Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Cookie Beauty Pageant

I can't believe it's already Thursday.  I went shopping yesterday and I accomplished nothing unless you count eating at the Grand China Buffet and getting a free wall calendar. 

I had my shopping crew of Amber, Brayden, and Amber's BFF, Brittany, with me, and we did have some enthralling conversation.  Yes, we thoroughly compared and contrasted each of our virus experiences.  And not only ours, but the experiences of the ones we love.  I'm thinkin' that Brittany is the winner of the "Most Pitiful and Sick Girl Ever" award because she actually went to the emergency room AND dropped twelve pounds in three days which has to be some kind of record. 

Congratulations, Brittany!

Enough about that virus.  This will be the last time I mention it until the next time I mention it.

In other news, guess who was asked to emcee the Millry High School annual beauty pageant also know as the Miss Green and White Pageant?  My husband, that's who.

So, in honor of that, how about a cookie beauty pageant?  Right here, right now.

Cookie number one hails from the test kitchen of Jif Peanut Butter.  This classic cookie is fun, chewy, and soft, and looks especially festive when studded with green and red M & M's.  She likes to be paired with a tall glass of ice cold milk and has been heard boasting "Santa likes me best."  Thank you, Miss PB M & M.

Our next cookie is Butter Brickle Espresso Biscotti, hailing from the Taste of Home test kitchen.  This crunchy cookie has a whole bag of toffee bits stirred in and has been enhanced by this blogger with a full tablespoon of instant espresso powder.   She likes to skinny dip in hot coffee and has been noted for saying "I'm twice baked and proud of it."  Thank you, Miss Biscotti.

Cookie number three comes to us from the Southern Living test kitchen and has her own layout in their December issue.  This cookie is extremely versatile and for today's pageant has been flecked with dried cranberries, orange zest, and in a surprising move by the blogger, a full tablespoon of chopped candied ginger.  She boasts of easy preparation and freezer friendliness.  Thank you, Miss Shortbread.

Our last cookie also hails from the Taste of Home test kitchen and uses honey instead of sugar for it's sweet factor.  Butterscotch morsels and crispy rice cereal also make up this cookie's unique flavor and texture.  This cookie received two thumbs up just yesterday from cookie muncher Amber Odom, who was quoted as saying "I'm really likin' this cookie, Mom.  Is that coconut in there?"  Yes, Amber it is.  This cookie's platform is "Using up pantry items for a cleaner pantry."  Thank you, Miss Honey Crunch.

This concludes the 2009 Christmas cookie pageant.  They are all winners in my book. 

Notes about each cookie:

Peanut Butter With M & M's-Yes, this recipe is the classic Irresistable Peanut Butter cookie recipe that floats all over the internet.  It produces soft, chewy cookies.  I ate approximately 37% of the dough and contemplated forgoing the whole baking process and just rolling it into truffles. 

-I added in about 3/4 cup green and red M & M's.  I used a cookie scoop (1 tablespoon measure) and also pressed in a couple of M & M's into each cookie dough mound to make them pretty.

See all the prettiness?  This one never made it the oven, though.

-Follow the directions and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack.  I removed one immediately and it fell apart.

-They should bake no more than about 8 minutes.  They did not look done, but they will firm up when they cool.

-I made some jumbo ones using a bigger scoop (held 3 tablespoons) and those baked approximately 12-14 minutes.  

-I did not criss-cross each mound with a fork (like the recipe says) and they turned out a little thick in the middle, which I really liked.

Butter Brickle Espresso Biscotti- This was my first time making biscotti but it turned out great, plus it looks really pretty in clear bags for gift giving.

-I stirred in a tablespoon of instant espresso granules.  I think it could have used a tad more.

-Shaping the dough into two logs was tricky.  I had to wet my hands to pat it out because it was stickier than I thought it would be.

-The logs really spread, so make sure they are far enough apart.

-I dipped the ends in melted semisweet chocolate and sprinkled with more toffee bits.  Brittany made the suggestion to cover the entire cookies in chocolate next time.  I will take that suggestion into consideration, Brittany.

Cranberry, Orange, and Ginger Shortbread Cookies-I love all the variations with this recipe, but only got around to making the cranberry version.  I also love that the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen.

-I chopped some candied (crystallized) ginger and added a tablespoon to the dough.  Really nice and very Christmasy.

-I also left out the almond extract.  I just don't like it.

Honey Crunch Cookies- I really like the flavor of these.  I also love that there is no sugar in the recipe, just honey.

-If you make these, please don't do what I did.  I made the dough a couple of hours before I used it and the crispy rice cereal got soft.  They were not as crunchy as I would have liked them to be, but I think it was my fault.  I will definitely make them again to see if I can correct the problem.  They were still delicious with slight crunchiness.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

I've got a great recipe for you for this busy season.  I adapted this slightly from Robin Miller and I've been making it for several years now.  All you do is combine the ingredients in the slow cooker and turn it on low.  Then you can go wrap presents and bake cookies, which is way, way more fun than cooking dinner.

The original recipe is here.  Robin uses raw chicken, so if you don't have any cooked chicken, refer to her recipe.  I made this the weekend after Thanksgiving and I used some leftover smoked turkey and it was wonderful.  Leftover ham would be great thrown in there, too.

I have found that cooking it seven hours on low as she states in her directions is a little too long for my slow cooker, because the sausage gets a little mushy, so I reduced the cooking time a bit.  If all your meat is cooked going in, it just needs a thorough warming and a little time for the flavors to marry. 

I'm out the door in a few minutes for a big day of shopping.  I'm going by myself today and I'm looking forward to it. 

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Adapted from Robin Miller

1/2 pound andouille, smoked or turkey sausage, diced

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (OR 1 cup water and 1 chicken bouillon cube )

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken

1 pound frozen peeled and cooked shrimp, thawed

Cooked rice

1.   In a slow cooker, combine the sausage, tomatoes, onion, green pepper, celery, and chicken broth. Stir in oregano, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, and thyme.

2.   Cover, and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2 1/2 hours. Stir in the chicken and thawed shrimp and cover and cook until the shrimp is heated through, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves and spoon mixture over cooked rice. 

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