Thursday, February 16, 2017

Almond Crunch Cookies

As I've mentioned once, twice, or maybe a dozen times, I am in the process of cleaning up, clearing out, de-cluttering, and donating. Essentially, I'm involved in the proper dispersal of my late husband's vast collection of books. When I say vast collection, I'm talking more than a thousand. In fact, after 5000, I stopped counting. There have been a more than few treasures among all of these.
As I was carting the latest pile upstairs to box up for donation, a small Pillsbury cookbook fell out of the stack, hit the floor, and opened to this page. This is the kind of thing that I call fate. Was the great beyond telling me that I needed to make these cookies? Maybe, maybe not, but I made them anyway.
As much as I love to eat them -- cookies are my favorite dessert -- I'm not a fan of making them, but I do, on occasion; today was one of those occasions. I really hate baking cookies that have to be rolled into balls, and then again in sugar, and then need to be flattened this way and then that with the tines of a fork. What trouble! These cookies, however, are worth the trouble.

 The recipe refers to them as giant cookies, yielding a cookie 4 inches in diameter. I didn’t find this to be the case. The size was perfect, I thought, and rolling them into balls resulted in a rather boring cookie, so after doing this a dozen times, I just decided to plop a glob right from the cookie scoop into a bowl of sugar, roll it around, and place in on the cookie sheet.  Much better! I also did not have wheat flour, so substituted almond meal and it worked out perfectly! Give these a try, they're addicting.

You can see the recipe from the book above, my version is below and available  via the "Print" button at the bottom of this post.
Almond Crunch Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups coarsely chopped almonds
1 6-ounce package almond brittle baking chips
Sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, blend sugar, powdered sugar, butter, and oil until well mixed. Add almond extract and eggs; mix well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Gradually blend in flour, almond meal, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar at low speed. By hand, stir in almonds and brickle chips. Chill, if desired. Shape large tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; roll in sugar. Place 5 inches apart on greased cookie sheets; with fork dipped in sugar, flatten in crisscross pattern.

Bake for 12 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Cool cookies one minute before removing from cookie sheets.

Yield 3-1/2 dozen four-inch cookies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Avocado and Corn Salsa

For me, Aldi is a bad, bad place. I don't know what it is about walking into that store, but for a small grocer, I can do one heck of a lot of damage. The produce section, the vegetable section in particular, is probably not a whole lot bigger than my dining table, and yet, I can fill half of my cart with their lovely, fresh produce. It wasn't until I got to the checkout, my cart absolutely bursting with items (Yes, I did treat myself to a bottle of wine, some baklava, and a few other goodies.), when I realized that I had probably spent way too much. I do try to stay on a budget, but that budget goes right out the window once I walk into the door.

Because today is Valentine's Day, and it's the first I'm spending on my own, I bought myself a couple treats, including two bundles of tulips, and two bags of avocados. These may not seem like treats to you -- some of you may prefer chocolates to avocados -- but they certainly are to me. I love tulips, and I really love avocados. Of course in buying the avocados I realized that I have to use them, so decided it was time for a fresh salsa to enjoy in celebration of our unseasonably warm weather, and get me in the mood for spring.

If you have a touch of spring fever like I do, and if you like fresh delicious vegetables in the form of salsa, you'll love this recipe.
Avocado and Corn Salsa

2 ripe avocados, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen (if the latter, allow to thaw)
2 Tablespoons diced scallions
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cumin

Gently toss avocado with the lime juice. Add tomato, corn, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro to the mixing bowl and gently toss to mix. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, to taste. Enjoy!

I particularly like it with Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge

Every time I go to visit my dad, I like to take him a special treat. He does love his sweets, and I know he misses my mom making them. As of this past Saturday, she has been gone now for four years, and it's a tough time for us both, not to mention our extended family.

From the time I was very small, dinner was not dinner without dessert. Ask my hips, and they'll tell you that I am wearing desserts I should have said "no" to. Dad tends to eat nothing but frozen meals because he isn't much of a cook, and has no interest in becoming one, and while I take him what I can, I think he most appreciates the goodies. Over the years I have delivered cookies, coffee cakes, cupcakes, and pie, but I think his favorite must be fudge; I seem to get the biggest reaction from that. One time he told me that he tasted the fudge early in the day, and then kept going back for another nibble. By day's end he realized he had consumed a pound of fudge. I figure anybody who is in as good health as he is, and is as old mature as he is, deserves to eat fudge.
I was looking for new fudge recipes and wanted to do something different to take in the last time I visited. I happened across this one, and it sounded like a winner. It also sounded easy to put together, plus I had everything on hand, so, why not? It was as easy as I’d suspected, and tasted like Andes mints. I am a huge mint and chocolate fan, and figured that the apple hadn't fallen far from the tree. It really hadn't, dad loved this fudge.
Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge*
2-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk, divided
1-1/2 cups white chocolate baking chips
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops green food coloring
1 teaspoon shortening
1/2 cup Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips

Line an 8" x 8" baking pan with foil, leaving a two-inch overhang on each side for easy lifting from the pan. Spray foil with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1-1/2 cups chocolate chips with 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, stirring occasionally. Spread melted chocolate mixture into pan and chill for 5-10 minutes.

In another saucepan, melt white baking chips and remaining condensed milk, stirring until completely smooth. Remove from the heat and add peppermint extract and food coloring. Spread mint layer over chilled chocolate layer. Chill for 5-10 minutes as you make the final layer.

Melt remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 tsp shortening in the microwave in 30-second increments. Stir until completely smooth. Spread over chilled mint layer. Top with Andes baking chips. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until fudge is completely set (could take up to 4 hours).

Using foil edges, carefully lift from pan onto cutting board. Peel away foil and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to two weeks. According to the recipe, this fudge will freeze and thaw well, but, honestly, is fudge ever around long enough to necessitate freezing?

*As seen on Sally's Baking Addiction


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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slow Cooker Christmas Day Taco Soup

It just occurred to me that I have not yet shared with you an easy soup recipe that simmers all day in the slow cooker while you are busy getting a bunch of things done. So, for today's "Sip Some Soup Sunday" I'm going to give you the recipe for the soup that I made on Christmas Day.

There's a bit of a back-story here. On Christmas Day I did nothing other than cook and clean. This is because my big party is on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. Honestly, I don't mind spending Christmas Day on my own. It's very calming; I can pretty much relax and enjoy myself between frantic bits of cooking and cleaning. I'll binge watch Christmas movies on television, always have a nice fire going in the fireplace, and it's become a bit of a ritual for me over the past number of years. Around about noon I came to the realization that while I was making all kinds of food for my party the next day, I hadn’t done anything about feeding myself that day. So, I opened up the pantry grabbed a wide variety of ingredients, all with a bit of a Mexican theme, and tossed them into the crockpot while I browned some ground chuck. As it cooked, the house was filled with the most wonderful spicy aroma, and by day’s end I dug into a most welcome and fabulous soup. This is an easy one, and it's really good.
 Slow Cooker Christmas Day Taco Soup

1 pound ground chuck, crumbled, browned, and drained
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz. can corn, drained
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 10-oz. can Rotel tomatoes
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

Dump everything into the slow cooker in the order listed and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Top with whatever tickles your fancy. I used scallions, grated cheese, and crumbled Fritos.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry

These days I am all about finding meals that are quick and easy. I have so many irons in the fire at the moment that I just don't have a lot of time to cook. So, while I was looking through recipes on, I found one called Coconut Chicken Curry in a Hurry, and I knew that was for me. Then I read the recipe. I would have to stand at the stove for 22 minutes! What's quick and easy about that? I don't want to stand at the stove at all. In taking a good look at the recipe, deciding that I wanted no stove time whatsoever, and really did not want to cut chicken breasts into chunks, I adapted it for the crockpot.

You really have to love those crockpots. They make life so darned easy. The recipe turned out wonderfully, and is a great candidate for the freezer. If you're like me, and you don't want to spend your time slaving over a stove, grab your crockpot, set it on your counter, and make it as welcome as any member of your family. That's the way I feel about mine.
Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry

Adapted from

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (preferably full-fat)
1 (2 1/2") piece ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
5 ounces baby spinach
1 cup frozen peas

Toss chicken with curry powder, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until well coated. Place breasts into the bottom of a slow cooker. Top with chopped onion.

Purée coconut milk, ginger, and garlic in a blender until very smooth. Pour on top of onions and seasoned breasts.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Shred chicken in the crockpot and then stir in spinach and peas; cook an additional 30 minutes. Top with cilantro. Serve with rice or naan alongside.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Accidental Asparagus Tart

This recipe is the result of my having thawed puff pastry sheets, thinking they were actually piecrusts. In order to save room, I'll often take the puff pastry sheets, shells, and piecrusts out of their respective boxes, and pop them into the freezer as it allows me more packing room. Never in the past have I mistaken one for the other, until now. My intention was to make a ham, Gruyere, and asparagus quiche. Instead I ended up making a ham, Gruyere, and asparagus tart.

What a wonderful mistake this turned out to be! This is one of the easiest things you can possibly make, and quite delicious. I sliced diagonally and served it along with a leafy green salad. You could slice it into bigger squares to serve as a main dish, slice into small squares to serve as an appetizer, or do what I did, and serve it with a side of soup or salad. Whatever you decide to do, you need to give this a try. It is easy, and delicious, and looks a whole lot fancier than it is. What more can one ask?
Accidental Asparagus Tart

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
½ pound fresh asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1-1/2” pieces
1 cup cubed ham
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Place puff pastry onto a cutting board and slice into two equal portions. Using a sharp knife, cut slices into edges of dough about 1" towards the center, all of the way around.

Top each puff pastry rectangle with shredded cheese, asparagus spears, and ham. Drizzle top of tarts with olive oil and cracked pepper.
Using a spatula, carefully place onto Silpat-lined baking sheet (or, you can just build them directly onto the Silpat). Bake for 20-25 minutes until asparagus are tender, and pastry is puffed and golden.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Better than Bread Co.’s* Cream Cheese Potato Soup (*Panera, if you must)

If you were paying attention while reading yesterday's post, then you doubled the amount of jalapeno cream cheese. The reason that I asked you to do that was because of this recipe right here, based upon a copycat for Panera's Cream Cheese Potato Soup. I like their potato soup, but I was looking for more zip and zing. So, when I made that grilled cheese sandwich, I just knew that I was going to use jalapeno cream cheese in making the potato soup. What a huge difference this made in taste! This really kicks potato soup up a big notch, and will make any that you serve memorable. Anybody can make potato soup, but only someone special can make it with a tasty kick like this.
Better than Bread Co.’s* Cream Cheese Potato Soup
 (*Panera, if you must)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cut into chunks
1 fresh jalapeno, minced and seeded
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
14 cup minced onion
12 teaspoon seasoning salt
14 teaspoon white pepper
14 teaspoon ground red pepper

In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, jalapeño, and garlic powder; set aside.

Combine broth, potatoes, onion, and spices in a medium stockpot. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender, 10-12 minutes depending upon the size of your dice of the potatoes.

Smash a few of the potatoes to release their starch for thickening. Reduce to low heat. Stir in cream cheese/jalapeno mixture, and continue stirring until cheese melts.

Serve, garnished as you see fit. I used chopped scallions, grated smoked cheddar, and homemade croutons.