Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

I'm back.  I know I said that my last posting would be it until January but our flight to London was canceled due to bad weather.  On to plan b.  We have rescheduled our flight but with the state of the airports, I'm not getting my hopes up too high.  Lucky for me and you, I am now able to share with you a really good cookie recipe. 

I knew when I saw this recipe, these would be good, especially with the caramel.  But, I didn't know they would be so good, that I would have a hard time not eating them.  I have a weakness for cookies though so that's not saying much.  These cookies are chocolaty, nutty, chewy and will satisfy any sweet tooth.

I added some chocolate chips to make them really chocolaty and some espresso powder, which I think intensifies the chocolate flavor.   

Our freezer is full of cookies this year.  Between a girls cookie party and me experimenting on my own, we have lots of cookies.  Too bad I can't share them with you all.

These are what I call high maintenance cookies in that they don't transport well unless you lay them in one layer and keep them flat.  I think they're worth it though.  Just make sure you're not alone with them in your kitchen or I can't be responsible for what might happen.  :-)

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine (I used a 1 lb. bag of chopped pecans from Trader Joe's)
14 soft caramel candies
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg yolk, milk, espresso powder and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour a bit at a time, slowly.  Add chocolate chips and mix until just combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or line a cooking sheet.  Add egg whites to a bowl and mix until frothy.  Place chopped pecans in another bowl.  In your hand, roll dough into 1 inch balls, dip in egg white and then roll in the nuts.  Place on the baking sheet (12 per sheet).  With a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in each cookie to form a well in the middle.  Bake about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking.

Add caramels and cream to a bowl and microwave 30 seconds at a time until mixable.  Remove to a wire rack and fill each well with a teaspoon of caramel sauce.  Let cool completely.  Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Best Broccoli Casserole

Has anyone noticed how stressed everyone is right now?  In cars, in stores, you name it.  It's sad really that this time of year becomes a crazy, stressful time rather than a joyous, fun time.  I can relate and I don't even have children.  The holiday season sneaks up on us so quickly and then there is so much to get done by Christmas Day.  It seems like it gets crazier every year.  But as I write this, I am feeling pretty good.  I have my cards done, my shopping, decorating, baking and yesterday, I finished a huge project at work.  Now I can relax and enjoy the holidays.  I hope you can too.   

Now that I'm done venting about the holidays, I want to tell you about this broccoli casserole.  I know what you are thinking, the best, really?  Is it really that good to say it's the best?  YES!!!!!  We make this casserole every year for Thanksgiving and it's one of those dishes that we have to have on the table or we'd all go on strike.  It's always the first dish to go as the guys even love it.  It's creamy, cheesy and crunchy with a nice buttery topping.  I had to make this my final posting before the holidays in hopes that you'll give it a try.

This will probably be my last post until early January.  We are headed to London in two days to spend Christmas with my husband's family.  It will be a nice, fun and relaxing time and when we get back, we'll get to spend New Year's with my family in Oregon.  By the time I get home, I'll need a vacation!  Isn't that the way it always is after the holidays!  We hope you have a fun, relaxing and wonderful holiday season.  The Two True Foodies look forward to sharing more favorite recipes with you in 2011.

Favorite Broccoli Casserole

2 (16oz) bags frozen broccoli
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
1 small onion, grated
1 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup melted butter

Bring a big pot of water to a boil.  Add frozen broccoli and cook about 3 minutes.  You basically just want to blanch it.  Drain it really well as you don't want extra water in your casserole.   In a mixing bowl, add the Cream of Mushroom Soup, mayo, egg, onion (grate on a cheese grater) and cheese.  Mix well.  Add the broccoli and gently combine.  Put casserole in a 9x9 baking dish.  Mix the stuffing with the melted butter until well combined.  Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Pasta

I'm a big advocate of cooking most dishes from scratch but right now, with the holidays, working full-time, traveling, I end up taking short cuts here and there just to get dinner on the table.  It can still be really good food but just easier to make.  When I don't have a lot of time but want something good and comforting, I always reach for pasta.  It is fast and you can mix just about anything you have on hand with pasta.  It's really hard to ruin.  That's kind of what I did with this easy, flavorful Christmas Pasta dish.

Lately, I have been crazy busy.  I mean so busy that having a nice dinner on the table is becoming rare.  I think my husband was really surprised when he came home last night and smelled something good cooking.  What a treat, huh?  To come home from work and walk into a house that smells so good you could eat the couch.

If you haven't noticed, my postings lately have slowed down.  I have the best intentions of posting each week but with traveling for work, it's been really difficult.  Don't worry though, a new recipe will come, just give me a few more days and I promise to post something good.

For this pasta dish, I used a store bought Alfredo Sauce (Trader Joe's).  I always keep a jar on hand.  I grabbed whatever meat sounded good at the time.  Any veggies I had on hand and threw it all together.  It came out so pretty, looking like Christmas, being all red and green, and tasty, that I had to share it with you.  I know some of you might be saying, well I can't eat that, it's too fattening.  Here is my thought on this, keep your portion size small, add lots of veggies (I served steamed broccoli) and enjoy every bite!  I also added a half a box of pasta rather than a full box just to minimize the carbs.  If you're really concerned about it, save it for a special occasion.  This is a great dish if you need to camouflage veggies from someone.  It works for me every time.  My husbands hates mushrooms but I chop them really fine and he never knows the difference.  Victory is sweet!

Christmas Pasta

1 lb. pork sausage (I used one flavored with sage)
1 16.9 oz (or 1 lb) jar Alfredo Sauce
1/2 lb. pasta (I used Fusilli Col Buco) any kind will work
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 package frozen spinach, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable broth (can use chicken)
1/2 jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
1 package of mushrooms, chopped fine
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

On medium high heat, add ground pork to saute pan.  After about 5 minutes of cooking, add mushrooms and turn the heat up to high.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally.  In a separate saucepan, cook pasta according to the directions on the box.  When the pork and mushrooms are done, turn down heat to medium high and add add frozen spinach, broth and cover with a lid.  After about 5 minutes check on the pork mixture and stir if needed. Once the spinach is wilted and mixed in with the pork, remove the lid and add the sun-dried tomatoes and the Alfredo sauce.  Stir to combine.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Add the drained pasta to the pork mixture and mix well.  Turn off heat.  Add cheese.  Serve!

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