Vanilla Sugar Shortbread Wedges

Last year, I took part in the LA Food Bloggers Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry!  I met so many wonderful bloggers and had a great time.  Plus, I had BLD‘s life-changing Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes.  So really, it was a win-win day!

This year, my wonderful husband spotted a newspaper article asking for volunteer bakers for a No Kid Hungry Bake Sale closer to home!  The Redlands Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry sponsored by a Team called the IE Cookie Monsters.  It had to be fate!  You know how I feel about cookies!!

After sending an Email to Team IE Cookie Monsters, I started planning what I wanted to bake. Of course, I had to make brownies. That seems to be a tradition now.  I knew I wanted to do something different, but what?   After a bit of recipe searching, I settled on these easy and delicious Vanilla Sugar Shortbread Wedges.  They are thick, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, have with a cup of tea on a rainy day, cookies.
Scored Shortbread Wedges

I’m planning on making these again for Mothers Day.  That is, if I can wait that long for another batch.

Vanilla Sugar Shortbread

Vanilla Sugar Shortbread

Ingredients:

2 Sticks Unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup Vanilla Sugar (or regular sugar, with one tsp vanilla bean paste), plus extra for dusting

1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

2 cups Flour

1 tsp salt

Directions:

In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until it turns a pale yellow.  On a sheet of parchment paper, sift sugars together using a fine mesh sieve. Pick up the parchment paper and use it to gently add sugar mix to the butter. Continue to beat until thick and creamy (about 5 minutes).  If you are using regular sugar, add the vanilla paste after you’ve creamed the sugar and butter together.

Sift flour and salt together over the same sheet of parchment paper.  Add to butter/sugar mix, mix until just incorporated.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

After dough has chilled, press gently in an 8″ round cake pan.  No need to grease the pan, there is plenty of butter in the dough!  Score the dough into wedges, so it will be easier to cut when it’s done baking.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the top of the shortbread has barely browned.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Cut the shortbread along the score marks, forming eight large wedges.  Dust lightly with 1 tsp granulated sugar.

Share these with a friend and a cup of hot tea or coffee.

Vanilla Shortbread Wedges

NOTE:  These make very thick cookies.  You can split the dough in half and use two cake pans.  Shorten your cooking time to 35-40 minutes (watch carefully).  You can also roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and use cookie cutters.  If you use cookie cutters, place the dough back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking.  Baking cold cookies will help them maintain their shape.

ENJOY!!

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Peanut Butter Cookies with Mini Chips and Smoked Sea Salt

Everyone has their favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. I love peanut butter cookies rolled in sugar with a Hershey Kiss in the middle. These are perfect Valentine treats!

Next to the famous Toll House Cookie recipe, I think these are my husbands favorite! I didn’t have any Kisses in the house, but I did have mini chocolate chips and smoked sea salt. I thought it would be a fun way to say “Welcome Home” and “Happy Friday!” to my favorite Valentine!

Here is how they turned out…
Mini Chip Smoked Sea Salt Peanut Butter Cookies

Not bad, right? You should make a dozen (or three) for your favorite Valentine!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Mini Chips and Smoked Sea Salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter – use your favorite!
11/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp smoked sea salt

In a stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, all of the brown sugar and continue to beat at least two minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing for one minute between each egg.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Stop the blender and scrape down the sides. Add flour mixture all at once into batter. Mix on low-speed until just combined. Remove from the mixer, scrape down the sides and incorporate any leftover flour mix that may not have gotten mixed in. Place the mixing bowl in refrigerator for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in sugar before placing them on parchment lined baking sheets. Dip a fork in the remaining sugar and flatten each ball, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown slightly around the edges.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of mini chips on each cookie. Sprinkle the whole batch lightly with smoked sea salt.

Let cool completely and enjoy!

The Top 12 of 2012!

The year is drawing to a close. As we say goodbye to 2012, I want to share with you the Top 12 posts of the year (according to Word Press!) It’s been fabulously delicious journey and I am looking forward to seeing what new things we can eat and experience together in 2013!

Number 12: Follow That Chef – Kirsten Gum!
Chef Kirsten Gum
Kirsten is a crack up! She is one of the most down to earth and vibrant people I met this year. I was blessed not only to follow her around the Santa Monica Farmers Market, but also take several other classes with her at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. Coming in at Number 12 and the ONLY Follow That Chef to make it into the top 12!

Number 11: Ghirardelli Brownies!
IMG_2145
I have never been shy about being a self-proclaimed “Ghirardelli Girl” (that really should be trademarked!) I made these brownies after the Ghirardelli outlet opened just a few miles from my house. The girl working there suggested this recipe to another customer and I was HOOKED! The variations of these brownies are only limited to your favorite flavor of Ghirardelli chocolate squares!

Number 10: Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Cheesecake Filling!
Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Cheesecake Filling!
These were a Valentines Day treat I made for my store team. As I recall, I had to make two batches because they disappeared so quickly! They are a sweet combination of three of my favorite things!

Number 9: PBK Brownie Bars!
PBK Brownie Bars
Brownies layered with peanuts and chopped peanut butter cups,then covered with chocolate rice crispy treats. I made them originally as bowling snacks and they took off from there! My very first guest post on another blog, I shared these brownies! I took them to the Share Our Strength LA Food Bloggers Bake Sale this year and have made them several times since. If you haven’t tried them yet, you’re missing out!

Number 8: Sweet Heaven Bars
Sweet Heaven Bars
Another bowling snack favorite! Chocolate chips, Toffee Chips and a gooey Caramel Center! It’s a triple threat of awesome-ness!

Number 7: Chocolate dipped Potato Chip Cookies!
Chocolate and Potato Chip Cookies
Thanks to Smitten Kitchen and Chef Emeril Lagasse, these cookies have quickly become a family favorite! A brilliant way to use the crumbs at the bottom of a potato chip bag. They go from brilliant to legendary when you dip them in chocolate. YUM!

Number 6: Bacon wrapped Jalapeño Poppers!
Bacon wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
We’ve made these for Christmas Parties, New Years Eve Parties, Superbowl Parties, Fourth of July celebrations! They are perfect for any celebration really! For a simple vegetarian version, just omit the bacon.

Number 5: Chocolate Caramel Surprise Crackle Cookies!
Chocolate Crackle Cookies with a caramel center
The most recent of my posts to make it into the top 12, these Chocolate Caramel Surprise Crackle Cookies are deceptively simple to make and very hard to resist! The caramel center is a sweet surprise hidden in these indulgent cookies!

Number 4: Chocolate Chip Cookie and Oreo Brownie Bars
Chocolate Chip and Oreo Brownie Bars
Another layered bar from our bowling days! My youngest son made these recently for a “Bake Off” at work. That’s right, my boy bakes! He won first prize with them too. 🙂 They are very decadent!

Number 3: Zucchini and Potato Pancakes!
Zucchini and Potato Pancakes
I am so happy these savory pancakes made it into the top 5! This was one of the first recipes I made from my Sunday’s With Joy cooking group. Cooking and baking our way through Joy The Bakers cookbook has been awesome. I’ve learned so much from Joy and from our group! There are so many talented people out there! Plus, I love Zucchini and this post has some of my favorite photos too. Food as art! Who knew?!?!

Number 2: Santa Hat Brownie Bites!
Santa Hat Brownie Bites
Adorable little brownie bites with frosting and a strawberry “hat” on top! These are perfect treats for Christmas parties! P.S. They are kind of like potato chips… no one can eat just one!

We’ve made it all the way to #1! DRUM ROLL PLEASE! Taking the top spot by a landslide…

NUMBER 1: Melted Snowman Cookies!!
Melted Snowman Cookies
I LOVE the expressions on these cookies! They are my greatest accomplishment in cookie making thus far. They are also probably part of the reason most of you are here, so THANK YOU for that!!

Hmmm… in looking over this list, I wonder if I should be concerned that nine of the top twelve are desserts, eight have chocolate in them, five are made with brownies and only two are savory? Nahhhh! It’s just been a SWEET year!

Thank you so much for joining me on my culinary adventures! I hope the coming year brings bright blessings for all of us and perhaps a few more savory items. 😉

Cookies!

Last week, the postman delivered a package with a cookie label on it!!
Blogger Box

Inside was a cute box and a sweet note…
Cookie Box

Then inside the box were COOKIES!!!!!
Lacy's Cookies

MUCH thanks to Lacy at NYCity Eats! It was exciting to get these Eggnog Snicker Doodle bites of deliciousness! I’ll be hanging out around her blog waiting for the recipe and if you like Eggnog, you’ll be there too!

Chocolate Caramel Surprise Crackle Cookies!

It’s the holiday season and I think this might be our Christmas Card this year…
Chocolate Caramel Crackle Cookies

Ok, I’m kidding! But it looks good, right?

With the hustle and bustle of parties, family, friends, work obligations, decorating and shopping everyone needs a simple, easy, looks-like-you-spent-hours-on-it-but-really-didn’t treat! Here it is. My gift to you. You’re welcome! 🙂
Chocolate Crackle Cookies with a caramel center

Chocolate Caramel Crackle Surprise Cookies!
(recipe inspired by the back of the Ghirardelli box and leftover candy in my pantry!)

Ingredients
1 box of your favorite Brownie Mix (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate!)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup powdered sugar (reserved for coating)
30 Rolo mini’s, unwrapped. (Be creative! Any small candy treat will work-mini peanut butter cups, Hershey’s kisses, maraschino cherries, use whatever you’d like!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Place brownie mix, flour, eggs and oil in a medium bowl. Stir until blended. Place powdered sugar in a separate bowl. For each cookie, scoop 1 rounded tablespoon of dough and wrap it around a single piece of candy. Roll the dough gently in your palm to form a ball. Place the dough ball in the powdered sugar and roll again until coated completely. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Depending on your oven, bake 10-13 minutes until the cookies have crackled and look a bit dry on the top. Do not let them brown!

Makes 30 cookies

Start to finish these cookies took me about an hour to complete. Not bad, right? Don’t worry, it will be our secret. I’ll swear you spent forever on them. Now, let’s grab a glass of milk and share something sweet!

Chocolate Caramel Crackle Cookies

Till next time Foodie Friends!

My year (and then some) in review!

A month or so ago, while a bear was stealing our delicious double-smoked bacon, my blog passed it’s one year blog-iversary! I’m very late in doing a recap. Please forgive me!

I guess if there is one thing you should know about me, I’m “chronologically challenged.” To any potential or current employers, of course, I’m only kidding. To the rest of you, I will be late for my own funeral. I think it’s genetic.

Moving on!

This year has been an amazing, wonderful, roller-coaster adventure ride! As I look through the pictures on my computer and the ones etched on my heart, I’m humbled at how richly I’ve been blessed. I have met many incredible people, taken a crazy number of cooking classes, and been fortunate enough to meet some amazing Chefs!

One of the biggest blessings from the last year is a great friendship with someone who goes along on foodie adventures, encourages every foodie whim, finds awesome opportunities and when we’re out, she never eats until I’ve taken pictures of her food. 🙂 Thanks Marie!
This is her, hiding behind a basket she won at the O.C. Chocolate Festival VIP party!
She is totally made of awesome sauce!

With over 30 cooking classes in the past 13 months, I have learned to make things like classic French Macarons (I never knew cookies could have “feet!”), risotto, rolled meatloaf, cake pops, doughnuts, pickles, frittatas, strawberry jam, potato wrapped fish, crepes, foccacia bread, Provençal chicken, grilled pizza dough, hand-made pasta and how to use chocolate in a variety of things! Like I need an excuse for that last one, right? HA! There were a couple of classes that were terrible, but in the end, they ALL taught me something. Even if that something was what NOT to do when I have my own cooking classes. 😉

Some of the best things I learned to make on my own this year, either through the internet, cookbook or a recipe from a Chef, have been vanilla extract, gallettes – both sweet and savory, bangers and mash, homemade chicken pot pie, pumpkin pie from real pumpkins, melted snowman cookies, root beer float cookies for ice cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped potato chip cookies, hot wings, cheesecake stuffed strawberries, spicy baked rigatoni, egg rolls, fish tacos, lemon curd, avocado fries, potato pancakes, seared scallops, jicima slaw, Julia’s beef bourgeon, quinoa salad and a copy cat version of Northwoods Inn Cabbage Salad. Yep, it’s been a delicious year!

I’ve followed a dozen Chefs around the Santa Monica Farmers Market through The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories – Follow That Chef series! They each imparted wisdom, great experiences and taught me how to make my own Ricotta cheese (Thank you Chef Jeremy!) how to make raw spring rolls (Thanks Kirsten Gum!) all about Lardoons (Thank you Linda Civitello!) how to make my own chorizo (Thank you Chef Paul Osher!) about fantastic Thai vegetarian dishes (Thank you Michael Natkin!) how to poach salmon in oil and make a plate look stunning (Thank you MasterChef Tracy Kontos!) different ways to enjoy heirloom tomatoes (Thank you Gwen Kenneally) not to be afraid of Kale Chips and beet salad (Thank you Suzanne Landry!) and so much more!!!

I’ve gotten autographed cookbooks from: Gwen Kenneally, Michael Natkin, Joy Wilson, Suzanne Landry, Warren Catterson, Laura Werlin, Tyler Florence, Mario Batali, and Guy Fieri! Even more exciting, I’ve met each of them, with the exception of Mario Batali, Tyler Florence and Warren Catterson. Warren and I are in the same food bloggers group on FB and we’ve chatted before, but, Mario and Tyler, if you want to meet for coffee somewhere, I’m Ok with that too! 😀

I’ve had fantastic “food experiences” this year! The IE food truck festival, the O.C. Chocolate Festival, LA Food and Wine (the first year), Brew ‘B’ Que on the Pier, The Share Our Strength Bake Sale, Taste of the Nation – Los Angeles, an audition for a TV show, LA Food and Wine (the sequel), just to name a few.

Most importantly this year, I’ve learned to be fearless in my own kitchen! I’ve developed a passion for trying different foods, cooking with fresh, natural ingredients and experiencing LIFE in each delicious moment.

These are opportunities and things I NEVER would have imagined if I hadn’t started this blogging journey last year. Next year, I’ll be taking you along to more places, more classes and more events! I’m so excited about what the next few months have in store! I’m especially looking forward to many, many new foodie adventures and I hope you’ll be joining me for each of them!

P.S. Did I mention I met Guy Fieri…. TWICE! SQUEEEEE!!

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