Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Food: Mint Brownie Bites

I love the taste of mint and chocolate and find myself clipping lots of recipes with that combination. This recipe came from a Christmas issue of Good Housekeeping magazine several years ago and is simple and yummy! If you want to use the leftover egg yolk for something, make a double batch of Mint Brownie Bites and use the 2 leftover egg yolks for Melting Moment Cookies!

Mint Brownie Bites

Brownie Bites
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp butter (melted and cooled)
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg white

1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp butter (softened)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 oz white chocolate (melted and cooled)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, melt butter in microwave. Add sugar, honey, vanilla, and egg white and mix until blended. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and mix until blended. You may need to use your hands if it gets too stiff to mix.
With greased hands, shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Press to flatten slightly. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until brownies have cracked slightly. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
In medium bowl, melt butter and white chocolate in microwave. Stir until smooth. Mix in sugar, milk, and peppermint extract until smooth.
Shape 1 tsp topping into disk and place on each cookie.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies. Shape into smaller balls to make more cookies.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Food: Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

The cookies I bake at Christmas often become gifts for friends. One of my friends has begun a gluten-free diet since last Christmas and I wasn't sure what to make for her this year. Fortunately, this recipe for gluten-free cookies appeared in Parade Magazine this month, just in time for Cookie Baking Season! These are yummy!

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed peanuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until well blended.
Form cookies using a teaspoon; place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Make a criss-cross pattern with a fork, flattening cookies. Sprinkle with peanuts.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: If you do need to make these gluten-free, be sure to use peanut butter that doesn't have additives that might include gluten and use plain peanuts, not dry-roasted.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Food: Orange Drop Cookies

It's Christmas Cookie season so I'm afraid I'll have to bore you with cookie recipes for the next month or so. I have a confession to make about Christmas cookies though: I am not a roller, cutter, or fancy froster. I enjoy making a lot of cookies at Christmas time, but I generally make drop cookies, bars, or the type you roll into balls. A dab of frosting is fine, but no fancy flourishes for me. Those cookies might be prettier, but they don't taste enough better to me to merit the extra work. Besides, I always feel guilty biting the head off of a gingerbread man. Who needs that stress during the holidays?

This recipe came from a Quick Cooking magazine and is one I hadn't tried before. Just the cookie didn't taste festive enough for me, so I added the frosting by adjusting another cookie's frosting to have orange extract instead of peppermint. I think the frosting brings them to that festive holiday level. Enjoy!

Orange Drop Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp butter
4 oz white chocolate
4 Tbsp milk
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp orange extract

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, orange juice, and orange peel. Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix well.
Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a non-metal mixing bowl, melt butter and white chocolate in microwave. Add milk, confectioner's sugar, and orange extract. Mix until smooth.
Drizzle frosting onto cooled cookies.

Yield: About 8 dozen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Food: Peanut Butter Brownies

Funny story about these brownies. This is my mom's recipe, I've made these many times before, but I saw another recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies and thought I'd try it to see how they compared. Despite the fact that the recipes were very similar, the blondies weren't very good. They weren't peanut buttery enough for my taste. So I went back and made these brownies. I took them out of the oven thinking they were done and let them cool. When I cut them a while later, they clearly weren't done so I turned the oven back on, put them in to cook a while longer, and overcooked them. Sigh. Third pan of brownies later (my husband hasn't complained by the way), I finally got them right and photogenic enough for Friday Food!

Peanut Butter Brownies

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 oz chocolate chips

Beat peanut butter and butter until blended. Gradually add sugars and beat until fluffy.
Add eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla and spread in a butter 9" square pan.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center tests done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My First NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo? Sounds decadent doesn't it? Well, it is in some ways. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and the November just past was what NaNoWriMo is all about. It gives budding authors the chance to write 50,000 words in 30 days, hopefully culminating in a completed novel. The decadence about it? It gives you permission to spend time with your imagination, creating a story. It gives you the opportunity to say, "Sorry, you'll have to make your own dinner, I'm busy writing my novel." It lets you pursue that novel writing fantasy you've had for years.

Now, I actually am a published author, and received the People's Choice Award for Non-Fiction from the Library of Virginia this year, but I've only written non-fiction. And frankly, writing things that require all that research are a bit torturous for me. You have to be careful to not mislead people. Words have to be carefully chosen. It's a slow process and, for me, there wasn't a lot of imagination involved.

While we were at the awards ceremony in October, I turned to my husband and said, "I want to come back here one day, but as a finalist in the fiction category." I took a novel writing class at the local YMCA several years ago and enjoyed learning more about the process. I hadn't gotten far with the novel, but I did have an idea, a partial plot, and characters. Though I hadn't worked on it since the class, in the back of my mind, I thought I'd pull it together one day.

Somewhere around October 29th, award ceremony fresh in my mind, my friend Sarah Beth Jones at Nary Ordinary posted about NaNoWriMo. We had talked about this event in the class I took, but it just seemed like a crazy idea then. Crazy or not, I headed over to the NaNoWriMo website and signed up. Just like that. And then furiously went looking for my notes from that novel writing class.

I'll say right now, I didn't finish the 50,000 words. I didn't really expect to, though I actually thought about trying to write 10,000 words a day that last week so I could say I finished. What I did do was write 12,047 words. I got to know my character better. I wrote without an outline, so even I don't know what's going to happen next, but I've gotten to a critical point. It's not an impasse; I found that I didn't have any difficulty writing when I sat down to do it. I enjoyed spending time with my imagination. I had fun. And now that I've started, I plan to continue writing and finish this novel. In fact, I'm going to use Sara Beth's FloCoIMo as motivation come January 1st.

Did any of you participate in NaNoWriMo? If so, how did it go?