Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cookies for Tired Teachers

When I was a kid, my mom would make these, package them up with the recipe attached and send them with us to school for our teachers for Christmas.  I even did this for some of my teachers in high school!  I got rave reviews!

2 egg whites, beaten stiff
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon mint flavor
4 to 6 drops green food coloring
6 oz. chocolate chips (1 cup)

Heat oven to 350.  Gradually add sugar, salt, cream of tarter, mint, flavoring, and food coloring to the stiffly beaten egg whites.  Stir in chips.  Drop from teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Place sheets into oven and turn oven off immediately.  Leave in oven overnight.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fancy Chicken Salad

A friend (Pat) makes my favorite chicken salad!  I’ve never liked boiled eggs or pickles (or relish) in my chicken salad.  As a matter of fact, until hers, I didn’t like chicken salad at all (and I’m suspecting it was due to the large chunks of boiled eggs or the taste of pickles…ick!)!  This recipe has eggs but they are mashed to miniscule pieces with a fork and there are no pickles or relish (yay!).

When pregnant with my first, I had cravings for this and asked for the recipe.  She sent the photocopied recipe to me with these notes:  “I use REAL chicken that I’ve boiled and squeeze REAL lemon and chop everything fine—celery, onion, pecans.”  These are the reasons I’m sure hers is so yummy—it’s made with love!  She also wrote this:  “Q: Pregnancy cravings???”  Ah, what memories!!

Fancy Chicken Salad
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped (I use all white meat)
2 hard-boiled eggs, mashed with a fork (optional)
1 cup celery, finely chopped
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery salt (optional)
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Red pepper to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I don’t do this when I use sour cream)
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise (or a mixture of about ½ cup mayo and ¼ cup sour cream)—you may need a bit more, depending on how “wet” you like the salad

Toss together ingredients.  Refrigerate until serving.

The items marked “optional” are usually things I leave out. 

This is delicious on plain ole bread, fancy rolls or croissants, or crackers. 

I usually boil my chicken or cook all day (or overnight) on low in the crockpot.  I have used baked chicken breasts too (if they are well seasoned, you may not need any seasoning in your salad).

NOTES:  You can add grapes, craisins, or apples.  I sometimes add some prepared ranch or dry ranch for a more seasoned taste.  Be creative!

Simplified:  chicken, pecans, onion, an apple and mayo—this is delicious too!  Not as “fancy” but still yummy!


Homemade toffee is not difficult to make.  You just need a candy thermometer (or a glass of ice water and a working knowledge of how to do the water test) and some time devoted to the toffee.  Interruptions are your biggest problem.  It can scorch very easily. 

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  I have made it for years at Christmastime and once in awhile I’ll make it for a special occasion.

1 cup nuts chopped and toasted (walnuts are my favorite for this)
1 cup salted butter (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (I often use pancake syrup because I don’t usually have corn syrup on hand)
3 tablespoons water
1 cup milk chocolate chips or pieces
Place a piece of foil on a large cookie sheet

In a 2-quart pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add sugar, syrup and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often.  Once it starts boiling, stir almost constantly (or constantly).  Cook to the soft crack stage, which is 290 degrees.   I strongly suggest water testing and taste the piece you tested so you know it’s not too sticky.  It should crunch, not stick.  This takes about 15 minutes and it happens quickly towards the end so watch it carefully after 280 degrees.  Remove from heat and remove thermometer. 

Stir in half of the nuts and pour mixture over the foil and spread somewhat.  Place the chocolate over the hot toffee and let sit for a couple of minutes, until melted.  Using the back of a spoon or a knife, spread chocolate over toffee.  Sprinkle with the rest of the nuts, pressing down lightly.  Allow to cool (I like to refrigerate it after it cools a good bit so it will break into pieces easily). 

When cooled completely, break into desired pieces.  Store in an air tight container.  Makes about 1 ½ pounds of candy.  Can be made ahead and frozen.

This is how it looks when it's done, after the cold water test.

Hot toffee with chocolate chips sprinkled on it. 
Put the chips on quickly after you pour the toffee so
the chocolate will stick to the toffee.
The finished product!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chewy Sugar Cookies (America's Test Kitchen)

I have always wanted to know the secret to chewy sugar cookies.  Thankfully America’s Test Kitchen has created such a recipe!   And you don't have to get your mixer out!

Admittedly, the first time I made these I forgot the vegetable oil.  The cookies were wonderful!  So I decided to leave it out.  However, the second time I made them, I needed a little oil (about 2 tablespoons) to make the dough hold together.  I think in that first baking I also left out some of the flour because I really didn’t need any oil to hold the dough together.  So, you can try leaving out ¼ cup flour or add a little oil.  I’m writing the recipe for 2 tablespoons oil. 

2 ¼ cups flour (best to weigh 11 ¼ oz.)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Wisk these ingredients together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl:
1 ½ cup sugar plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons melted butter, still warm
Wisk together and add

2 tablespoons oil (original recipe says 1/3 cup)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Add flour mixture, stir (use some kind of spoon, not a wisk) just until it comes together. 

Use a 2 tablespoon scoop to scoop the dough (I used the medium one from Pampered Chef).  Roll in balls.  Roll in sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper).  Flatten with ¼ cup metal measuring cup (to 2 inch diameter).  Sprinkle more sugar on them (you can use colored sugar sprinkles to make them more festive).  Bake 350 for 11-13 minutes, or until slightly golden on edges.  Leave for 5 minutes, remove from tray to cooling rack.

*For the second batch, I used my small cookie scoop.  I don’t remember how long I baked them but I knew what they looked like when they were done so I just watched them.  Also, they are yummy iced with buttercream frosting but they're really yummy alone!

Pork Tenderloin (bacon wrapped)

This is extremely easy yet elegant.  It’s my favorite way to have pork tenderloin.   The only drawback is the mess it makes with your pan so be prepared for lots of scrubbing.

2 pork tenderloins (they’re usually packaged with two together)
Russian Salad Dressing (Catalina or anything redish in color)
Bacon, about 6 pieces

Wrap bacon around the tenderloins.  Pour dressing over tenderloins and cover the pan.  Let sit in the refrigerator 8 to 24 hours.  Remove pan from refrigerator, uncover, and place in oven at 350 for an hour.    After baking, let rest for 15-20 minutes.  Slice into medallions.  You can serve it with some of the sauce that was created during baking.