butter floating in the egg).  

With mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping sides as necessary.  Increase speed to medium low, and beat until dough forms.

Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon (for uniformity), scoop balls of dough and roll them into fat ropes.  Holding one end in each hand, place on end over the other and press to adhere, forming crescent, knot-like shapes.  (Alternatively, you can just roll them into balls).  

Place on prepared baking sheet, and bake 8-10 minutes until puffed and bottoms are golden.  Leave 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  

Once cookies are completely cooled, whisk powdered sugar with milk and anise until smooth.  Icing should be somewhat runny.  Dip tops of cookies into icing, and then decorate with colored nonpareils if desired.  Put back on rack to let icing dry.  Store cookies in airtight container.  Makes about 3 dozen

Family Recipe

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Red Velvet Fudge


So how is it that the month of December could have 31 days, yet it seems there is not nearly enough time to fit everything in that you want to do?

Ugh.

This seems to happen to me every year.

For my latest trick....I have been up all night baking cookies and cupcakes, and making tomato sauce and meatballs, because we have five people coming over tomorrow night.

Er... make that tonight.

Since it's currently 1:45AM.

Ack!

And between now & 6PM I still have to clean my house, cook a meal, frost cupcakes, make an appetizer, and somehow help my dad do some Christmas shopping.

Oh, AND make myself somewhat presentable for our company.

But you know what the cure is for feeling overwhelmed?


Red Velvet Fudge.


Red Velvet Fudge

  • 1 1/4 C. white chocolate chips
  • 1 T. semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 C. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. red food coloring
  • 1 t. cocoa powder

Line an 8" rectangular loaf pan with foil, allowing excess to hang over edges. Grease foil with non-stick cooking spray, and set pan aside.

In large, microwave-safe bowl, mix chips with baking soda and salt until evenly distributed.  Stir in sweetened condensed milk.  Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

Add vanilla, red food coloring, & cocoa and stir well to combine.  Quickly pour fudge into prepared pan, and spread in even layer with spatula.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours, until set, and remove fudge from pan using foil.  Cut into squares, and store leftovers in airtight container in refrigerator.

Original Recipe


**Update 12/24/12: Due to the number of comments that this fudge won't set, I recently made it again following the directions above; it came out fine.  Please note that the consistency of this fudge is softer than the traditional type that requires a candy thermometer - that being said, it should not come out like "goo" or "a dip."  So please make sure you are using the correct ingredients (sweetened condensed milk NOT evaporated milk) as well as the correct ingredient amounts (1 AND 1/4 cups of white chocolate chips; T is tablespoon and t is teaspoon). If this does not set for you, something went wrong.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Take 5 Brownies


Yep, you saw right.  Take 5 Brownies.

Right now you're probably wondering.... where have these been all my life?

And also... how many of these can I eat without having to incorporate stretchy pants into my holiday wardrobe?

Or, um, maybe that's just me?

But since Take 5 bars are one of my favorite candies, I've had this idea brewing for a while.  

And this is not my first attempt.

Round 1 was largely disappointing.  It used cake mix bars instead of brownies, and incorporated peanut butter chips and peanut butter cups.  Which you'd think would be better, because let's face it who doesn't love a Reese's cup?  But honestly they just got lost in all the mess of caramel and chocolate.

I still brought the bars to Thanksgiving, and overall people seemed to like them, but I was not impressed.  

They were sooo much better in my mind than in reality.

(Ugh.  HATE that.)

I knew I could do better.

So it was back to the cutting board, if you will - and Round 2 was infinitely times better.


I'm only sad that I made them to take to a party and not to eat the whole pan.

By myself.

In one sitting.

Then again, since Cardiac Arrest was not on my Christmas list this year, perhaps it's all for the best?

Take Five Brownies

  • 1 box (family-sized for 9x13 pan) milk chocolate brownie mix
  • 1 C. crunchy peanut butter
  • 2/3 C. powdered sugar
  •  1 1/2 C. ‘snaps’ or waffle pretzels (approximate- you may need a few more or less)
  • 1 C. milk chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 C. butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 C. light brown sugar
  • 6 T. light corn syrup
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

Bake milk chocolate brownies as directed on box in a 9x13 pan.  Allow to cool completely, then combine crunchy peanut butter with powdered sugar in a large bowl.  Beat until combined, then spread evenly over cooled brownies.

Arrange pretzels over top of peanut butter in a single layer.  Sprinkle milk chocolate chips over top of pretzels and set aside.

Prepare caramel topping: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and heavy cream.  Bring to a boil and stir, making sure all sugar is dissolved.  Stir 5-10 minutes more, until caramel is thick & bubbly (about 230 degrees on a candy thermometer).  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and pour caramel evenly over brownies.  Run the tip of a knife or the back of a spoon over the top in swirl patterns to create a design.  Refrigerate pan for about 1 hour to set.  Then remove brownies by lifting foil, and cut into bars.

Note: These are rich, so in this case less is more. I’d cut 4 columns down the short end, and 8 rows down the long end to make 32 bars.  Also, I like to cut the edges off first – totally optional, but it makes the bars look nicer!

Original Recipe; Caramel Topping recipe adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Crescent Rolls


I know it's been over a week since my last post, but  Mr. Vittles and I have been busy vacationing on the beautiful island of Aruba!

We left Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, and returned on Friday night, spending a total of 6 nights with our friends Vanessa and Eric.

eric & vanessa

Vanessa's parents own a (gorgeous) condo down there, and they were kind enough to invite us to stay in the spare bedroom.

And to top it all off, my dad & stepmom were also vacationing there over the same week - just a block away from us!  We even got to see Dan's cousin from Ohio, whose vacation ended the day after ours started.

So in other words... it was a fiesta.

This was our first true vacation since our honeymoon over 2 years ago, so it was nice to get away from work and just relax.

mr. vittles and me

We did a little bit of sightseeing...

me & vanessa at bushiribana gold mill ruins

...but mostly spent our days basking in the sun and our nights stuffing our bellies with delicious food.

mr. vittles

my dad & me

And... we might have thrown in a few cocktails for good measure.

vanessa, me, and my stepmom at shon gecko

Needless to say - it was fabulous.

But I feel like I gained about 10 pounds.  Maybe I'll go on a diet?

Maybe... tomorrow.

Because today, it's time for cheesy, buttery pepperoni rolls.

They're my offering to the football gods, in the hopes that my NY Giants can somehow find a way to beat the (unbeatable?) Green Bay Packers this afternoon.

Pepperoni Pizza Crescent Rolls

  • 1 8-oz. can crescent rolls
  • 1/2 C. tomato or pizza sauce
  • 2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 C. grated mozzarella cheese
  • 12 slices pepperoni
  • Italian seasoning, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet or line with foil, and set aside.

Remove crescent rolls from packaging, and divide into 2 rectangles  - the tube should split in half.  Unroll each rectangle onto counter or work surface, and firmly press perforations together.  (You don't want your filling falling out between the cracks!)

Spread 1/4 C. sauce evenly on each of the rectangles.  Sprinkle each rectangle with 1 T. parmesan cheese, and 1/2 C. mozzarella.  Top each with 6 slices of pepperoni.


Then, with the short side of the rectangle facing you, carefully but tightly roll up each rectangle into a tube.  You will have two tubes.


Cut one tube in half, and then cut each of the halves in half again so you end up with 4 slices of the tube.  Carefully place each slice, cut sides down, onto prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tube to make 8 slices total.  If any of them start to unroll, tighten them up on the baking sheet.


Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until puffed & golden.  Let cool briefly on sheet, then sprinkle with seasoning if desired.  Serve immediately.

Original Recipe, Inspired by What About Pie
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