Browned Butter Sandwich Cookies

I love when something happens that’s unexpected but really awesome.

The weekend I made today’s recipe, I had several surprises happen that were really unexpected, but still great. I was in a great mood, I had more time to experiment in the kitchen than I normally do, and so I decided on a random whim to try out something new.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I am a staunch browned butter advocate. Regardless of the food, it will improve literally anything that you’re cooking, whether it’s sweet or savory.

Slice and bake cookies are another of those baking recipes that I put in my “You Can’t Mess this Up” category. The dough is very quick and forgiving in putting it together, and after you’ve let it rest in the fridge, all that’s left to do is literally slice, throw the cookies on a sheet and bake them up.

Best of all, it’s also a recipe where you don’t have to bake the batch all at once if you prefer not to. You can leave the log in the fridge or freezer, slice off as many cookies as you want (or don’t want), and save the rest for later.

Having said that, I will throw out a disclaimer in that, you’re going to want to make the whole batch of these because they’re just that good and if you have other people living with you in your house, they’re going to gobble them up and you won’t have enough ready-made for yourself to enjoy.

I can predict this, because it’s pretty much what happened to me.

If I had to describe what they taste like, I’d say they are the best pecan sandie you’ve ever had and didn’t know that you needed in your life. The cookie is delicious enough by itself; it’s crisp and full of nutty, pecan flavor. The filling is what sends them over the top: it’s rich, and full of that delicious, golden flavor that can only come from browned butter.

These disappeared in our house quick. Try ’em out.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Browned Butter Sandwich Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O’ Lakes

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (yolks only)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of Half & Half, cream, or milk

Directions

For Cookies:

Combine 1 cup butter and brown sugar in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg yolks and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour, pecans and salt; beat at low speed until dough forms a ball.

Divide dough in half; shape each half into 10-inch-long log (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Wrap each log tightly in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut each log into 1/8-inch slices with sharp knife; place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.

For Filling: Melt 1/4 cup butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until butter just starts to brown. (Butter will bubble and foam. Watch closely.) Immediately remove from heat. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar,1/2 teaspoon vanilla and enough half & half for desired spreading consistency.Spread 1 level teaspoon filling on bottom-side of 1 cookie; top with second cookie, bottom-side down. Squeeze together gently. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #369.

Brookies (It’s a Brownie and a Chocolate Chip Cookie)

Y’all. I have an announcement to make.

I’ve made a love connection.

No. Not *that* kind of a love connection. But it’s just as good. Maybe even better.

I’m in a phase right now where what I want most from my desserts is texture. Thick, chewy, fudgy texture. As a result, (and if you’ve been following along with the blog, you’ll have no doubt noticed this) I’ve been churning out a lot of thick cookies, brownies, blondies and whatnot from my kitchen because everything I make on the blog, we actually eat.

(Throwing away food is a no from me; but also, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, so we don’t go anywhere where I can give it away either)

This is another one of those recipes where I’d heard of it before, but I have no idea what took me so long to finally getting around to trying it out. It combines two of my favorite desserts–the brownie and the chocolate chip cookie into one truly perfect bite: the Brookie.

So how is it done? Pretty easily enough you may be surprised to find out. You make the recipes for the two desserts separately; first a cookie dough, then a brownie batter. The brownie batter is spread in the bottom of the pan and dolloped with cookie dough.

And then…a true love connection is made.

You’d think that the chocolate chip cookie layer would be overpowered by the  brownie layer, but it isn’t. It forms a crackly, brown sugar-y crust that evens out the richness of the brownie beneath perfectly. And don’t even get me started about what it tasted like with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Sinful I tell you.

You all absolutely have to try this. It’s become one of our new favorite desserts, and I guarantee that it’ll become one of yours too.

There’s a certain holiday coming up that celebrates love connections, and all I can say is that I think this a perfect dessert to make for one.

Brookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

For Cookie Dough Layer

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

For Brownie Layer

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Directions

For Cookie Dough:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter; line with parchment, leaving a slight overhang on long sides. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in egg. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture; beat until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Set aside

For Brownie Batter

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; whisk in granulated sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Whisk in cocoa and salt. Fold in flour until combined.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Crumble cookie dough evenly over batter.

Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake until just set, 20 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center (avoiding chocolate chunks) comes out with moist crumbs, 27 to 30 minutes more.

Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift brookies from pan using parchment; cut into squares.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #36.

Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

As much as I love it, I actually don’t fry chicken at home very often.

For one, it’s time consuming, especially if you’re like me and you prefer to put your chicken in a marinade beforehand to make sure it’s juicy and flavorful. It can get messy, even when you set up separate stations for flour, buttermilk, the rack for the raw chicken, then the rack for the cooked chicken–and don’t even get me started on the clean up.

But even with all the finicky details, whenever I do decide to make fried chicken, I’m never disappointed. It’s a project, but the end result is always oh so worth it.

Y’all, I’ve been so excited to share today’s recipe. It was not only worth the time and effort, it exceeded all of my expectations as far as taste. If you saw last week’s post you’ll know I said it was actually a two parter, with the biscuits being Part I. When I originally made them, I paired them with the fried chicken of today’s recipe to make one of my favorite foods of all time: the chicken biscuit.

The chicken biscuit dish is exactly what it sounds like: a piece of fried chicken sandwiched between a biscuit that’s been cut in half. It sounds simple–perhaps even too simple–but those of us who love them that it’s anything but.

Fried chicken and biscuits as individual components themselves require a certain amount of know-how to execute. A biscuit for chicken biscuit needs to rise high enough to be able to stand up to the bulk of the chicken itself, and it doesn’t hurt for it to have enough of it’s own flavor so that it’s not just bland bread. Apart from being seasoned properly, the fried chicken should also have a thick, crunchy crust to contrast with the soft texture of the biscuit.

But when you get both components right and put them together, it’s a truly beautiful and delicious thing.

This was my first time frying chicken with cornmeal in the batter and I have to say, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The texture, and even the flavor it gave to the crust was amazing. And as I said last week, the combination of sage and cornmeal in the biscuit dough gave it enough of its own flavor so as it’s not just a ‘container’ to hold the chicken. It more than held its own. This really was one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time, and I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

Recipe Adapted from A Previous Recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Country Living

Ingredients

For Biscuits:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks) frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

For Chicken:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend; I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. Buttermilk
  • 5-7 chicken cutlets (about 1 lb.) halved crosswise
  • 7 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 3 tbsp. Honey

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream. Use a fork to ‘cut’ it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps. Make another hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

For Chicken:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl. Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Repeat dipping process one more time. Then, working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

To assemble sandwich: Whisk together hot sauce and honey in a bowl. Split a biscuit in half, drizzle chicken with spicy honey, then assemble sandwich with pickles.

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday #366.

Cornmeal Sage Biscuits

Yes. It’s true. One month into 2021, and I’m sharing yet ANOTHER biscuit recipe.

We’ve established a long time ago that they’re somewhat of an obsession of mine, but this time there’s a whole separate ‘excuse’ for why they’re making another appearance.

These biscuits make up one half of another ‘meal’ recipe that I’ll be posting next week. But I thought that rather than dump them both at the same time, I’d break them apart and just like a sit down meal in a restaurant, make the carbs the appetizer before serving the ‘meat’ next week.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the Recipe Index on the blog, you’d probably be able to tell that I have a mild fixation with yellow cornmeal. I like it both for its flavor and the texture it gives to baked goods. I think it was around two years ago when I first experimented with it in biscuit dough.

Cornmeal gives the biscuit a coarser texture, but I’ve learned since then how to counterbalance the potential heaviness in the dough with the addition of sour cream, which does positively SINFUL things to the texture of just about any baked good you add it to.

I knew going into making these that I wanted to boost the typically neutral flavor of biscuits, and give them a savory flavor. For that reason I seasoned the dough with sage and what’s become my favorite spice mix, the Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Saute. I use it in just about everything I cook. But if you don’t have it on hand, that’s fine. Just use another seasoning blend you’re partial to like any of the many ones from McCormick, Mrs. Dash, or Weber’s.

I was extremely pleased with how these turned out. They rose beautifully even with the cornmeal, and the flavor is FANTASTIC. They paired beautifully with the ‘second component’ of the dish I made for our dinner that I’ll be sharing next week. So stay tuned 😉

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Cornmeal Sage Biscuits

Recipe Loosely Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks) frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream. Use a fork to ‘cut’ it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps. Make another hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #365, co-hosted this week by Eff @ Food Daydreaming.

 

Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

So, I feel like on a list of the easiest things to cook/bake, rice krispie treats are right up there with spaghetti, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches. They all feature pretty basic ingredients, come together within minutes and are all (I think) pretty hard to mess up.

Even back when I was an abysmal cook, I knew how to put together rice krispie treats. No matter what anybody says, the pre-made packaged ones don’t taste as good as the ones made from scratch. They just don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with pre-packaged rice krispie treats, but I’m partial to making my own from scratch because if I can control the amount of marshmallow in the mix, then I can control the ‘gooey-ness’ factor. Packaged ones don’t really have it.

You want to know what ones do? These.

I’m always interested in finding ways to improve on classics, and today’s recipe is another one of those ways. If you’re a fan of scratch made rice krispie treats and you want to up their gooey-ness factor, this is for you. It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra steps or ingredients. There’s just one extra step and one extra addition to the usual suspects of ingredients, actually:

Browning the butter, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

That’s right folks. Browning your butter and adding sweetened condensed milk to your treats mix will alter everything you ever thought you knew about how to make or eat rice krispie treats. You are not prepared for how incredible this is. I wasn’t. The rich, gooeyness it adds to them is everything you want in a treat. It adds a real ‘bakery’ taste and flavor to them that almost makes no sense, because rice krispie treats aren’t baked at all. I don’t understand it, and I really don’t need to. I’m just glad to have discovered it, and you will be too once you try this out for yourself.

Wear a mask. Social Distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

Recipe Courtesy of The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 6 cups toasted rice crisp cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (10-ounce) package mini marshmallows (about 4 cups)

Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cereal and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or pot over low heat, gently stirring with a rubber spatula so all the butter melts evenly. When the butter is bubbling, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk* and stir to combine.

Bring the sweetened condensed milk to a boil (this will happen really quickly) and cook for about a minute until it is fragrant. Once the butter begins to foam, watch carefully, as it will quickly begin to brown and emit a nutty aroma. When browned, turn off the heat. Stir in the salt and vanilla.

Working quickly, add half the marshmallows and stir until thoroughly melted. Add the remaining marshmallows and stir until melted. The residual heat from the butter should be enough to melt them off the heat, but you can return the pot to low heat for a few seconds if the marshmallows aren’t melting easily. Keep a close eye on the butter, however — you don’t want it to continue to brown to the point of burning.

Add the toasted cereal and gently fold it in until the cereal is completely coated with the marshmallow mixture.

Transfer the mixture to an 8 x8 inch baking pan that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Using the rubber spatula, lightly and gently press into an even layer.

Let the treats stand at room temperature until set and completely cool, about 1 hour.

Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

*This all depends on how gooey you want the treats to be. I went for the full 1/2 cup.

Linking up to Fiesta Friday #362, co-hosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Gingerbread Blondies

Only seven days left until Christmas! Is everyone excited? It’s 50/50 for me. On one hand, I absolutely love the holiday season, but on the other hand it’s the season that I love more than the actual holiDAY itself. Christmas itself is bittersweet for me because once it comes, the holiday season is almost over.

But on the flip side, there’s still six more days until it’s over, so let’s just celebrate that with some more recipes in the five days that we have left of the 12 Days of Christmas, shall we? In all the years I’ve been doing the series, there are always certain categories of recipes that I try to make sure make an appearance, just for variety’s sake. I always try to do a savory recipe option. I always try to do a yeast bread recipe. I always try to do a snack. Then, I always try to a recipe that fits squarely into my “You Can’t Mess This Up, No Seriously You Can’t” category.

The “You Can’t Mess This Up, No Seriously You Can’t” category is for people who don’t like to cook or bake, or those who think that they can’t. I say “think” because I’m of hte opinion that if you can read, measure and follow a set of instructions, you can cook SOMETHING. Doesn’t have to be complicated. Doesn’t even have to be that delicious. But if you can read, count and do what you’re told, there’s something out there that you can cook and bake.

  Today I’m pleased to be able to share my “You Can’t Screw this Up” recipe of the 12 Days of Christmas: gingerbread blondies. While they’re the furthest thing from complicated that you can get, don’t let their simplicity fool you: they come together in minutes, and are absolutely delicious.

The base of the blondie itself is rich with warm, sugary, winter spices. It tastes like a dense and rather chewy cake. I modified the original recipe and decided to try and cut through the sweetness of the molasses and brown sugar by adding fresh cranberries to the batter. The cranberries burst as they bake creating lovely pockets of juicy, tart flavor.

I wasn’t kidding when I said you can’t screw these up. I’m also not kidding when I say they’re absolutely delicious.  The only way they could possibly be improved is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Then they’re beyond perfection; they’re holiday nirvana.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread Blondies

Recipe Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

Directions

Line an 8-9 inch square baking dish wish parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the four, spices, and salt. Stir together with a fork, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter or margarine, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and egg. Stir together with a fork or a wire whisk unto; thoroughly combined.

Add the flour mixture in 2 increments, stirring just until the streaks disappear. Fold in the cranberries.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 26-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 hour before cutting into squares.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #359, cohosted this week by Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.

 

Cranberry Cookie Tart

Have you ever cooked or baked something that made you ask yourself: “Where has this been all my life, and why am I just now discovering it?”

It’s a really great feeling.

I experienced it when I made today’s recipe.

Seriously, one of the best cooking decisions I ever made was begin making my own cranberry sauce from scratch. I don’t know how people can eat the canned gelatine stuff. Real cranberry sauce not only has better texture, making it from scratch allows you to give it so much more and better flavor. Canned cranberry sauce just tastes like jellied Ocean Spray. Which…is pretty much all it is.

I say all of that because a significant part of what makes today’s recipe so delicious is the cranberry sauce filling, and I don’t want people who aren’t used to making it to be scared off by it as an ingredient. It’s worth it, y’all. It really is. Should you accept the challenge, and you want to ensure you’re making a tart that tasted just like ours did, or you just need an easy and delicious recipe for cranberry sauce, there’s one here, and here on the blog for your convenience, though I always just make the Cranberry Clementine sauce as a rule now; it’s that delicious, trust me.

Would you believe it’s a cinch to make? Yes, even though it’s a tart. And once your cranberry sauce is made, the whole thing comes together in less than 30 minutes. The base is a brown sugar shortbread that bakes up super light and crisp. This isn’t the Great British Bakeoff, so you don’t have to be too concerned about overworking your dough. 3/4 of it gets pressed into the pan, then the rest of it gets dropped on top of the cranberry sauce in chunks that form little pockets of cookie, rather than dropping it on in one large sheet.

Be prepared, y’all: they smells that are going to be coming out of your kitchen while this thing is baking are going to be enough to make you start salivating for it before it’s even done. I wish there was a Bath and Bodyworks candle for this scent; it would sell out, I guarantee you of that.

As I said earlier, from the very first bite of this that I took, I was asking myself how I went so long without discovering this thing. It’s so delicious, y’all. The crust is warm, buttery and crisp and its sweetness gets balanced PERFECTLY with the tartness of the cranberries. Because the filling is both cranberry sauce and fresh cranberries, there’s an textural element to it that has a nice balance of being both smooth, and somewhat chunky.

We loved this SO much, it was gone in a single weekend. So I did what any of us would do; I made another one. I’ll be having a very generous slice of it for my dessert tonight. Don’t be jealous; just make one for yourself.

Be sure to keep following along for more recipes for the 12 Days of Christmas!

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Cranberry Cookie Tart

Recipe Adapted from Erren’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
  • 2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of cranberry sauce or good quality cranberry preserves (if you need a cranberry sauce recipe, this is the one I always use. This one will work too.)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pitted cranberries Note: if using frozen cranberries, defrost before using and strain the juices.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F/160C. Grease a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan* and place this on a baking tray.

Using a food processor or mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and brown sugar vigorously until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. It’s an important step to beat the butter and sugar well together when making shortbread as this ensures the shortbread is light, crisp and will hold together.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and salt. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until blended (forming large clumps). Turn onto a floured surface and using floured hands, press two-thirds of the mixture evenly into the prepared pan (including the sides).

Spread with the cranberry sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a 1⁄4-inch border and then scatter with the cranberries.

Crumble the remaining dough into large crumbs and scatter evenly over the filling, covering most of the surface.Bake the tart for 40 – 45 minutes, until lightly browned.

Leave to cool completely in the pan.

*If you do not have a tart pan, I do think that this would also work in a 9-inch roudn cake pan, you just won’t be able to lift the whole tart out of it. It’ll still taste great though.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #358, co-hosted this week by Eff@Food Daydreaming.

Sugar & Spice Crackers

Homemade cookies are a win no matter what time of year, but I will say that for me, there’s just something extra special about homemade Christmas cookies.  I enjoy baking them more around the holidays. I enjoy eating them more around the holidays–which, for me is really saying something.

Some cookie recipes feature a whole bunch of ingredients and whole bunch of steps. I’ve made ones like that and shared the recipes on the blog in the past. While most of the time, the extra labor is worth it, on the whole I do think that making Christmas cookies should be pretty simple and straightforward. Most of the cookie recipes I post for the 12 Days of Christmas are on purpose. Today’s post is the first of more to come.

When I was a kid, I absolutely LOVED the mini Vootrman gingerbread men cookies. Heck, it’s been a while since I had one, but I still do. They’re small, crunchy,  and they have an excellent spice blend to them that is everything you want in a Christmas cookie.

Whenever I can make a recipe on the blog that replicates (or dare I say it) improves on a mass-produced store bought product, I’m always extra pleased with it. This was one of those times. I was, admittedly, a little underwhelmed with how the final product looked. Obviously, they have some cracks and imprint from the cookie stamps wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be post-baking.

But let me tell y’all–when I took that first bite of these, I couldn’t care less how they looked. These are SO GOOD.

These are not what I would think of as ‘cookies’; they’re very crunchy. When you break one in half, it will snap, hence the name of crackers. A British tea biscuit is honestly what they remind me of. They’re type of snack that just screams for eating alongside a cup of tea and coffee.

Combined with the texture, the spices are what really makes these stand out to me. They’re warm and fragrant and just hit all the right notes of Christmas. Also, because these are so crunchy, they don’t really go ‘stale’; in fact, the longer you leave them to sit, the stronger the spices will come through.  Finally, if you don’t have cookie stamps, no problem. They will bake just fine as regular old rounds, which I’ve included directions for in the recipe.

Because I made them small, I had a bunch of these baked from this recipe. I was an idiot and shared quite a few, and now I’m almost out. Which now means I will just have to make some more. ASAP.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Sugar & Spice Crackers

Recipe Adapted from McCormick

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Beat flour, butter, sugar, baking soda and spices together with an electric mixer on medium speed just until mixture comes together, but is still sandy in texture, about 4 to 6 minutes. (If using a stand mixer, be sure to use the paddle attachment, not the whisk.)

Whisk egg, salt and vanilla extract in small bowl until well blended. Add to flour mixture; mix on medium until a soft dough forms, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Wrap dough tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 320°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide dough in quarters and keep the other 3 in the refrigerator while you roll out the first. Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough, then gently remove stamped cookie and place on sheet pan. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Transfer crackers to wire rack. Cool completely.

*Alternatively, if you don’t have cookie stamps: after the dough comes together, you can shape it into a log, refrigerate the log overnight, then slice it into 1/8 thick rounds and bake as directed.

 

Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

I’ve said it before, but one of the goals I set for myself in doing this Christmas series every year is to try and include at least one savory option in the mix. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t into sweets. God knows *I* don’t know or understand that lifestyle, but I can at least acknowledge that it exists by trying to factor it into my offerings on the blog for Christmas.

The savory baking I tend to do at Christmas usually translates into warm, comfort food-style dinners or brunch foods. In 2016, it was Stuffing Bread. In 2017, it was Tourtiere. In 2018, it was chicken hand pies. This year, I decided to do a little bit of recipe recycling to come up with something different.

Last week, I kicked off the series with these Orange Cranberry Buns. The recipe made quite a lot of them; there were leftovers. Granted, they were perfectly delicious all on their own, but I did get to thinking about ways I could use them for something else. What do you guys do when you’ve got a bunch of leftover bread sitting around? My thoughts exactly; you make bread pudding.

Now granted you don’t HAVE to make those buns just to make this dish. Any flavor or style of bread will work so long as it’s bread with a strong and sturdy crumb that can hold up under the milk and egg soaking. Look around the bakery aisle of your grocery store for challah, brioche, potato rolls; any of those will work perfectly here. But I will say that using these buns for it would be an AMAZING choice. Your tastebuds would thank you for it.

Most times, bread pudding is extremely sweet; a dessert, really. But, I’ve experimented with savory variations of it before here on the blog, which is what gave me the idea for this dish in the first place. That recipe used ham. This one uses sausage. Sausage is a very common ingredient when it comes to traditional dressing, and the flavors in that dish are the inspiration for the flavor profile I was shooting for. When it comes to mix-ins, I kept it simple. Spinach and onions and that was great for us. However, it’s really up to you as to what else you put inside. It’s kinda hard to screw this up when it comes to the mix-ins.

The cranberry sauce may seem like an odd choice for a savory dish, but just hear me out: it works. The saltiness of the sausage plays against the sweetness of the bread, and when you add the tartness and slight bitter flavor of the cranberry sauce to that, it’s a REALLY great bite. My sister took one bite of bread pudding together with a bit of the cranberry sauce, smiled and said, “Wow. It tastes like Christmas.”

That should tell you everything you need to know.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

 

Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from a previous recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Anne Burrell

Ingredients

For Bread Pudding

  • 7-8 cups cubed leftover, stale bread (you want a nice and sturdy bread, like a challah or brioche)
  • 3 lbs pork sausage
  • 16 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of your favorite herb blend (Italian seasoning will work fine)

For Cranberry Sauce

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 6 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

For Bread Pudding

Place the bread cubes in a medium size bowl and stir together with 1 cup of the milk. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bread has absorbed most of the liquid.

Meanwhile, pour about 1 tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a large skillet or pot, and brown the sausage over medium heat. Drain the grease and set aside sausage in a medium sized bowl.

Saute the spinach in the same pan/pot until it is just wilted and vibrantly green, about 5 minutes. Remove to a separate bowl and set aside.

Saute the onions in the same pot, until they are translucent and limp, about 7-10 minutes. Remove to another bowl and set aside.

In medium size bowl, using a wire whisk combine the eggs, the milk, and the seasonings, beating until yolks are broken.

Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish generously with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the sausage, spinach and sauteed onions on top of the cubes in an even layer. Drizzle half of the egg-milk mixture over that. Repeat, layering the rest of the bread, then the sausage, spinach and onions. Then, pour the rest of the egg-milk on top.

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the dish then bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown and the pudding is firm in the middle, 60-65 minutes. Serve warm with the cranberry sauce.

For Cranberry Sauce:

In a small saucepan combine fresh cranberries, clementines, orange and cranberry juices, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the dried cranberries and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Store overnight in the fridge to allow sauce to set, then serve alongside bread pudding

Linking to Fiesta Friday #357, co-hosted this week by Diann@Of Goats & Greens.

Chicken Taco Stew

I think that I’ve mentioned this before on here, but because it’s relevant to this post/recipe I’ll say it again: I don’t like soup.

I never really have, even as a child. I didn’t really know why back then. Now that I’m older and have embraced my love of my food, I have a very clear awareness of what I like, what I don’t like, and the reasons why. My reasons for disliking soup can be summed up in one word: consistency.

I just don’t like the consistency of soup. When I was a child I can remember never really liking Campbells’ soup from a can, but I can also remember holding a particular preference, even a like for Dinty Moore’s stews. Looking back, I can say that the preference came from the consistency of the food.

I never really liked having to ‘slurp’ my food, the way you would have to slurp a broth. In my mind, slurping has just always been for beverages and chewing has always just been for food; the lines between the two just don’t need to be blurred. I like my food to have texture, richness and ‘body’ to it; body is just something that to me, most soups are lacking. They lack heartiness to me. I’m never full after I eat them, and for that reason I don’t cook or eat them very much at all.

What does that have to do with today’s post? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, the inspiration for the flavors of this recipe came from another recipe that some of you may have heard of: taco soup. I’ve seen it floating around mainly Pinterest and it’s become pretty popular as most iterations of it are low calorie, low fat and great for dieting. The flavors in taco soup are supposed to emulate eating a taco; a food that is safe to say, not low calorie or low fat. I like tacos, for sure; soup? Not so much.

So this is my riff, or rather, my improvement on taco soup: Chicken taco stew.

I can’t speak for how low carb, low fat or low whatever my taco stew is, y’all. That’s really not my ministry. What I CAN tell you, is that it is absolutely delicious.

I make the base of my stews to be rather thick and hearty. Again, it’s all about the consistency for me. In my mind, the perfect ‘broth’ of a stew can form a coating on the back of a spoon. The thicker and richer the base, the more I can appreciate the flavors of the food itself.

Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients here. It’s mostly seasoning, and the actual process of putting everything together is very straightforward and easy to follow. Combined with the heartiness of the base, the chicken and the beans, this is comfort food to the nth degree. It really is like eating a bowl of tacos that wrap you and your stomach up in a warm hug.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Chicken Taco Stew

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 5-6lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large or 2 mediums yellow sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • (2) 14.5 oz. cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • (2) 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • (1) 15 oz. can corn
  • (1) 15 oz. can black beans
  • (1) 15 oz. can pinto peans
  • (4) 1 oz. packets of taco or fajita seasoning
  • (1) 1 oz. packet of dried ranch dressing seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  •  64 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, black pepper, and cinnamon. Stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of flour into the pot. Allow it to cook over medium heat until it’s browned and smells toasty, about 3-5 minutes (don’t walk away from it, it can burn easily.)

Once you can smell it begin to toast, pour in the chicken broth, the diced tomatoes, green chiles, taco/fajita seasoning, ranch dressing seasoning, bay leaves, honey, and the water/milk. Use a wire whisk to stir to dissolve the flour clumps quicker.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste. Depending upon your taste preferences you may need to add a little more cumin, or onion powder too.  Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes, until it begins to thicken and the flavors begin to meld together.

Taste and adjust for seasoning, then add the chicken and onions back to the pot.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew, uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender.

Add the beans and the corn to the stew, stir with a large spoon and allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with chips, salsa, sour cream, cilantro or melted cheese on top.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #355, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.