Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This post is ~ a little bit of everything!!

I wanted to take time today ~ well, *make* time really ~ to write a post.  I have had several posts rattling around in my head for a while now and I decided to just sit right down today in the midst of Thanksgiving preppery and share it all with you!  :0)  So grab a cuppa and get comfy because this promises to be a long post!
Let's see, one thing I wanted to talk about was some of my current "favorite things."  Let's get started, shall we?
I have a couple of new favorite recipes.  One for a cookie and one for an appetizer and they are both just....well, perfect.  I'll share.  :0)
Chocolate Chippies
(These can be used as a base of other cookie flavors, you don't *have* to use chocolate chips.  I've already done them as chocolate chip mint cookies and will do them soon as butterscotch.)
*Makes about 42 cookies
2 1/4 C. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 C. unsalted butter at room temperature 
(My favorite is Kerry Gold Butter ~ it's like my secret cookie weapon. But I've only been able to find Kerry Gold Unsalted at Publix, just an fyi.)
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 C. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 C. semisweet chocolate chips
1 C. M&Ms
Now, crack your eggs into a small bowl and bring your butter out, letting both get down to room temperature.  If you store your chocolate chips and candies in the freezer like me, pull those out too.  You want everything at room temp ~ very important.
You will bake these at 350* with your racks in the center of your oven.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars, beating on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.  Reduce speed to low.  Add the flour mixture a little bit at a time, mixing until just combined.  Add in the chocolate chips and M&Ms.  If you're using a KitchenAid, use the "stir" setting for this and *only* for about 5-6 seconds.  Otherwise, you will pulverize the chippies.
Now, here is where you have some flexibility.  First, even if you are baking the whole batch right now, you want to chill this dough!  Cover it well with Saran Wrap with the wrap touching the dough and chill the whole bowl of it for at least two hours.  But, it will keep longer!  I've kept this dough in the fridge for 4-5 days, making a pan or two of cookies per day each day, and the dough keeps just fine.  But it needs to be chilled.  This will help your cookies to not spread and bake up thicker and fluffier. 
Use a 1 3/4 inch diameter cookie scoop to measure out dough and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  I prefer to only place 10 cookie dough rounds on my baking sheet so I know they all have enough room.  Bake for 7-8 minutes, rotate cookie sheets, and then bake an additional 7-8 minutes until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center.  Remove from oven and let cook on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks.  Allow 1-2 hours to cool completely.  Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.  These can also be frozen in cookie tins with layers of freezer paper in between cookies.  When you want to thaw them out simply place your cookie tin on the counter for the better part of a day and the cookies will thaw just fine.  These can be frozen for 6-8 months.

Above are baked according to the recipe, the ones below are with mint chocolate chips and some green food coloring added in.

My next "favorite thing" is another recipe ~ an appetizer this time.  These are soooooo good!  I took them to a Sunday meal with friends and everyone raved about them and I brought home an empty platter. 
Spinach Squares
(I *love* these because they can easily be made a day ahead and heat up like a dream the next day.)
20 oz. frozen chopped spinach
1 C all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 pound shredded Pepper Jack cheese ~ or you can substitute Monterey Jack for less spice
1/2 C. chopped onion
3 large eggs
4 Tbls. salted butter
Thaw spinach and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.  Place in a large mixing bowl.  Preheat oven to 350* and place rack in the center.  Using a mixer, mix the dry ingredients with the spinach on low speed until incorporated.  Add the cheese and then the remaining wet ingredients to the mixture in increments, mixing between each addition until incorporated.
Cut the butter into small pats and position along a 9x13 baking dish.  Put the dish in the oven for a few minutes, removing when the butter has melted.  Add the spinach mixture to the hot baking dish with the melted butter.  Even out with a spatula.
Bake at 350* for 40-45 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbling rapidly along the edges.  Allow to cool completely before cutting and storing.  Thawed spinach squares can be reheated on a greased cookie sheet at 350* for 15 minutes or until hot.
Trust me ~ you want to make this!
Another favorite thing I have been enjoying ~ some new music!  I purchased the album Paradise Valley by John Mayer as well as Build Me Up From Bones by Sarah Jarosz.  I have been listening to both of these over and over again.  I love them. Soft and relaxing but still with a bit of modern fun to them.  (By the way, if anyone knows how to pronounce Jarosz, please do share!  I can't figure it out and neither can anyone in my household.  It's driving me a bit mad, lol.)
Lastly, this time of year I *love* all of the wonderful coffee creamers that can be found.  I tried to think of just one to share with you...but that's impossible so I'll just send you Coffee's Perfect Mate to see for yourself.  :0)  Truly, I've probably tried them all.  I just make sure I stick with liquid creamers as the dry/powder kind are actually a fire hazard ~ they are *highly* flammable.  If you accidentally spill some on your stove while it's on, they will instantly WOOSH into huge flames and well, we just don't want that.  Better to be safe than sorry, so stick with the liquid kind. 
Ok, what's next on my list of things to share? 
Thanksgiving and holiday prep!!  I've already started cooking today in order to make tomorrow more restful and seamless.  Up until last year, my family had spent many Thanksgivings participating in a type of community Thanksgiving with many families coming together.  That was fun while we did it, but last year we decided we wanted to circle the wagons a bit tighter and bring the Thanksgiving celebration back home with just us.  I can honestly say that we had a *great* time.  After so many years of helping cook massive quantities of food and then having to transport it all across town on a certain time table...well, it was nice to be home.  So tomorrow we will be home again, just us and I'm so looking forward to it.  I don't know why, but Thanksgiving always makes me giddy.  It truly feels like the "kick off" of the whole holiday season to me. 
Here is what is on our menu for tomorrow:
Appetizer trays of various meats and cheeses
Smoked turkey breast
Brown sugar ham
Seasoned green beans
Yeast rolls
Hawaiian rolls
Mashed potatoes with gravy
Sweet potato casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Pecan Pie
Sweet potato pie
Chocolate silk pie
Cinnamon cake drizzled with vanilla icing
Now, I know that seems like a lot.  But it's actually a *scaled back* menu!  It's many items but I'm keeping them small so as to fit our family of four. The turkey is a turkey breast.  The ham is small.  The sides are small 8x8 dishes ~ you get the picture.  So while there are many items, I'm keeping the number of servings appropriate for 4 people with enough to have some nice leftovers the next few days.  Because really, Thanksgiving leftovers are wonderful to have.
Which leads me to my the next thing ~ I've decided to start a binder for the holidays.  Each holiday through the year and birthdays ~ any special occasion will make it's way into the binder.  I'm going to include what we did for the day, what the menu was, anything new we tried and ideas for the next year.  What worked and what didn't.  I got this idea because last year's Thanksgiving was so different for us ~ being the first year at home after many years of a community day.  We really enjoyed ourselves at home last year but I realized that I had to change the way I thought about our menu.  I needed to get away from the thinking of making huge amounts and scale things back for just four people.  So I tried to put together this year, just from memory of what I thought needed to be changed last year.  Well, wouldn't it be easier to make a binder and write all those ideas down as they come and are fresh in my mind?  I think it would be cute to see what kind of clip art I can find to dress it up a bit and make it cute.  Also have check off lists and to-do lists for each holiday. 
I'm actually going to start this today ~ keeping notes of what we're doing for Thanksgiving this year, our menu, and to-do lists for the day.  So who knows ~ maybe this time next year I'll have a whole year's worth of Holiday Prep Notebook ideas to share with you!  :0)
Alright my dears, I've got things to do and need to sign off for now.  But I wanted to share these things with you because they were seriously camping out in my brain.  I hope everyone has a *wonderful* Thanksgiving day with family and love and plenty.  Blessings to you all!!


Anonymous said...

Mrs V, am in the middle of making dinner, so just read a bit of your post (waiting for potatoes to boil, meatballs are simmering!), Jarosz is pronounced Yarosh. Husband is Polish so I'm sure about this!

Mrs. V. said...

Thank you!! That is good to know. :0)

Bible Babe said...

Fun recipe post, Miz V.