Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Ground Beef Tortellini

Ground Beef Tortellini - made November 6, 2021, modified from Salt and Lavender
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I used 1 teaspoon onion powder)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 dash Italian seasoning
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/3 cup chicken both
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
10 ounces fresh tortellini
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Brown ground beef and onion in a skillet over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes. Drain excess fat if needed. Stir in garlic and Italian seasoning.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth, cream and tortellini to the pan; stir. Once the sauce starts to bubble, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium; Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover pan, stir and let cook for another few minutes or until tortellini has cooked through. Stir in parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
This was supposed to be made with gnocchi but Trader Joe's still didn't have it and I still had the tortellini from the Costco 2-pack I bought some time ago so I went with that. 
I like the simplicity of this recipe and how easy it is to throw together. The heavy cream guarantees this isn't low-calorie but the diced tomatoes and the chicken broth lighten it up a little and give it enough liquid for the tortellini to cook in.
As you can see from my substitutions, this would work with whatever filled pasta you use as well as with gnocchi; in addition, you can substitute sausage or ground pork for the ground beef. The sauce is pretty versatile and likely the only way I would eat tomatoes as the diced tomatoes didn't bother me (yes, I ate them in this dish). This is a good comfort food dinner on a cold night.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Coconut Almond Bars

Coconut Almond Bars - made November 9, 2021 from Shugary Sweets
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (I used vanilla)
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 bag (14-oz) shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla)

1 bag (12-oz) milk chocolate morsels
1/4 cup caramel sauce
1/2 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 9 x 13" baking pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  2. Crust: beat together butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, extract and egg yolk until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt; beat until combined.
  3. Pat dough into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 5-6 minutes.
  4. While crust is baking, combine toasted coconut, extract and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl. Drop by tablespoons onto partially baked crust. Return to oven and bake an additional 20-22 minutes, until edges of crust are lightly browned.
  5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with milk chocolate chips immediately. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top and add sliced almonds. Cool completely. When cooled, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
This is another one of those recipes I've had on my pinterest board for ages that I've been meaning to try. The pics from Shugary Sweets look so mouthwatering and this has my favorite ingredients: caramel, coconut and chocolate.
I did deviate from the original recipe and used semisweet chocolate rather than milk chocolate. I personally prefer milk chocolate but since I was sending all but a small piece of this in military care packages for Soldiers Angels and I thought there were likely few military service members with my level of sweet tooth, I opted for the semisweet version, especially when this already came with caramel.
For once, I didn't underbake. While I didn't overbake, I think I baked this a minute or two longer than would be my normal preference. They weren't dry but they weren't as gooey looking as on Shugary Sweets' blog. Hmmm.
They still setup and cut well and the bars were good. At least the taste test piece I tasted seemed fine. I might try the milk chocolate version later on though, add more caramel and underbake a little, just to get that gooey factor.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Stamped Cookies #11 - and a plug for Kitchen Vixen

Stamped Cookies #11 - made November 5, 2021 from Masala Herb 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder, optional
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla bean paste, mixing until just combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together salt, baking powder, cardamom and cinnamon if using, flour and cornstarch.
  3. Add dry ingredients in two separate additions to butter mixture, mixing after each addition until combined. Divide in half and pat into thick discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  4. When chilled, roll out each disc to 1/4" thickness. Stamp and/or cut into desired impressions and shapes. Freeze, covered, for 10-15 minutes.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space chilled cookie shapes. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.
Allow me to go into raptures over two things in this post. I'll start with the cookie mold set from Kitchen Vixen. I bought the Eva's Lace set and a scallop-edged cookie cutter from her Etsy shop. As you can see from the pictures here, they were well packaged and protected so they arrived in pristine shape.

As you can also see here, the cookie mold is just gorgeous. The set comes with the imprint you see above as well as a cutter to cut the whole cookie (complete with scallop/fluted edges that fit the design), a smaller star-shaped cutter if you want to cut out the star pattern in the middle and a small round cutter to cut the very center piece out.

So you can easily make all sorts of different-looking cookies with just this one set. Simply gorgeous. Need I say high quality, small business, made in the USA? As always, these opinions are my own, I'm not affiliated with Kitchen Vixen other than as a customer, I don't make any money if you click on the link to take you to her Etsy shop. I simply provide it so you can check it out for yourself. This was my first purchase from her but it won't be my last. Guaranteed. But that's another post.

The second thing I'm going into raptures about in this post is this recipe from Masala Herb. If you've been following my cookie stamp obsession over the past year, you might understand "obsession" is a mild word. Like saying the sun is "a little warm".
I've tried multiple recipes for stamped cookies and while most of them have handled decently well and the unbaked cookies look great, the true test is how the cookies look after baking. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves how well the impressions held after baking with this recipe. Spoiler: they freaking totally held.
I'm so thrilled. The taste was also good. I know I make that sound almost incidental but I'm still thrilling over how well the impressions held. Don't overbake or they will seem a bit hard when they cool. This has a lot of flour and cornstarch relative to the amount of sugar so it isn't that sweet. The dough may also be a little stiff so be judicious on whether you need that last 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour. I used all the flour but my dough was a bit dry so I added additional vanilla but you can see from some of the dark spots in my dough that I didn’t mix it in too well. I didn’t want to overmix the dough so I couldn’t get the additional vanilla mixed in evenly.
Regardless, I had fun playing with the different cookie cuttings and made sandwich cookies with a couple, sandwiched with cookie butter of course but you can also use Nutella or any other filling you choose. The cookie makes a nice backdrop to showcase a more flavorful filling.

The smaller star shape cut will make for dainty cookies if that's what you're going for, perfect to serve at a tea. If you don't want to use as sandwich cookies and want a bit more sweetness, sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar before baking. I preferred to leave them plain so the design of the cookie mold is apparent.
To circle back to Kitchen Vixen, treat yourself on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday with a purchase from her Etsy shop. If you like cookie stamping, you’ll love her products. I know I do.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies - made dough October 14, 2021 from Life Made Simple Bakes 
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature
splash milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar and powdered sugar until combined, creamy and no lumps remain. Beat in oil, pumpkin and vanilla extract until just combined. Beat in egg and yolk until just combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition. Do not overmix.
  4. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion chilled dough into golf-ball size dough balls and evenly space onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten each dough ball slightly with the bottom of a glass or jar to 1/2-inch thickness. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until edges are set and middles no longer look raw. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Make the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, vanilla and salt for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar in 1 cup increments, beating on low speed after each addition. Add the cream cheese and splash of milk on low speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes until well combined. Frost cooled  cookies and dust tops with cinnamon, if desired.
This is reminiscent of the Glazed Pumpkin Sugar Cookies I've blogged before from Together as a Family's blog. The ingredient list is similar; it's just the proportion of those ingredients that differ slightly.
I made the earlier ones over two years ago and can't remember them other than what I wrote that they weren't too sweet, were soft and cakey and dense. I would say the same thing of this version from Life Made Simply Bakes.
I liked these as well and they seemed fitting for the season. Do not overbake these. They won't look done at the 10-minute mark but don't bake them longer than 15 minutes unless your oven really runs cool and they still look raw at 15 minutes. 

The oil and the pumpkin keep these cookies moist and dense; don't overbake or you won't get that "fudgy" texture in the cooled cookie. These don't spread much so make them the thickness and size you want the finished cookie to be.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Stamped Cookies #10 - Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies (Stamped Cookies #10) - made dough October 26, 2021 from Beyond the Butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Hazelnut spread, cookie butter or any other filling of your choice
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the unsalted butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until well combined and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla extract.
  3. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating on low speed after each addition, until just combined.
  4. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or more.
  5. When ready to bake, roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness onto a floured surface. If dough is too cold to roll out easily, let sit on kitchen counter for 15-20 minutes before rolling.
  6. Lightly flour or sugar cookie stamps and stamp out cookies from rolled dough. Place in a single layer and freeze for 10 minutes. 
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly space stamped cookies. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Once cookies are cool, place filling in Ziploc bag and seal. Depending on your filling, you may want to warm in microwave for 15 seconds to make piping more easy. Snip a corner of the ziploc bag and pipe filling into each indentation.
I first saw these thumbprint stamps from - where else - pinterest. I was immediately taken with them so, of course, I had to buy a set for myself. They're available at Williams Sonoma and, if you believe Williams Sonoma, only at Williams Sonoma. Link here. I'm not affiliated with Williams Sonoma and that isn't an affiliate link and I don't make any money on it if you click on it and buy or not buy. I just linked it in case anyone wants to look further into it; now you know where to get it.

My stamping skills still need some practice as you'll see from some of the pictures. Sometimes I didn't use enough dough and the cookie didn't fully form all the way to the edges. Sometimes I used a little too much dough and the cookies came out thick. Sometimes I used too little dough and the cookies were thin. If I baked thin and thick cookies on the same cookie sheet, the thinner cookies baked more than the thicker ones. 
But, to me, none of that matters. Yes, it'd be nice to have uniform perfection but it doesn't bother me if things don't look perfect. For one thing, taste is always more important to me than appearance. For another, baking as a hobby is for fun, not for commercial resale or perfection. So no matter how your baked goods turn out, have fun making them and sharing them. That's what it's about.
And I've been having a lot of fun with new cookie stamps and making pretty cookies. Chocolate dough can be a little more tricky to work with than non-chocolate dough. The cocoa powder makes for a more dry dough and if you chill this for too long, the dough crumbles more and is more difficult to work with.
Case in point, this dough was already so stiff when I finished mixing it that I ended up not needing to chill it before I formed it with the cookie stamps. I did liberally sugar the dough balls before I stamped the thumbprints and that helped prevent sticking.
As you can see, this held their shape really well. Don't overbake them as you want the texture to be soft and not crumbly. I used some dough to form into my other new cookie molds shown below (available on etsy). I was running out of dough so the cookies were a little thinner. 
You can see the heart cookie on the bottom left was a little misshapen after baking. I think I accidentally stretched that left side slightly when I (gingerly) got the dough out of the mold. Top left round wreath cookie was also a little thinner than the others as I ran out of dough so it baked a little more than the others did. Oh well :).