Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minty Mascarpone Oreo Snowflake Cookies

When I saw the announcement for the Second Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap I knew exactly what I wanted to make and send out. It's the cookie recipe I had in mind for last year, but I got sidetracked by an old family Gingersnap recipe and sent those out instead.

I was drawn to this Minty Mascarpone Oreo Snowflake Cookie because it combined a very classic Italian ingredient (mascarpone—a yummy slightly sweet Italian-stye cream cheese) and a favorite American element (Oreos!) that you can't find in Italy. Basically, this cookie is a fusion of the two places I now call home.


Before sending them out to my three cookie swap partners (Jamie at The Gaited Baker, KT with Ktvorwald, and Kristina at Love and Zest), I sent out several dozen to my husband and voluntold asked him to share them with his crew. He's my go-to man for quality control, so I had to make sure they passed the taste test, and who better to have taste the cookies than a bunch of hungry, deployed airmen? Not only did they make it there in one piece (woohoo!), but he said everyone devoured them. I made half with mint and half without, and everyone enjoyed them, so if you don't have mint—or the mint Oreos—on hand, don't fret.

These cookies are soft, chewy, and almost creamy thanks to the smooth addition of mascarpone. The little bits of Oreos add a slight crunch and just enough chocolate to make things fun. Add in a touch of mint and you'll have yourself a perfect holiday cookie!

 Minty Mascarpone Oreo Snowflake Cookies
by The Tale of Two Kitchens; adapted from Kevin and Amanda

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
4 oz mascarpone cheese (125 grams)
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2.5 cups flour
1.5 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp mint extract
10 crushed Oreo cookies (regular or mint flavored)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 F. Cream butter and mascarpone for about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and mint. Slowly beat in the flour until mixed. Stir in crushed Oreo cookies. Scoop or spoon cookie dough on to a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Makes around 3 dozen cookies (when using a medium-sized cookie scoop).

A very special thanks to those who sent me delicious cookies:
Rachel from Williams Kitchen
Hannah from Blue Kale Road


Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingersnaps!

So...I realized I never posted this recipe here. Instead, I posted them on my personal blog. Shame on me! Now I realllly want to make some gingersnaps! Here's the post, published almost exactly a year ago:

Growing up, I developed a reputation during the holiday season at my house: it was assumed that I would take the most glorious nap on the couch while my younger brother and mom made Christmas goodies for all the neighbors.




I would start out helping, but somewhere between my favorite no-bake oatmeal cookies, the melt-in-your-mouth English toffee, mini-loaves of bread and countless other goodies, I'd come down with all the classic symptoms of needing a nap: my eyes would get heavy, the yawning was more prominent, and the only thing I wanted to do was rest my head on a pillow. So that's exactly what I would do. Every. Single. Year. Luckily, my brother would help my mom finish the desserts while I dozed. Some help I was, right?  


My mom knew better, though, and always saved one last cookie for me to help make after I had my nap: gingersnaps. For awhile they were actually fun to help create—my brother and I would roll them into tiny little balls, plop them in a bowl with sugar and sprinkle the tiny crystals all over them until you could hardly tell there was dough underneath.



Gingersnaps also happen to be my dad's favorite cookie, which meant that besides quadrupling the recipe for the holiday bake-a-thon at our house, it meant we'd also make them for his birthday and any other random just-because day. In fact, we used to make so many of them so often that this is the first year I've started introducing ginger into my life again. True story. I would find something else to eat or make if ginger was in any dish, because I had visions of gingersnap dancing in my head. Until now. 

http://i42.tinypic.com/34e69hl.jpg
 
When I was researching what cookie I wanted to make for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap I was going to try something fun and unique—a classic cookie with an Italian twist. I even bought all the ingredients, but I never made it (the ingredients are still sitting in my pantry; I'll make them sometime). For some reason I kept thinking about those darn gingersnaps from decades ago—those gingersnaps I loathed making were now calling my name.  


photo from "A Family Recipe"
I answered the call by opening my family's recipe book. While my photo-copied page doesn't look near as "worn" as the original, I still had fond memories while making these. I had flashbacks to all of those baking days with my mom that I took for granted. I also felt a little strange since this was the first time I've actually made them start to finish, instead of just having the task of rolling them and covering the balls in sugar. Talk about a grown-up wake-up call! 


If you need a quick and easy cookie to make—possibly with your little ones—this is it. Dunk them in your morning coffee (my dad's personal favorite way to eat them) or enjoy them as-is, the flavor is magical and they practically melt in your mouth. It makes around five dozen and they'll keep for quite awhile, although I don't know how since they're so gosh-darn tasty!

Gingersnap Cookies
by The Tale of Two Kitchens 
originally posted on Jessica Lynn Writes
Ingredients: 
3/4 cup Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 (heaping) teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 cup extra sugar for rolling

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350f or 180c.

Cream together Crisco and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the egg and molasses; mix well. Add remaining ingredients (except the extra sugar) a little at a time; mix well.

Roll dough into little balls (about the size of a ping-pong), then roll balls into white sugar. Place on parchment or a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Do not flatten—they will flatten as they cook. Bake for about 12 minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Relish


November 2012 update: The picture I originally had of this Cranberry Relish was so embarrassing that I wanted a redo the second I published this post. Luckily, a year later, I have my chance. (Although, to be honest, I've made this relish a few times throughout the year, so I could've updated it sooner!) I still love the post, though, so I'm keeping it the same.

Definitely pick up the ingredients to make this, especially if you need a ridiculously quick side dish to take somewhere. You won't be sorry! 



(Originally published on November 18, 2011) 
I'm going to be honest, the picture above is horrible and doesn't actually show you how lip-smacking flavorful this is. I took it from my iPhone at my husband's squadron's Thanksgiving lunch today. Calling it a lunch, however, is an understatement. There were roughly 400 airmen (and women) and their families chowing down and enjoying a wonderful meal inside a giant Air Force vehicle maintenance bay—despite the lingering scent of oil and the half-assembled five-ton truck, it was perfect.


All of the families pitched in to bring food, so a few days ago I got a phone call from my husband saying, "I signed us up to take brownies, 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, and four cans of cranberry sauce, but you should make that cranberry stuff you've made before."

"That cranberry stuff" is a recipe from my lovely Grandma, and on the index card she gave me it says, "This is excellent. Add marshmallows and serve at Thanksgiving." Two years ago I took her advice and served this with our turkey and I haven't looked back since. (Although I actually prefer it sans marshmallows—I didn't get my grandma's sweet tooth.)

This relish is fruity, a tad bit tangy, and compliments turkey and ham perfectly. Fair warning: the recipe below makes a lot of relish—about six cups worth—but if you have leftovers, no worries. We've been known to eat this as a late night snack all by its lonesome, over ice cream, spread over a bagel with cream cheese in the morning, or (my favorite) on a leftover turkey sandwich!


Cranberry Relish 
by The Tale of Two Kitchens

Ingredients:
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (16 ounce) package frozen whole strawberries, thawed and drained
2 (16 ounce) cans whole berry cranberry sauce, not drained
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
marshmallows (optional, but Grandma says it's better with them)

Directions:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, chill, serve over turkey or ham, and enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Grandma's Green Bean Casserole

This Thanksgiving marks the seventh year I've spent the holiday away from home and I remember the first year like it was yesterday. I was studying abroad in England and my "feast" included a frozen turkey meal, an apple turnover, and potato wedges. I watched "Alias" on my laptop and dreamed of eating all the delicious food I knew my family was consuming back at home. 

Flash forward to two years later. I was dating a man (who would become my husband) and I spent Thanksgiving with him and his friends in Georgia (away from my family again). I needed something to take to the shin-dig and I was already craving it, so I asked my grandma for her lip-smacking Green Bean Casserole recipe. It was a big hit and every bite—down to the last bacon bit—was gone by the time we left. 


Little did I know then, but I haven't spent a Thanksgiving at home since I met my husband. Luckily, I've been able to incorporate all of my favorite turkey-day comfort foods into our holiday meal each year, and this casserole always tops the list. Then again, anything that's creamy, cheesy, bacony (it's a word), has a salty crunch mixed into it, and is disguised as vegetables has to be great!

Now that we're living in Italy, making this has been a little trickier. My mom has to ship me one of the ingredients (thanks, mom!), and the store on base typically runs out of fried onion pieces, so you have to plan accordingly and get them in advance. This casserole is worth it, though, and so easy to throw together.

The recipe below serves around 8-10, but I typically double it when I'm serving it for a large group. Leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving, so these days I don't get hurt if people aren't licking the pan at the end of the night—it just means more for me to eat on Black Friday and over the weekend! 

Grandma's Green Bean Casserole
by The Tale of Two Kitchens

Ingredients: 
  • 32 oz. package of frozen French-style green beans
  • 1 (10.5 oz) can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 (5 oz) jar of Kraft Old English Cheese Spread (usually next to Velveeta
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 (3.5 oz) container of French's Fried Onion pieces (or more...more is always better)
  • 1 (2 oz) real bacon bit pieces (I've made it with "real" bacon and it tastes better with the jarred bacon bits)

Directions: 
Cook green beans by directions on package and set aside in a colander; let drain for at least 30 minutes—try to get as much liquid out as you can. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  

Combine soup and cheese spread in a large, microwaveable bowl; heat in the microwave until both stir together easily.  

Heat butter in a pan on medium; add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste; keep stirring. Mushrooms will eventually produce their own liquid; when this happens, turn up the heat a little bit so the liquid can cook off.  

Once mushrooms are cooked, add to the soup and cheese mixture. Add salt, pepper, and garlic; stir to combine. Toss green beans into the mixture along with some onion pieces and bacon bits; stir. 

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray; place mixture in dish*. Top with the rest of the bacon and onions. Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy :)

*If you have a small, oven-proof dish, make your own little portion to enjoy while you wait for guests to arrive!  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Super Simple Breakfast Burritos



I've had a craving for breakfast burritos for the past eight weeks (since I was 14 weeks pregnant). It was one of my first real cravings. My mom sent me an article about breakfast burritos and I had to have one right that very second—this was around 7 or 8 pm and unfortunately, Italy doesn't exactly have the Mexican fast food like they do in New Mexico. Working on autopilot, I quickly made, ate, and savored that burrito, and then repeated my actions  the next morning for breakfast. And then the next morning...and so on and so on. I can't get enough of these, and the fact that they're so easy to assemble is probably why I have them at least four times a week.

The directions below are a loose "recipe," but the method is the same despite what ingredients you use.

First things first: get everything together before you start. It'll make everything go a lot faster and smoother.


Ingredients:
Veggies 
(I typically use onions, mushrooms, and spinach, and then add other veggies depending on my mood. Sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, peppers, etc.) 
 Meat 
(2 pieces of bacon per burrito, cooked and crispy; 2 slices of Canadian bacon, chopped; or a small handful of cooked, reduced-fat crumbled sausage)
Cheese 
(1/2 an ounce to 1 ounce per burrito) 
Sauce 
Tortilla 
(you need a good, burrito-sized tortilla. You can use these tortillas if you want breakfast tacos instead—equally as delicious!) 


Side note: do you grate your own cheese? It melts so much nicer than the prepackaged shredded kind. I shred a brick of cheese and then keep it in a Ziploc to use the rest of the week. Also, have whatever meat you want to use cooked and ready to go before you start cooking—it'll speed things up! 

Once you have everything ready to go, spray a light coating of cooking spray in a small pan and saute the onions on medium heat until they're soft and translucent. Next, add the rest of the veggies (except for spinach) and saute; season with salt and pepper as desired. 


After the veggies are cooked I add in my meat (not the bacon...bacon comes later). The meat I use is already cooked, so I add it in just to warm it up. Once it's warm, turn the heat down to low and spray a bit more cooking spray in pan. Add the eggs over veggies. (For one burrito I use two eggs; for two burritos I use three eggs.)


It's okay if the eggs break, because you're going to scramble them up anyway. At this point I season with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder. Use what you have and like.

I like my scrambled eggs dry or hard, so I cook them until all the moisture is gone. This also helps with not having a liquidy burrito! After the eggs are cooked, add a handful of spinach and mix it all up. The spinach will quickly shrivel up once its heated, which is my cue to add the sauce. I like things spicy, so I add a lot—add your sauce to taste, turn the heat up to medium, and stir, stir, stir. By doing this, you'll keep the flavor, but not the liquid. A burrito isn't fun when it's dripping everywhere! 


If everything is heated up and mixed together to your liking, turn the heat off and get ready to put it all together! At this point I put a little row of cheese on the tortilla and heat it up for about 15 seconds in the microwave. (If I'm having bacon as my meat I put one slice of cooked, crispy bacon on top of the cheese and the other one will go on top of the egg mixture.)


Now it's time to roll! I pick a side to be the "butt" and go from there, folding the bottom up and then the sides to ensure none of the mixture will fall out. Some people close both ends, but I leave one open since I plan on eating it right away.


There you have it! A super simple breakfast burrito!


*A special thanks to Casey from We Took the Road Less Traveled for taking the photos above!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Focaccia Pugliese

Before my husband was my husband he wooed me with food, specifically with his baking. One of the first things he made was focaccia. I was madly in love, and not just with my boyfriend. The bread was so fluffy and moist, the crust was the perfect amount of crispy and chewy, and the toppings burst with flavor. I had focaccia before that day, I'm sure of it, but I was shocked that he made it by himself and from scratch; that was the day I knew I truly loved focaccia.

Since our young days as a couple we've made this dozens of times, and I'm still amazed that it's made with potatoes—who knew?! The recipe below makes one thick and poofy focaccia that's lighter than it looks thanks to the velvety olive oil and creamy potatoes. (Keep this in mind when you have Thanksgiving leftovers!) 

Our staple toppings are usually a smattering of pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese. But sometimes we get creative and add mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, or other veggies we have on hand. I also suggest using a good extra-virgin olive oil—a little bit goes long way, so bust out your good stuff!

Oh, one other note: this is addicting. Consider yourself warned! 
Focaccia
by The Tale of Two Kitchens

Ingredients:
1 cup room-temperature mashed potatoes (we use instant potatoes if we don't have "real" potatoes on hand)
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, warm
1 cup water, room temperature 
3-4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
sprigs of rosemary 

Optional Toppings:
2-3 Tbs pesto
12-15 olives (green and/or black) cut in half
1/2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped  
2-3 mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1/2 onion, sliced or chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced or chopped 

Directions:
In medium-sized bowl whisk yeast into warm water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining water (room temperature) and 1 tablespoon of oil. Combine mashed potatoes (room temperature—if it's hot it'll kill the yeast), flour, and salt into yeast mixture and stir for about 3 minutes. Continue stirring until it gets too difficult, then mix with your hands. Knead until dough is velvety, elastic and slightly sticky. Place dough on a clean, lightly floured workplace and continue kneading until dough is no longer sticky (add a more flour a little bit at a time if necessary). Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of oil in empty bowl, then place dough back in bowl. Flip dough to get it covered in oil; cover bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise until doubled (about 2 hours). 

Preheat oven to 400F.

Spread dough onto a well-oiled cookie sheet (9x13"). Cover with towel and let double (about 1 hour). Once doubled, press your fingertips into dough to create "dimples." Spread pesto evenly across the top, scatter on your toppings (except sun-dried tomatoes*), and sprinkle cheese and rosemary. Drizzle remaining olive oil, making sure to cover edges and corners. 

Bake for ~20 minutes, adding sun-dried tomatoes just as focaccia is golden brown.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Calabacitas

I don't know how it happened, but I'm finally getting to a point where I can make things from scratch without needing a recipe. This is a loooooooong time coming and it only holds true for a few dishes, but it's very exciting for me.


My mom used to make calabacitas (call-ah-bah-see-tas) all the time as a side dish and now I know why: it's unbelievably easy, we tend to always have the ingredients on hand, it's an excellent way to eat your veggies, and it tastes delicious! WIN!

My husband and I enjoy this at least twice a week, if not more. It works well with so many dishes—enchiladas, tacos, fish, chicken, steak, etc., and I love throwing leftovers (if we have any) into an omelet the next morning.  We've discovered it tastes best when the onions and zucchini get nice and caramelized—cooked almost to the point where you think they've been cooking a few minutes too long—that's when the flavors really mingle together, but play around with it to find a consistency that works for you.



Calabacitas 
by The Tale of Two Kitchens

Ingredients
1 tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini chopped into quarters
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch (1/8 tsp) red pepper flakes (optional)
1 can of corn, drained
*green chile about 4 ounces, diced, pealed, drained
1/4 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Colby/Jack, Swiss, etc.)

Directions
Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add onions; saute until fragrant. Add zucchini; mix with onions. When zucchini starts to get soft, add salt, pepper, garlic powder (and red pepper flakes if you want some additional heat). Cook until veggies are nice and brown or to your desired caramelization (about 3-5 minutes). Stir in green chile. Once chile is heated through, mix in corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes. Add half the shredded cheese over veggies; stir to combine. Turn off heat; move to serving dish and sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Serve and enjoy!

*While this tastes better with fresh chile, we've been using the canned variety for the past four months without a problem!