Friday, December 6, 2013

Snowball Cookies with a Twist

Sorry that I have been MIA for awhile, but I am having medical issues with my lumbar spine.  Instead of baking cookies and making fudge, I will be having an MRI of my spine, and then going to the same Neurosurgeon that removed my husband's benign pituitary tumor this past summer.  Not exactly holiday activities.  I will be cutting back on my posting, because I just don't have the time.  Yikes! Christmas is 3 weeks way, and I am far from ready.  It takes me much longer to do anything, because I can't sit or stand for any period of time.  I still might be peeking on Facebook or your blog, though.

 I did find time to make cookies; Snowball, Mexican Wedding Cake, or Russian Tea Cake cookies They go by many names.  What do you call them?  I have made them for many years, but not recently, so I decided to make them this year.   I added holiday morsels, red, green and chocolate to the cookie dough for a different twist on an old favorite.  These rich, buttery balls with walnuts have been dressed up for the holidays. You can use pecans, instead of the walnuts. The holiday morsels give the cookies an added touch of flavor and color, then sprinkled with powdered sugar, mmmm!

These Snowball Cookies are easy to put together, and the dough can be made a couple of days ahead refrigerated, and then baked. when the cookies are slighly cool, they are gentlydusted with powdered sugar, and stored.  Right before serving, dust with powdered sugar for the final effect.

Snowball Cookies
Yield: about 30 cookies- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans 
 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup Holiday Morsels
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted for dusting the cookies
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until smooth and creamy, for 2-3 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.

3. Mix in the flour, walnuts or pecans, and salt. Mixing until just combined.

4. Stir in Holiday Morsels until well combined.

5. Roll about 1 tablespoon of dough  into balls and place on prepared baking sheet. The cookies can be placed quite close together since they do not spread during the baking process.

6. Bake in preheated oven for about 12- 15 minutes – taking care not to over bake. Allow cookies to cool on baking pan for about 5 minutes.

7. Sift 1/3 cup powdered sugar into a medium bowl. While cookies are still warm, dust them with confectioners' sugar. Place cookies on cooling rack, once they have cooled completely, dust them in powdered  sugar again.

l linked up my recipe to Brandie@The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck #96
 Stop by and say Hi to Brandie


Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberry Bliss Bars in my new Calphalon Pan!

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for my wonderful Husband, my family, my home, mt friends, and all of my blogging friends.  Here in Illinois, due to the tornadoes, people in Washington,  and other small communities, who have lost everything, are grateful just to be alive. That's put everything in perspective. If you can, please donate to the American Red Cross, who is giving vital services to those affected by the tornadoes.  Thank you!

I have a "thing" for cranberries, dried or fresh.  I put them in my oatmeal, cookies and other baked goods., salads, roasted vegetables drinks, and more.  I eat them all year long.  In fact I'm making a salad for Thanksgiving with spring greens, Granny Smith, and Gala apples, toasted walnuts. dried cranberries, and Feta cheese with a vinaigrette dressing. I have seen many recipes for the copycat recipe for Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks all across the web, but never made them until, now. I have never had the real thing from a Starbucks, either.  I am kind of baking snob that way.  Why would I buy some baked goodie from a store or bakery, when I can make them myself?  Are you a baking snob, too?

As I ramp up for my holiday baking, I wanted to make the Cranberry Bliss Bars.  In case you don't know what they are,  they are moist, blondies , studded with dried cranberries, and white chocolate, topped with a pillowy, cream cheese frosting, more dried cranberries and finished with a white chocolate drizzle.  Cranberry Heaven right?  Also, I used the Calphalon 8x8 pan to make a test batch of the Cranberry sweeties.

I was the lucky winner of Roxana's Home Baking Giveaway of the Calphalon  10 piece baking set.  The giveaway was for Celebrating #chocolateparty 1st Anniversary.  Any baker can use new pans, right? Thank you, Roxana!  I love all of my new pans.  It was like Christmas in November, as I opened the huge box.

Back to the Cranberry Bliss Bars.  I found a "cakey" recipe, and a more dense recipe.  I went with the more dense recipe, but be careful not to overbake!  After the bars are baked, you make a a heavenly cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with more dried cranberries and drizzled with melted white chocolate. I will definitley be baking more of the wonderful bars full of bliss. Make these bars, and decide for yourself.

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Yield: One 8-by-8-inch pan, 8 16, 2x2 squares Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F

For the Bars
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed
1/2 teaspoon orange zest, optional (I used 2 tsp orange extract)

For the Frosting and Topping
1/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted and divided
1/4 tsp cooking oil
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (whipped or light may be used)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups+ confectioners' sugar (I used about 2 1/4 cups)
1-2 tsp milk,  or until desired consistency.
1/2 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed (optionally, roughly dice them if the pieces are larger) 

For the Bars - Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 90 seconds. To the melted butter (allow it to cool slightly so you don't scramble the egg), add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the flour, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix or the bars will be tough. Fold in 3/4 cup white chocolate chips, 1/2 cup cranberries, optional orange zest or extract, and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula or offset knife if necessary. 

Bake for 18 to 21 minutes, and center is set and golden or until edges begin to slightly pull away from sides of pan, or a toothpick comes out clean; Do not over bake. Allow bars to cool before frosting them. While they cool, make the frosting. 

For the Frosting and Topping - In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate on high power, about 1 minute, reheating in 10-second intervals, or until it can be stirred smooth. Stir in cooking oil. White chocolate is notorious for scorching so melt it very carefully, and slowly, heating in quick bursts, and keep a watchful eye; use a double boiler if that's easier. 

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese,  2 cups confectioners' sugar , vanilla, and beat until smooth and fluffy. Mixture will seem stiff at first but will loosen and fluff up after 2 to 3 minutes of beating on medium-high; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add milk, if needed, until desired consistency. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup cranberries over the top of the frosted bars. Drizzle bars with melted white chocolate, reheating for a few seconds in the microwave if it has set up. Allow bars to set up for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. Bars may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Cranberry Bliss Bars adapted from Averie Cooks

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baked Pork Chops with Brown Rice and Mushrooms

Sometimes plans change in an instant. That's what happened to us last Sunday. We had planned to have grilled salmon, but Mother Nature had other ideas.  Within 30 minutes we had severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches and warnings. We went from daylight to darkness at 11:30 in the morning, definitely not grilling weather with high winds and torrential rain.  Soldier Field was even evacuated, before the start of the Chicago Bears football game. Fortunately, the line of storms missed the western burbs and the city, but did hit in Central Illinois. I don't remember having tornado warnings in November before.  Luckily, I had pork chops in the freezer, which I had intended to make later in the week, using this recipe.

I had not made Baked Pork Chops with Rice in a very long time, and I don't know why. We have just been grilling our chops. Back in the day when I made them, I used white rice, but today I used brown rice, which turned out so well. I also decided to add sliced mushrooms and onions to the brown rice, for added flavor. There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, pork chops, rice, brown or white, water, Cream of Mushroom soup, mushrooms and an onion.This dish can be in the oven in 10 minutes, including browning the chops.  Then the dish bakes for one hour, or until the rice and pork chops are tender.  This dish is so good with tender juicy pork chops, and creamy rice and mushrooms You can have a  meal ready in a little over an hour with the addition of a salad or vegetable. While the dish is baking, you have time to wrap some packages, start to trim your tree, or any other holiday things that you have on your to do list. I'll be making this dish again soon.

Baked Pork Chops with Brown Rice and Mushrooms

4 1/2” pork chops, bone in
1 c. uncooked brown rice
1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 c. boiling water
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup, undiluted (I used low sodium)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Spray large frying pan with cooking spray. Brown pork chops over medium heat, set aside. Spray a 13 x9 pan or large casserole dish with cooking spray.  Add uncooked rice, mushrooms, and onion.  Pour boiling water over rice mixture.  Stir to combine.  Lay browned chops over the rice in the pan.  Pour undiluted mushroom soup over top of chops.  Do not mix in rice.  Cover and bake for 1 hour, or until rice is tender.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash, Turkey Bacon, and Walnuts on Linguine

One of the things I love best about Fall is the Fall Squashes that are available;  pumpkins, butternut, and acorn. to name a few. I love the vibrant colors of their flesh  We have made beef stew in a pumpkin, had numerous roasted acorn squash, made soup with then, and now we have put them on pasta.

We had a Butternut squash that was a double, like twin squashes on the vine. I wish that I had taken a picture of it. The double squash was huge, and we only roasted one half to go with our meatloaf dinner. The other half we were going to roast to use on the pasta.

This recipe is wonderful with the roasted butter nut squash, onions, turkey  bacon, garlic, and toasted walnuts, topped with the shaved Parmesan cheese.If you son't have any health concerns, you could use regular bacon or pancetta.  Roasting the vegetables caramelizes them, and gives them a richer, deeper flavor.  I actually cooked the bacon along side the peeled, diced squash, onions and garlic.  The turkey bacon package said to cook in 400 degree oven for 15 min., until crisp, and it turned out perfectly. I just had foil on the cookie sheet, and there was very little grease. Actually the hardest part of the recipe is peeling the squash, but  I have a tip to do that in the recipe.

After the squash, onions, garlic, and bacon are cooked, toss with the rubbed sage or fresh, chopped sage leaves.  This time I didn't have the fresh sage leaves, so I used the dry rubbed sage, which was fine. the vegetables and bacon cool a bit with sage. This is a very easy recipe to make vegetarian, just omit the turkey bacon, and use vegetable stock.

Then you cook the pasta of your choice to al dente, firm to the teeth. I used Linguine, which is my Hubby's favorite Drain the pasta, do not rinse.  Remember to save about 1c of pasta water to mix with the squash, to prevent the pasta from getting sticky. Add a little chicken or vegetable stock, if needed. Mix pasta and vegetables in large bowl.  Top with Parmesan cheese, and toasted walnuts. Enjoy! 

  Roasted Butternut Squash, Turkey Bacon, and Walnuts on Linguine
I adapted this recipe from Seth Roth and Bryan Devlin at

  • 1 pound , or your favorite pasta I used whole wheat Farfalle
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 medium onions, quartered 
  • 3 slice, of turkey bacon, cooked 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, or 1Tbsp dried, rubbed Sage
  •  3 cloves Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4-1/2  c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 c. toasted walnuts
 *** Tip for peeling Squash***
Put squash in microwave for about 4 min. to facilitate peeling.  Once out of the microwave, the squash should be easy to peel with a vegetable peeler or knife.

Dice the squash into half inch cubes,. quarter onions, and peel garlic Place vegetables, garlic, and bacon  in 400 degree oven on baking sheet covered with foil and sprayed or greased, drizzle with olive oil,  and roast until soft. Roasting time will vary from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the age of the squash. Remove from the oven and toss the squash, onions, and garlic with the chopped sage to infuse the flavor.Chop bacon in small pieces and add to vegetable sage mix.

To toast walnuts, place in small frying pan with no oil, and heat over medium heats for a few minutes until nuts are lightly browned.  Be careful, because they can burn easily.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente . Drain the pasta, then toss with the squash, onions,  garlic, turkey bacon,  Parmesan cheese, and nuts.  (If the pasta seems too dry, toss with a little chicken or vegetable stock, or a bit of the pasta water.) Garnish with Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts.

l linked up my recipe to Brandie@The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck #93
 Stop by and say Hi to Brandie


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oatmeal Candy Bar Cookies

If you have leftover Halloween Candy, that you don't want your kids or your bigger kid to inhale, you can add it to cookie dough. We had zero trick or treaters, because it was a rainy, nasty night, so we had two bags of candy left. There was a bag of  "Fun Size" Snickers and bag of Mini Twix Bars. Don't blink or you might miss the Snickers. They are so tiny now, that you could hardly get two bites. Pretty soon, they will be the size of MM's.

I made some oatmeal cookies, and added the chopped candy pieces to the dough placing a candy piece on top of the cookie, too.  I always use the rolled oats to bake with for added nutrition. That way you are having healthy oatmeal with your candy, right?  Tip:  If you make these cookies, use a Silpat or parchment paper to line the baking sheets, so the melted candy in the cookies, doesn't stick to the baking sheet. These cookies will curb your cookie monsters' cravings, until you start your Holiday baking. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Cookies with Candy Bars Adapted from
  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3  cups  Oats (quick or old fashioned)  I used old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups chopped candy bars
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, and vanilla; beat well.
  4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.
  5. Stir in oats and chopped candy bars; mix well.
  6. Chill dough 2-3 hours or overnight. Warm on counter 20-30 min. before baking.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack 

l linked up my recipe to Brandie@The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck #93
 Stop by and say Hi to Brandie


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