Red Velvet Peanut Butter Kisses

I can’t remember where I came across the recipe that these cookies are based on but they sure are delicious. I only made a few minor modifications to the original recipe. And they’re perfect for the holidays. I did experiment with the types of kisses I used and baking the cookies with the kisses already on them vs putting them on after they’re done. I found that the milk chocolate kisses worked best vs the dark chocolate ones. They melted better. Also if you bake the cookies with the kisses already on them they don’t melt and the cookies don’t puff up. Enjoy!

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Red Velvet Peanut Butter Kisses

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp red food coloring
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Dutch processed)
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sanding sugar or sugar sprinkles
  • 1 bag Hershey’s kisses

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 375° and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. I use my stand mixer for this with the paddle attachment. Turn to low and add in the egg, milk, vanilla, and food coloring. When it’s combined turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy again.

Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt. Turn the mixer back down to low and add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Take a tablespoon or so of the dough and roll into a ball. Put the sanding sugar into a shallow dish or bowl, dip the tops of the cookie balls into the sugar and then place them on your cookie sheet with the sugar side up. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

Once the cookies are done press a kiss into the center of each one while still hot from the oven. The cookie will “crack” around the edges, which is what you want. Allow to cool slightly before chowing down.

Lemon Chicken Soup

So I was talking to a friend and for some reason Greek food came up. He mentioned this recipe and I was intrigued. So I turned to my friend Google and looked up several versions before deciding on this one. I’d say the only change I made was to up the garlic and ditch the spinach. Don’t get me wrong, I love spinach, but not in my soup. And I almost always have shredded chicken in the freezer, left over from rotisserie chicken usually. Really the only thing I had to go out and buy was the orzo pasta.  It turned out delicious and was super easy to make. Enjoy!

Lemon Chicken Soup

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 2-3 cups of shredded chicken
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 lemons, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 package of fresh dill, finely chopped

Directions:

I used my Instant Pot for this but if you don’t have one you can just a regular soup pot. On medium heat, or the sauté mode for the Instant Pot, cook the carrots, onion, and garlic in the olive oil with about half the salt for about 10 minutes or until softened. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Once softened, add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add in the orzo and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken (if it’s frozen even better).

Now beat together the eggs and lemon juice. Add a ladle full of the chicken stock mixture at a time, beating it into the egg lemon mixture. The idea here is to slowly bring the egg mixture up to temperature before adding it into the soup. This will prevent the eggs from scrambling and you’ll have a silky, creamy soup base. Once you’ve incorporated 4-5 ladle full pour it into the soup while slowly stirring. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add in the dill and cook for another 10 minutes or until the orzo is completely cooked.

This soup reheats very well but you may need to add a little more stock or water as the orzo can soak up a lot of moisture.

Lemon Garlic Halibut

Like a lot of people, I am trying to include more fish in my diet. I came across this recipe on the internet and it looked good. The original called for Cod but I prefer Halibut instead. I upped the garlic and ditched the parsley. It turned out pretty tasty but next time I’ll increase the amount of spice as it wasn’t as favorable as I had hoped it would be. But then it’s hard to compete with the garlic and lemon. Enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Halibut

  • 2-4 8oz Halibut fillets
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and melted butter in a shallow bowl.

Mix the flour, spices, and salt in another shallow bowl.

In a frying pan that is oven proof, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Pat dry the fish fillets. Dip them in the lemon oil mixture and then into the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour. Add the fish to the skillet and brown on each side, about a minute per side.

Add the minced garlic to the remaining lemon mixture and drizzle over the fish. Put in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with rice or couscous.

Cucumber Gorgonzola Dip

It’s party season. And while desserts and sweets are my specialty, it’s nice to mix it up once in a while. Plus lots of people will take cookies, pies, etc. to a party but not many will bring savory dishes. This recipe is based off of a Giada De Laurentis recipe. I find that it’s best if you refrigerate it for at least 24 hours. This allows all of the flavors to come out and meld together. Enjoy!

 

Cucumber Gorgonzola Dip

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 4oz container of gorgonzola crumbles
  • 1/2 English cucumber, pealed and diced small
  • 1 .66oz container of fresh dill, finely minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Gingerbread Cookies

Tis the season and this last weekend I got the hankering for some good old fashion gingerbread cookies. So I turned to my favorite cookbook and it didn’t disappoint me. I did modify this recipe just a tad, added some ground cloves and used butter instead of shortening. They turned out pretty darn good! Warning, this recipe makes A LOT of cookies. Enjoy!

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Gingerbread Cookies

  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup butter, at room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup dark molasses, I use blackstrap
  • 1/2 cup espresso
  • powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400°. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

In a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add in the molasses and coffee. Add in the flour and beat until mixed well. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough until about 1/4″ thick. Cut out the cookies with a cookies cutter. I used a 2″ round but you can use whatever you like. Bake for 8 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and eat.

As this recipe makes a lot of cookies, make sure to put the dough back in the refrigerator between batched to keep it chilled.

Smokey Bacon Onion Dip

This recipe is based off of one from Giada De Laurentis. As the holiday season is upon us, having a good dip to take to parties is essential.  I switched it up a little bit, added some garlic and liquid smoke. Turned out pretty good according to my coworkers. Enjoy!

 

Smokey Bacon Onion Dip

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz bacon, diced small
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced small
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 package chives (usually .66 oz), finely diced.
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Directions:

In a medium sized skillet on medium heat, sauté the bacon with olive oil until brown and crispy. About 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and put it on a plate lined with paper towels to catch the excess oil.

Add the onions to the skillet with the salt and sauté in the oil/bacon fat. About 15 minutes or until soft and caramelized. Don’t leave it unattended as it can burn. You’ll want to stir it occasionally.  About 1/2 through add in the garlic. Allow the bacon and onion mixture to cool. Combine in a medium bowl with the yogurt, chives, and liquid smoke. Put in a container and allow to chill for at least 1 hour, longer is better. Serve with crackers, chips or vegies.

Peachy Coffee Cake

This coffee cake recipe comes from my country cookbook that my mom gave to me when I moved out on my own. I didn’t modify it much but I think I will the next time I make it. It turned out a little on the dry side in my opinion, although the peach topping really helped with that. Otherwise it was rather tasty and super quick & easy to make. Enjoy!

Coffee Cake

Peachy Coffee Cake

Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Topping:

  • 1 14.5 oz can sliced peaches
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 375°.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice. Add in the oats and chopped almonds.

Combine the milk, egg, and butter. Stir into the flour mixture until moistened. Do not beat. It will seem thick and dry, this is ok.

Spread batter into an 8″ baking pan that’s been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool.

Roughly chop the peaches and spread them on top of the cooled cake. Sprinkle with brown sugar and dribble the melted butter on top. Turn your oven to broil, put the rack in the top slot,  and broil until the topping bubbles and the peaches begin to brown.

 

Lemon Tea Bread

I got this recipe from that country cookbook my mom gave to me years ago. Even though it’s called bread this is more like a pound cake. Delicious, light, and a good lemon flavor. I only modified it slightly, added a little lemon extract and some other things. It originally called for walnuts too but I didn’t think that would go well with lemon. Enjoy!

Lemon Tea Bread

Bread:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest

Glaze:

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Juice of above lemon
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325°.

In a medium bowl beat together the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one and a time and beat until smooth.

In another bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add in the zest of the lemon.

In a small bowl or measuring cup; beat together the eggs, extracts, and milk.

Alternating, add in the flour and milk a little at a time. Beat until just combined.

Spray and line a loaf pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray. Pour in the batter. Bake for 70 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar. Pour over the loaf, it will soak in. Eat.

 

Vodka Cranberry Cake

So one of my coworkers challenged me to make a vodka cranberry dessert. I was like, game on! So I found a recipe for a basic cranberry cake and proceeded to modify it to meet my needs. So here it is, the Stefanico (as I’m going to call it). Instead of fresh cranberries I used dried but I re-hydrated them in a bit of cranberry vodka. Used the left over vodka to flavor the cream cheese frosting. I think it turned out pretty well. Enjoy!

Vodka Cranberry Cake

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup vodka (I used cranberry vodka)

Frosting:

  • 2 8oz packages of cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 2 tbsp. vodka

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Spray a 9″ x 13″ cake pan, or 2 round 9″ cake pans, and line the bottom(s) with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, soak the cranberries in the vodka for at least 30 minutes. Overnight is best.

Shift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add in the sugar and stir to combine.  Beat the eggs until smooth. Add in the milk and melted butter. Fold into the flour mixture until just combined. Don’t over stir!

Strain the cranberries making sure to save the vodka that’s left over. Fold them into the cake batter. Pour into your cake pan(s) and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes our of the center clean. Allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and continue beating until smooth. Add in 2 tbsp. of the reserved vodka and beat until smooth. If it’s too loose add in more sugar until it’s the right consistency. Spoon over the top of your cake and smooth out. Then eat!

Lemon Polenta Cake with Almonds

The inspiration for this recipe came from Jamie Oliver’s show on PBS. I liked it because it’s 1) quick and 2) gluten free. He made his with blood oranges, which I may try sometime in the future, but I had lemons handy and coworkers who love them. So I mixed it up a bit and changed out the syrup that goes along with it. Enjoy!

Lemon Polenta Cake with Almonds

Cake:

  • 14 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1 cup sugar, brown or sugar in the raw if you have it
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups almonds, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Syrup:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325° and line a 8″ springform pan with parchment paper, spraying it with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add in the vanilla and lemon extract.

In a small bowl combine the polenta, lemon zest, almonds, and baking powder. Fold this into the butter/egg mixture. Pour into the springform pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the surface is light brown and a toothpick comes our clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

In a small pan, heat together the honey, water, lemon zest & juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Let it simmer until it’s reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Take a skewer and poke a bunch of holes in the cake. Pour the syrup over the top, it will soak in. Allow the cake to completely cook before removing from the pan. Flip it over carefully, as it’s a bit fragile, and remove the paper from the bottom. Slice and enjoy!