Amanda’s Favorite Sugar Cookies

My daughter, Amanda, like most kids, loves cookies.  Since I am not much of a baker, and I don’t let her eat much sugar of the refined variety, when allowed, she wants to go all out.  We looked online to find a sugar cookie recipe that yielded moist and fluffy cookies.  We found an amazing recipe from sallysbakingaddiction.com.  I did, however, tweak the recipe a little.  I also removed the cinnamon from the recipe, as I am not much of a cinnamon fan in desserts.  So, instead of a snickerdoodle like cookie, it was a delicious sugar cookie.

Amanda’s Favorite SUGAR COOKIES

2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Corn Starch
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch Salt
1 large organic Egg – room temperature
1 1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
3/4 cup melted organic Butter
1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup of granulated Sugar – for rolling the cookie dough in

Begin by combining the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and melted butter together, until the mixture is smooth.  Whisk in the egg, and then the vanilla extract.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and combine with a wooden spoon or a spatula.  Now that your cookie dough is smooth and thick, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Place the granulated sugar in a bowl or a medium size ziplock bag (sandwich bag).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place some parchment paper on two baking sheets, and set aside.

Scoop a large tablespoon or two of dough, depending on how large or small you like your cookies, and roll it into a ball.  Roll the dough ball into the granulated sugar, and place on the baking sheet.  You may use your thumb, the palm of your hand, or a utensil to gently press down on the cookie balls.  I use a fork to press them down right before baking.

Place the cookies in the oven for no more than 9 to 10 minutes.  Take the cookies out of the oven, and allow them to rest for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet.  Then transfer them to a cooling wrack to finish cooling.  Serve and ENJOY these delicious sugar cookies.


Nutella, Banana & Strawberry Crêpes

Whenever I think of crêpes, I think of the sweet and delicious Nutella and banana crêpes I get every trip I take to France.  Nutella is a creamy chocolate hazelnut spread that is very addictive.  When I make these sweet crêpes at home, I add strawberries or raspberries and some powdered sugar.  They are insanely good!

NUTELLA, BANANA, AND STRAWBERRY CRÊPES

TRADITIONAL CRÊPES
Makes about 10 

1 3/4 cups AP Flour
4 tablespoons organic Butter
4 large organic Eggs
2 1/2 cups organic Milk
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Organic Vegetable Oil Spray – for cooking the crêpes

REST OF INGREDIENTS

1 Jar of Nutella or Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Bananas – 1 banana per crêpe
Strawberries – 2 to 3 strawberries per crêpe
Powdered Sugar – garnish

Begin making the crêpe batter, as it needs to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.  Melt the butter, and allow it to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, add the flour and the salt.  Add the eggs one by one to the flour, while mixing the batter.  Then slowly add the milk, still mixing as you go.  Finally, add the melted butter, and mix to get a smooth batter.  Place the crêpe batter in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, as it thickens slightly.

You may use a crêpe pan, a griddle, or a large shallow non-stick pan for your crêpes.  If the batter thickens too much after you take it out of the refrigerator, then thin it out with a little milk, one teaspoon at a time.

Heat the pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Spray the pan with the vegetable oil spray to keep the crêpes from sticking.  Pour a small ladle-full of batter onto the pan.  If you have a crêpe spreader, use it to spread the batter around the pan evenly, creating a thin layer of batter.  If you do not have a spreader, you can either gently tilt the pan in a circular motion to get the batter distributed evenly all around the pan, or you may use the ladle to spread the batter, as you would pizza sauce.

Leave the crêpe to cook, until bubbles begin to form on the surface.  With a spatula, gently loosen the crêpe from the edge of the pan, then flip it over to cook on the other side.  Spread a large spoonful of the chocolate hazelnut spread on one side of the crêpe, then top it with sliced bananas and strawberries.  When the crêpe is cooked on the bottom, flip the side without toppings over the side with the toppings.  Fold it onto itself, again, to form a triangle.  Place the crêpe on a plate.  Repeat the process.

When you are ready to serve the crêpes, place them all on one large serving platter, or serve them individually on separate plates topped with a dusting of powdered sugar and more sliced bananas and strawberries.**  Dig in and ENJOY!

**These sweet and delicious crêpes are best served warm, directly off the stove.  I love the contrast between the hot crêpe, the warm chocolate hazelnut spread, and the cold fruit! 

 


Apple Upside Down Cake

Saturday evening, my family asked for dessert, as they often do.  I am generally opposed to feeding them something store bought made with subpar ingredients, preservatives, and additives; so, I made them a very easy and quick Apple Tarte Tatin like concoction, or an Apple Upside Down Cake, since it is not as refined as a Tarte Tatin.


APPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

FOR THE APPLES:
5 Granny Smith Apples
3 tablespoons organic Butter
1/3 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Brandy or Cognac
1 Lemon – zested
Pinch of Salt
FOR THE CAKE:
1 cup AP Flour
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
2 organic Eggs
3 tablespoons organic Butter – melted
1 cup Half & Half or Whole Milk
1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Begin by peeling and slicing the apples.  In a large skilled or sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple slices.  Add the sugar and salt, stirring them in to dissolve, making sure not to break or tear the apple slices.  When the apples have caramelized in the sugar and butter, add the brandy and the lemon zest.  Cook for another few minutes, until the sauce in the pan has reduced to a syrup like consistency.  Remove the apples from the heat, and allow them to cool.

Grease a 9.5″ pie pan and gently layer the cooled apple slices in a round configuration.  Pour the brown sugar syrup from the sauté pan all over the layered apple slices.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt; add the sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together.  Add the vanilla, half & half, and melted butter to the eggs, and whisk to get all the ingredients combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to get a homogenized batter.  Pour the batter over the apples, and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cake to rest for a few minutes, then place a large enough plate over the pie pan, and flip the pie over onto the plate.

You can serve this delicious apple cake warm with vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream, or a dusting of powdered sugar.  Whichever topping you choose, I hope you enjoy.


Simple Peach Crumble

Crumbles are very easy to make, especially, for cooks like me.  I prefer the savory route, as you might have guessed.  So, when I have to make an easy, but delicious dessert for a mostly American gathering, I make a crumble.  It is best eaten warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cream on top.

THE PEACHES

6 medium yellow Peaches
1/3 cup granulated Sugar
4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
1 pinch of Salt
1 tablespoon organic Butter – to butter the baking dish

Wash and slice the peaches, and place them in a bowl.  Add the sugar, lemon juice, brandy, cornstarch, and salt to the peaches.  Mix all the ingredients together.  Let the peaches sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, while stirring them occasionally.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a baking dish, and place the peaches in it.  Put the peaches in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Remove them, but keep the oven on.  Stir the peaches to get all the released juices to evenly coat each slice.

THE CRUMBLE

1 cup all purpose Flour
1/2 cup quick cooking Oats
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
8 tablespoons organic Butter – melted

In a bowl, add and whisk the flour, sugar, dark brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon together.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then add to the whisked dry ingredients, and mix well, until the butter in completely combined.  Using your hands, make small clumps out of the flour, sugar, and butter mixture, and top the peaches with them.  Scatter the clumps evenly all over the peaches.  Place the baking dish back in the oven, and cook for about an hour, until the crisp is golden and bubbling.  Take out of the oven, and allow to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve with ice cream or mascarpone cream and ENJOY!

 

 

 

 


Mini Vanilla Pancakes w/ Macerated Raspberries & Mascarpone Cream

These mini vanilla pancakes with macerated raspberries and mascarpone cream are a very delicious way of starting or ending a brunch.  You can also make them as something slightly different form the usual pancakes and syrup.  My family loves them.  You may want to start with the macerated raspberries, as they will be macerating in the refrigerator for about an hour.

MACERATED RASPBERRIES

12 ounces Raspberries
1/4 cup granulated Sugar
1/2 Lemon juiced

Place the raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl.  With a fork, gently mash the raspberries, and mix all the ingredients together.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  When the macerated raspberries have been in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, start on your pancakes.

MINI VANILLA PANCAKES

2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup granulated Sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1 cup organic heavy Cream
1 cup organic Milk
2 organic large Eggs
2 tablespoons organic Butter melted
2 tablespoons pure Vanilla Extract

Begin by whisking or sifting (for a smoother batter) the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In another bowl, add the cream, milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla, and whisk them until they are homogenized.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir just enough to combine and form the pancake batter.  Do not over work the batter.  It is ok to have some lumps.

You may use oil or butter for cooking your pancakes.  Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, and lightly oil or butter it.  With a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop, ladle a spoonful of the batter onto the griddle or skillet.  When you see bubbles forming on the top, gently check to see, if the bottom is golden brown.  If so, flip the pancake, and allow it to cook for another couple of minutes for the top to brown.  Place all the golden brown pancakes on a serving dish.  If you are not going to serve the pancakes soon, cover them to keep them from drying out.

MASCARPONE CREAM

8 ounces Mascarpone Cheese – at room temperature
1 pint heavy whipping Cream
1/2 cup powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons pure Vanilla Extract

Make sure your mascarpone cheese is at room temperature, and that the heavy whipping cream is very cold.  In a stand mixer, place the mascarpone, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and whisk them on high, until you form stiff peaks.  If you do not have a stand mixer, use a bowl and a hand mixer.  You can always whisk the ingredients by hand, but it takes a very long time, and it is very tiring; so, I do not recommend it.  If you are not going to serve the pancakes immediately, cover the freshly whipped mascarpone cream with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator, until you are ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve the pancakes, you can either plate them, add the macerated raspberries, and top them with the mascarpone cream; or, you can have your family and guests do it themselves.

They are very delicious!


Dark Chocolate Truffles w/ Dates, Coconut & Toasted Walnuts

I love chocolate truffles, yet I always feel guilty when consuming more than one of them at a time.  If I ever buy some of those delicious hazelnut and chocolate ones, my favorites, my husband will attempt to hide them from me as to have them all to himself.  Then, it becomes a game of ‘truffle keep away’.  So, I decided to make some healthier truffles … ok, a little healthier truffles.  Maybe that will keep Kevin from wanting them all.

DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES W/ DATES, COCONUT, AND TOASTED WALNUTS 

8 oz pitted Dates
1/2 cup raw Walnuts – toasted
1/4 cup sweetened shredded Coconut
1 cup dark Chocolate or semi-sweet Chocolate
2 tablespoons organic Butter
2 tablespoons heavy Cream
1/4 cup raw Walnuts – toasted & for garnish
1 lb Strawberries – washed & dried

Place the dates in a food processor, and pulse them to get them finely chopped into little pieces.  Place the dates in a bowl with the coconut.  Place the raw walnuts in a dry skillet on medium low heat, and toast them.  Please watch them closely, as they tend to burn very easily, since they are full of natural oils.  You may choose to chop them on a cutting board with a knife, or you may put them in the food processor, as I did, and pulse them to get a fine-ish chop.  Place the walnuts in the same bowl, with the dates and coconut.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the toasted walnuts to the side for garnishing the truffles.  Mix very well to form a cohesive mixture.

Roll the mixture into small balls, and place them on parchment paper.  Because of the high natural sugar content in the dates, which makes them sticky, the balls are formed very easily.  In a double boiler*, place the chocolate, butter, and cream, until the chocolate and butter melt and the cream warms up.  It is very important to use very good quality chocolate in this step.  *A double boiler is made of a bowl that sits on top of a sauce pan with simmering water.  The water should not be touching the bowl.  The steam from the simmering water in the pan warms and/or melts what is in the bowl.  

Grease a sheet of parchment paper in preparation for the “wet” truffles.  Now that the chocolate, butter, and cream can be stirred into a beautiful chocolate ganache, gently dip the date balls into it, making sure all side are evenly coated.  Place the “wet” truffles on the greased parchment paper.  Use the reserved toasted walnuts to sprinkle on top of each truffle.


If you are going to be eating the truffles sooner than later, place them in the freezer for half an hour to an hour.  If, however, you are making them for later in the day or the next day, place them in the refrigerator until about 10 minutes before you serve them.  Remove them from the freezer or the refrigerator, and use a cold spatula to scrape them off the parchment paper and onto a serving platter.  You may use your fingers, but the heat from them might melt or distort the beautiful ganache.  Cut up some strawberries for decoration and to serve on the side with the truffles.  In my humble opinion, these truffles taste best, when eaten with a fresh strawberry.  Yummy!


Strawberry Preserves

Homemade preserves are so much better than any store bought variety, and more economical as well.  When the preserves are spread over some freshly churned butter (I will cover in a future post) or some delicious cheese, believe it or not, the combination makes for a very tasty treat.  I love making all kinds of preserves in the summer and the fall, as most berries and stone fruit are in season.  However, living in the United States makes it much easier to still get all those kinds of fruit during any time of the year, but they taste best, when harvested during their season.

A couple of years ago, my husband, Kevin, and I went to Seattle for a mini vacation.  We found a wonderful little crumpet shop in downtown Seattle, where we had breakfast every morning during our stay.  They made delicious preserves to go with their cream cheese topped crumpets.  It was the preserves that made the crumpets so good.  When we returned to Dallas, we wanted to relive that delicious experience.  So, I made some strawberry preserves, and instead of the crumpets, we used toasted sprouted bread to make it a bit healthier.

STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

24 oz fresh Strawberries
1/3 cup Sugar – depending on the strawberries’ sweetness
1 small Lemon – juiced
1 tablespoon Orange Blossom Water (optional)

After washing the strawberries, dice or slice them into whatever size you like them to be.  I suggest tasting the strawberries to gauge their sweetness, in order to make sure the sugar you add is not too much or too little.  Put them in a saucier over medium low to low heat for 30 – 45 minutes, or until they break down.

Add the sugar and the lemon juice, then stir to combine.  Let the preserves cook for another 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and add the orange blossom water, if you choose to do so.  Adding the orange blossom water gives the preserves a little Lebanese flavor.  It adds a hint of orange blossoms that takes the preserves from yummy to AMAZING.  If you think that orange blossom water is just too “perfume like” for you, then please feel free to skip that step.

Allow the strawberry preserves to cool down completely, then place them in a clean and sterile mason jar or container.  Put a date label on the container and place it in the refrigerator.  The preserves will keep for a month or a little longer.  Enjoy over a piece of toasted bread, or on anything you wish to put the preserves on, for that matter.