Chocolate Turtle Cookies

December 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

The time has come, the reveal of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange! This is my first year participating and I am so in love with the idea, I hope to do this for years to come. The premise is simple: sign up to send 1 dozen cookies anonymously to 3 other food bloggers you are randomly assigned. Three other secret bakers have you. Ship the cookies out and then on the same day (today) everyone posts their cookie recipe! Very fun and very festive. I can’t tell you what a treat it is to come home to a surprise package that you know is full of sugary goodness.

Shipping Out

I chose to try a new endeavor  Chocolate Turtle Cookies. The idea of something that involved caramel overtook me and through the magic of Google and blogs, I came upon this post and I pretty much wanted to dive in the pictures. I knew I had to try it.

BITE

Ingredients from Pixelated Crumb (I doubled the recipe to ensure I had enough but this recipe should make about 30 cookies)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine
  • 14 soft caramel candies
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl.

Dry Mix

In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Dough

It should resemble… insert your own description here.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

This is best done with a stationed set up like so since it is a pretty messy process.

This is best done with a stationed set up like so since it is a pretty messy process.

Balls sans dent

Using 1/2-teaspoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball.

I kept thinking they resembled little birds' nests. I made an initial dent with the 1/2 tsp but wound up molding them with my fingers too.

I kept thinking they resembled little birds’ nests. I made an initial dent with the 1/2 tsp but wound up molding them with my fingers too.

Bake until set, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

Adding calcium to caramel

Once cookies are removed from oven, gently re-press existing indentations. Fill each with 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture.

Lick any leftover caramel

Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Then enjoy! Or if you’re participating in your own cookie exchange, pack ’em up and ship ’em out. These things are rich (this coming from someone who stuffed a good ole chocolate chip cookie with Nutella) so don’t over-do it kiddos. Have a happy if not healthy holiday season!

Cooling

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Couscous

December 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I know what you’re thinking – lemony, garlic shrimp in December? Preposterous. But seeing as how the temps this week reached 70°, I thought what the hey. So I made it and it was delicious. Very basic flavors, very simple to do. Sometimes it’s nice not to over-think things.

Now because I was working with precooked and deveined shrimp, this was a super fast start-to-finish cook time. Step 1 was to get the couscous going. Someone in my home is a very big fan of Israeli or pearl couscous. I normally just buy the Near East boxed kind but thought I should know how to make my own by now. So I went for the tri-colored.

Couscous

Cook your couscous per instructions.  I added 1 cup couscous to 1 and 1/4 cup boiling water with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp butter. Simmer for 10 minutes

shrimpMy shrimp still had some ice so I ran them under water for a few seconds. Then, toss them in a large skillet with 1 tbsp. heated olive oil. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic with 1 tbsp. lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Adding the lemon juice

After sauteeing for about 5 minutes, you should be good to go! Top off the couscous and shrimp with grated parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh lemon.

This whole thing took maybe 15 minutesThe perfect accompaniment is mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, walnuts and my new favorite dressing: Trader Joe’s Pear Champagne Vinaigrette. The sweetness of the pear balances the tangy, salty, lemony shrimp.

 

Butternut Squash and Hearty Grains Salad

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Butternut squash oooh what I’d do with you. Soups, stews, risottos, salads, just plain roasted… talk about versatility. This time, I mixed it up with a blend of hearty grains from Trader Joe’s, some ricotta salata cheese and onions. I started out aiming for this recipe from Smitten Kitchen but wound up with some substitutes that undoubtedly changed the results. This salad tastes just like fall with the sweet, roasted squash, salty cheese and some sauteed onions.

Ingredients (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  •  1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 cup grain of choice (Trader Joe’s blend includes Israeli couscous, baby garbanzo beans, red quinoa and orzo)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta salata crumbled or coarsely grated
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped (original recipe calls for a red)

First step is roasting the squash. Preheat the oven to 375° and then get to peeling. Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Below are the tools you’ll need.

Peeled SquashThen cut the squash into about 1/2 inch pieces. Coat a baking sheet with 2 tbsp. olive oil,turn the squash to coat then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pop them in the oven for about 30-45 minutes turning occasionally. Once it’s done (soft to pierce) set aside to cool.

Roasted Butternut SquashWhen the squash is in the oven, it’s time to cook your grains. Mine only needed 10 minutes to cook but the farro in Smitten Kitchen needed a half an hour. Cook your grain according to the package instructions.

Cooked GrainsWhile the grain is going on the stove top, saute your onions and whisk together the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, water, sugar and salt until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Translucent Onions

The original recipe uses a pickled red onion instead which I’m sure adds a really great bite. I can’t wait to try it that way.

When the onions are translucent, stir them into the vinaigrette.

SauceThen it’s time to put it all together. Pour the grains and the squash into a large bowl then add the cheese and the onion sauce to taste. Enjoy!

DinnerI had this as a side with some roasted pork loin and greens but I am very much looking forward to leftovers tomorrow for lunch! This is also great when entertaining since it doesn’t need to be served piping hot.

 

 

 

 

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