Thursday, December 4, 2014

THIN MINT CHRISTMAS COOKIES

It is time to start planning your Christmas cookie list, isn't it? Today's cookie is truly a five star keeper!!

These festive cookies taste just like Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies(only better!!) and they only take TWO INGREDIENTS to make!!! People will think you've been working on them all day.


 
drizzled some white chocolate
decoration on these, just for fun,
but it certainly isn't necessary. You
can use holiday sprinkles instead.

You will need some Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers and some Andes (creme de menthe) chocolates.....that's it!!
 
 
The chocolate wafers come in a 9 ounce package and I found the Andes Mints (those creamy little chocolate mints with the green center) in a 4.67 ounce package.  There are 28 mints in the package and one package will do a dozen cookies (I found the mint packages for $1.60 here in Alaska, so hopefully you can find them even cheaper.

I unwrapped and then melted the chocolates in my microwave for about 30 seconds...stirred and then microwaved them for another 10 seconds (stir until the chocolate is smooth and shiny). Dip the chocolate wafers in the melted chocolate (both sides) and place on some parchment paper (or waxed paper).

Stick them in the fridge (I used the freezer) for about 5 minutes to "set" the chocolate......that's it!!  

 
 
NOTE: If you are having trouble finding the Andes Mints, just use the Andes Mint baking chips (next to the chocolate chips) they will work just as well. 
 
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HOMEMADE CHEEZ-IT CRACKERS

OK, it's confession time, I love Cheez-It crackers. I don't stock them in the pantry (for obvious reasons), so when the urge ambushed me the other day, I was very happy to find this easy recipe.

These crackers really do taste a lot like Cheez-It crackers, except fresher and more flavorful. They are quick to make and take require ingredients I always have in my kitchen (a win-win for us since we live 10 miles out of town).

 
 
 
CHEEZ-IT CRACKERS
 
8 ounces extra SHARP cheddar cheese shredded (see note below)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons UNSALTED butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon salt (divided)
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water  (see note below)
 
Put the shredded cheese and room temperature butter in your food processor and give it a few pulses to blend.
 
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne into the flour, then sprinkle it over the cheese-butter mixture and pulse a few times until the mixture looks a little clumpy but well mixed.
 
Next, with the food processor running, add 4 tablespoons of the ice water. Run the food processor until the dough forms a ball, then stop. See tip below on the amount of water to use
 
 
Divide the dough in half and cover and chill for 30 minutes.  Roll the dough very thin (as thin as you can get it), like a pie crust (1/8")or thinner (see note below) and cut into 1" squares.
 
 
 
Sprinkle squares remaining salt and poke a hole in the center of the square. Place squares on ungreased cookie sheet (they can be pretty close together but not touching).
 
Bake in preheated 400° for 10 to 12 minutes or till golden (see note below). Remove crackers from baking sheet and cool them on a bakers rack (so air can get to both sides of the cracker). Cool to room temperature before eating them (they will get crisper as they cool down).
 
TIPS:
This recipe really needs extra sharp cheddar cheese and make sure that you grate it yourself.  Commercially grated cheeses have a starch coating on them so the shreds don't clump together. This starch coating really effects how cheese melts (and tastes)
 
The recipe didn't say what kind of salt to use, but I used a light sprinkling of kosher salt because it is large and flakey, but that's just my personal preference. On one batch, I put salt on both sides of the cracker squares and it made them too salty  (well, the dog didn't think so, but we did).
 
 This recipe calls for 4 to 6 tablespoons of ice water. When I made these, it took the full 6 tablespoons, but then the amount of water you use depends on the humidity of your flour, etc. etc. etc.  Just start with 4 tablespoons and then if the dough doesn't come together nicely in a ball, add a little more.
 
This dough is extremely easy to roll out and doesn't crack or break apart. Just make sure you roll it VERY thin. No matter how thin you roll them, they will still puff up a little while baking, so keep that in mind. Just remember, the thinner you roll them, the crispier the cracker will be.
 
And finally, the recipe says to bake them 10 to 12 minutes. I have the best luck cooking them for 10 minutes then switching to the broiler for the last 30 seconds. It gives them a wonderful golden crispy top.
 
If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container.
 
ENJOY !!
 



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CROCK-POT MASHED POTATOES

This is a great method of making mashed potatoes for a crowd. It seems like I'm always short on time (or a burner) when it comes to last minute side dishes during the holidays, so this method is a big help.

 
TO FEED A BIG CROWD
5 pounds peeled potatoes cut into 1" cubes
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups HOT half and half (divided)

The ABOVE ingredients will take a large
(7 quart) crock-pot:


If you are just feeding a family of 6, cut the above ingredients in HALF and
it in a
4 quart crock-pot:
 
 
In either case, spray the crock-pot with cooking spray and put your raw cubed potatoes and butter pieces in the crock-pot.

Mix the water with the salt and pepper and pour it over the potatoes and butter pieces:

 
Cover with a lid and cook on high for 4 hours (or till tender). TIP: If you put a couple of potholders on the top of the crock-pot lid (as shown in the above photos), then the potatoes will be cooked in 3 hours instead of 4.
 
After the potatoes are tender, DO NOT DRAIN. Give the potatoes a rough mash with a hand held potato masher first, then add one cup of HOT half and half and finish whipping them with a hand held electric mixer (right in the crock-pot). Add the final half cup of half and half if you think the potatoes need it.
 
These mashed potatoes can be kept on the warm setting of the slow cooker for up to two hours.
 
Even if your crock-pot doesn't have a warm setting, you can still keep these mashed potatoes hot by covering the whole crock-pot with a heavy towel. They will stay hot for quite a while. 
 
 
 
 
ENJOY !!