White Chocolate Ginger Snap Cookies

So my second new cookie experiment this year was a white chocolate dipped ginger cookie. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make ginger snaps and found this recipe on pintrest.

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The cookies themselves ended up taking a long time to bake, I’m guessing because of the molasses.

White chocolate can be hard to work with it can burn easily or harden quickly. So I decided to use my fondue pot to dip the white chocolate halves; the perfect solution.

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I found a sprinkles pack that had red balls, and Christmas trees. This worked out perfect to make holly. I think they were the biggest hit this year because they are so attractive and they taste great.

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Unfortunately the pictures you see are the leftovers least attractive cookies, but they taste just as good as the rest.

I do not have a modified recipe for them yet but I got the recipe from a fellow blogger Cookingclassy

Hope you are all enjoying the holiday season!

 

Holiday Velvet Cookies

So if you follow my blog at all you know I love to bake and most of all to bake cookies. And Christmas is the perfect time of year to experiment with new recipes.  This year I did two new experiments.

In the past I have worked with several different cake mixes to make cookies for more on this see 4th of July funfetti cookies or strawberry cheesecake cookies.

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So when I saw in the store a holiday velvet cake mix I thought: why not? I have before done a cake mix cookie for Christmas with the funfetti cake, but I had to add a lot of food coloring to make them festive.

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So this year the color was already in the mix and they turned out great! Similar to the other cake mix cookies I used the cake mix, vegetable oil, but this time I also add a little extra coco for a stronger velvet taste and cheesecake pudding mix.

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Here’s the full recipe below.

Holiday Velvet Cheesecake Cookies

Makes about 32 cookies

Prep time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

  • 1 box Holiday Funfetti cake mix
  • 1 ½ small box instant cheesecake pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ C of flour
  • ¼ C coco
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white baking chips, divided

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, vegetable oil spray, or a Silpat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, coco and flour
  3. Add in the 3 eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla until a dough forms
  4.  Stir in  the white chips.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
  6. Press a few chips onto the tops of each cookie or seasonal sprinkles

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies just start to lightly brown.

 

The centers will still be very soft – that’s okay!

Cool for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

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To make them extra festive I rolled the tops of the cookies in red, white, and green sprinkles and placed a snowflake on each. They are bright, ,moist, colorful and most of all taste great!

And for the second experiment . . .  you’ll have to wait for the next blog.

Flashback: March Maple Season

I know it’s April but as I wrote before I”m trying to catch up on our March events.

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When we moved to our house in October. For more see https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/im-back/. My sister in law Stina who was helping us move said she thought most of the trees  behind our house were maple. By the time we moved their bright yellow leaves covered the ground.

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We had seen signs along roads with a tree tapped with a bucket next to it and been to farmers markets were local maple syrup was sold.But we had never toured a local maple syrup farm, until this past March.

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All across Upstate New York during March or April is a Maple Weekend. For more see http://www.nysmaple.com/nys-maple-weekend/ when local maple syrup producers open up their doors for tours of their facilities, hikes through their maple trees, children events, sales on their maple products and pancake breakfasts served with their maple syrup.

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This year we chose to go to Wohlschegels sugaring facility near Naples NY. For more on this local maple producer click here: http://www.fingerlakesbulkmaplesyrup.com/

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By the time we got to the sugaring facility they had opened up the back end of their syrup/sugar processing building and filed it with tables and chairs for a pancake breakfast. We payed a small prices for all you can eat pancakes and were given generous portions of pancakes and sausage.

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We got coffee (they had maple flavored coffee as well) and enjoyed looking around and at the menu which advertised all the local maple weekend events in the area.

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After breakfast we sampled some of their products: maple mustard, syrup, creams and enjoyed an indoor tour on how they process  sap and turn it into syrup.

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Luke enjoyed the chemistry lesson and told me later that from what he heard much of the new technology for processing the sap to syrup  adapted from the brewing process for beer.

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We decided not to do the hike through the snow to the maple trees, maybe next year.

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After going to this local maple events I decided for a spring break treat to make maple cream sandwich cookies with local maple syrup and a light cinnamon vanilla buttercream. For the recipe and more on this go to:

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Do you like pancakes? Do you dip them in syrup or pour the syrup over?

Bread of the Month: Swedish Rye

With most of my bread making experiments so far I have stayed safely close to the normal flours and grains so I decided this month it was finally time to branch out to the more hearty and interesting grains starting with rye flour.

Rye flour on it’s own can be extremely dense and so it is often used in combination with wheat flour so the dough is easier to work with and rise. It also tends to require longer rising times and more liquid for the dough to rise; sounded like a fun challenge to me.

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I decided to make Swedish Rye loafs; this round-loaf rye bread has a hard exterior but a soft almost buttery texture inside. Although it uses molasses and brown sugar it has no milk and very little butter in it. Even though it is a little denser/heartier of a bread for summer-time; we had no problem working our way through a loaf in no time. As per usual the original recipe comes from the Bread Bible; with some of my variations.

To make the dough I started as usual by proofing the yeast; but because the rye flour is more dense it takes more liquid for it to rise properly so 3/4 C of liquid was used to proof the 1 packed of yeast instead of the usual 1/4th C.

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The trader joe’s coffee container is holding my rye flour

While this yeast proofed I combined in one of my large kitchen aid metal bowls 1 C warm water (see even more liquid), 1/4C unsulfured molasses (I chose dark), 1/4 C light brown sugar, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (original recipe only called for 2 but I wanted a more buttery texture), 1 tbls salt, 2 teaspoons (or more) caraway seeds, 1 large orange worth of orange zest (you can use lemon but I think the orange works better with the molasses and brown sugar), and 2 1/2 C rye flour.

After all of this was I mixed together until creamy (well as creamy as rye flour will get). Then I stirred in the yeast mixture after it had proofed for 10 minutes.

Next slowly I added about 1 C at a time of the 2 1/2 C  regular flour while the kitchen aid continuously mixed the dough. I then switched my mixing handle for the dough hook and let it knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.

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As with many other recipes from this book, I then placed the dough in a deep container that was greased with butter on both sides then covered it in plastic wrap. Then comes the hardest part of this recipe . . . waiting: it took 2 hours to let the dough rise to double in bulk! Rye flour takes a longer rising time and all the while I was uneasy weather the dough was getting dry or if it over-fermented.

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After the long wait, I took the dough out of the deep dish container and divided it into two. Using a little flour I shaped two loafs. I brushed both loaf-tops with butter than again covered it loosely in plastic wrap to rise again at room temp for another 2 hours.

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Finally, I turned the oven to 375, covered the top of the the loafs with flour and  used a serrated knife to create 1/4 inch cuts into the tops of the dough. For our loaf I did a basic three slash cut with a bread knife. For the other loaf I marked an H for Halvorson (my maiden name) since I was giving that loaf away to my grandparents. The loafs went in the oven for 25 minutes. I knew they were done when they were golden brown on the outside and sounded hollow when I tapped on them.

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Although they took long rising the bread was worth the wait. It was sweet enough to eat on it’s own or with a little butter but not too sweet that we couldn’t use it for sandwiches. You could definitely make it into a sweeter bread by adding more butter, orange zest,  and brown sugar and possible adding some cranberries. Maybe for a end of summer/ fall treat?

 

Bread of the Month: English Muffins

This year I decided I am picking one new bread item per month to home-bake. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you will know that I love to bake but my baking had been mostly limited to desserts. It’s only within this past year I began to feel comfortable making dough items such as buns, rolls, pastries and our everyday lunch bread at home.

But Luke borrowed The Bread Bible from a co-worker and I was inspired. Although there are  many wonderful baked goodies out there many of them I cannot eat because of an allergy to barley for more see: Why I am barley free Part One . Much of the time I do not mind eating gluten-free even though I am not allergic to gluten. Still availability of gluten-free breads and baked goods is limited here in upstate NY and even if it is available I never know when/how I can get them.

This Bread Bible provides great fun new dessert to try but also includes easy recipes for basics I have not eaten in over a year like bagels, hamburger buns, sourdough bread, and english muffins.

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I have always loved english muffins they are so crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. That is why they are great for toasting served with a little butter and jam or peanut butter and bananas. I  also think they make for great PB and J’s, breakfast sandwiches with fried eggs, or for eggs benedict. So for as you may have guess for January’s bread of the month I chose to make homemade English Muffins!

I was surprised at how easy the process was. Very similar in steps to our homemade bread recipe, all ingredients are combined after yeast has time to proof then the dough rises in a deep dished oiled pan for an hour.

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After the dough has had time to rise, it is rolled out to about a 1/2 in thick. To cut the muffin rounds I used one of our glasses.

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Once all the dough was cut into rounds I got out the large electric skillet and cooked/fried them on the oiled surface for about 10 minutes on each side then let them cool on a wire rack. I was surprised at how quickly the dough rose as it baked.

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So there you have it: homemade english muffins. They are crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. If I was to make them again I may try to work the dough less to add more fluff or rise. I would also probably add 1/2 C cornmeal to the dough recipe.

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I made a double batch and put most of them in the freezer; the rest went in the fridge. They serve as a great breakfast option along side our Greene’s gluten-free granola bars.

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So what is your favorite carb? Do you have a love for baking?

Busy: an update

First and foremost I want to say: No I have not forgotten about all of you!

Second: I have been busy!! I am not telling you this to apologize from my blogging absence. Instead I am actually sharing with excitement that life is finally getting full.  We have been busy with social outings, holiday events, small group meetings, and of course work. So what have I been up to?

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1. Mama Mia: On Thursday the 21rst Luke called me early in the morning and shared that one of his co-workers was giving away two tickets to see a local production of Mama Mia for that night.  I was excited, it has been two years since I’ve seen a musical and how do you say no to free tickets?! Luke said he would go with me but I told him I would ask my friend Sarah to come along for a girls night out, sparing him from a night of ABBA . It was wonderful to get all dressed up and check out our closest preforming art center: Clemens Center . We had seats in the first few rows and this more informal performance included a three song sing-along after the curtain call (costume change and all).

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2. Thanksgiving x 2: This past Tuesday we had our first round of Thanksgiving meals with our small group from church. So Tuesday I was busy making stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a fresh salad. That was our first day of real  snow and the ground was wet and slippery so it took Luke awhile to get home from work. Running a little late to small group, we came in to our friends Scott and Sarah’s mudroom to the smell of turkey and gravy. It was a great laid-back night; a nice change of pace. We enjoyed just spending time together talking about hobbies and our Thanksgiving plans.

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Second round of Thanksgiving we shared with our good friends Tre and Miki. They moved out here 6 months before we did from San Diego and are also newly married. We went to their house in the dark and snow around 4:30pm and enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner just the four of us. We played a little Dominion, watched Charlie Brown and clips from the Thanksgiving football game while eating pumpkin bread and drinking coffee. We were grateful for a relaxing day with good food and great friends.

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3. New Job: Coming Soon!! :You read right! After months of applying, waiting, and frustration I will have a new teaching position starting in February. I will be teaching a Business/Professional Writing course for Keuka College’s ASAP program (Accelerated Studies Adult Program). Right now I am in the middle of the hiring paperwork followed up  by online teacher training and so on. This has been a long time coming and although it is only one class for now, I am grateful for a foot in the door!

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4. Winter Has Passed: No I’m not delusional. I realize winter is only beginning, evident by the snow falling outside, Winter Has Passed is the title to a new book about to be published. This is my mother-in-law Diana Greene’s 4th book and my second book as her editor in chief.  We have been working around the clock to get the final edits together for this second book in her Extraordinary in the Ordinary series so it can be sold for Christmas. I also had the privilege this time of writing the book’s introduction. For more on this book check out: Diana Greene Ministries or Diana Greene Ministries facebook page.

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What’s next?: Today I am baking like crazy for our first Christmas event of the season that has potential to become a new tradition. Then next weekend is Sparkle (Corning’s biggest winter festival) and a Christmas concert. All of which I will share more about later.

So now it’s time to catch up with all of you:

Are you still stuffed from Thanksgiving? What do you do with leftovers?

Are you ready for the Christmas season yet?

Fall Recipe Round-up and Competition

Today we are in Syracuse for the first time on a business trip. Luke will be attending a state wide nursing teaching day and since I am still waiting to hear back on the job interview last week (see a teacher without a classroom), I figured I’d come along and explore the area. I am looking forward to sharing what I find later.

For today I thought it was time to do a food review. In the past almost eight months of blogging I have posted low calorie, low carb (or no-carb), barley-free, and some gluten-free or even vegetarian recipes. As I looked at my weekly calendar (see What the fridge tells us) I realized that my recipes definitely change by the season. So now that I am more willing to not only stand the heat of the oven but enjoy it’s warmth here are a few of my favorite fall recipes. By the way if you have been an avid reader of mine stick around, you may see I’ve added a few alternatives for each meal, and there’s  surprise competition info at the end! Curious?

Here they are (in no particular order because I have a hard time choosing “favorites”):

1. Crockpot Vegetarian Lentil Soup (stew):

Lentil soup is one of those recipes I’ve made several times that reminds me of my semester abroad; the smell of tomatoes, lentils, and cumin always bring me back to living in a flat in Cairo.  It’s easy to throw in the crock-pot; a warm hearty vegetarian and gluten-free meal, and believe it or not it actually tastes better as leftovers! You can partner it with a good salad, some pita and hummus, or if you want meat some kebabs.

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2. Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers make for a great gluten-free dinner with endless possibilities. Although my version is not vegetarian, I give suggestions for what can easily replace the ground beef in the recipe. You can take this recipe and run in several directions. Want it mexican?: Stuff it with black beans and top it off with tortilla chips, mexican cheese, and salsa. Or if you want a more Italian variety?: Throw zucchini and Italian seasoning into the mixture and top it off with tomato sauce and mozzarella . If you want a different carb?: How about quinoa, or polenta? As I said the variations are limitless.

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3. crockpot french onion soup

I just love the savory combo. of onions and beef broth. Partner it with good cheese and a hearty layer of dark bread and you’ve got a great fall meal in a bowl! This French Onion Soup recipe is gluten-free and low calorie. Because it’s a crock-pot meal all it takes is about a half hour’s worth of work then the crock-pot does the rest. If you want lower calorie you can go without bread, find a low-calorie bread,-or use croutons. Also mix-up what cheese you use-we use swiss or provolone but don’t let that stop you from trying out a different cheesy topper.

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4. Gluten-free low cal chicken marsala

I took this traditional Italian dish and gave a slightly healthier and gluten-free spin on it.  This time I took out the pasta used zucchini as the base ingredient. Another option I have not shared before is to make spaghetti squash, same low calorie count but a similar pasta texture. Instead of breading the chicken I used a parmesan and herb base. Now a typical serving is under 600 Calories!

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5.  Cinnamon Oatmeal Apple Muffins

For the last one I thought I’d throw in a baked good. When I think of fall one memory comes to mind: taking a Saturday with my parents to drive to Oak Glen and pick out apples and eat apple pie. So I love it when the smell of cinnamon and apples fills the house.  These little muffins are hearty and filling but only 100 calories each! They are free of any white sugar and easy to make. I am also in the works right now of dong a pumpkin muffin with the same base recipe. If you want to try it substitute 1 egg white and 1/2 C milk for 1 C of pureed pumpkin. Or if you want to cut out the milk and egg? Use applesauce. Again 1 egg white and 1/2C milk= 1 C applesauce. So if you want to cut all milk and egg out you’ll want to use more applesauce.

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Well if you haven’t felt encouraged to try one of these recipes before I hope you now do!

Now it’s your turn!

Fall Recipe competition:

Share your favorite homemade fall recipe with me and you may just see me post a blog featuring your home-cooking/baking!

I will choose one recipe and share the results and therefore the winner with all of you!

My email is posted on the side-panel of this page. Recipes must be submitted before October 12th!

Happy Cooking/Baking!