Friday, November 30, 2012

taste of home giveaway (and christmas sandwich cremes)

Congratulations to Steffani Kerr!  You won the Taste of Home holiday gift pack!  Steffani said in her comment that her favorite holiday is Egg Nog French Toast...hmmmm....I just might have to get her recipe!


You want to know something awesome?  This is my 300th post!

You want to know something more awesome?  I'm celebrating with a giveaway. :)   

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for entry information.

I was ecstatic when Taste of Home contacted me to review their three special edition holiday magazines out on news-stands right now.  Since receiving them a week ago, I have literally read them cover to cover several times.  They are fantastic!

"Best Holiday Recipes" includes everything you would need to throw a fabulous holiday dinner.  The recipes are fancy-schmancy and yet simple enough for the home cook.  "Best-Loved Cookies and Candies" has some of the most exciting cookie recipes I've seen to date.  It took us forever to decide which recipe we were going to try first, and I think you'll agree - we picked a winner. "Food Gifts" is my favorite of the three.  It includes recipes for jams and butters, savory snacks, cookies, breads, beverages, muffins, condiments, candies, cupcakes, and more!  It's one that I'll be pulling out every holiday season for years to come.


We tried three different recipes - one from each book.  Cookie Bandit and I had a ton of fun picking them out and even more fun tasting them.  I'll be sharing each one with you over the course of the week.

From "Best Holiday Recipes," we tried the Alpine Cheese Melts.  These are basically souped-up grilled cheese sandwiches...but so much better!  We've enjoyed them several times this week, and I love how festive they look.

From "Best-Loved Cookies and Candies," we made these Whoopie Pies.  And oh. my. word.  I don't think I can even describe how good they are.  Cookie Bandit keeps sneaking them for himself, and I keep sneaking them for the neighbors.  After all...if you have something this good, you shouldn't keep it to yourself!  Am I right?

Finally, from "Food Gifts," I made these adorable Christmas Sandwich Cremes.  I've eaten more of these little beauties in the past several days than I care to admit, and I haven't gotten tired of them yet.  :)

To make the sandwich cremes, you begin by mixing up the simple dough - butter, whipping cream, and flour!  I love it when something delicious requires so few ingredients.  Refrigerate the dough for about 2 hours, or until it's easy to handle.  Note - these cookies aren't hard to make as long as your dough is the right temperature.  If it's too soft, put it back in the fridge.  If it's too hard, work it with your hands for a few minutes until it's pliable.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and cut circles with a small, round cookie cutter.

Drop the circle of dough into a bowl of sugar and turn to coat.  You may have to lightly press the sugar into the dough with your fingers.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet - I covered mine with parchment paper - and then poke holes into the dough with a fork.  Bake until set (just a few minutes), and then let the cookies completely cool.

Once the cookies are cool, whip up the frosting and divide into two bowls.  Color one bowl red and one bowl green - Christmas colors! :)  Spread the frosting on top of the half of the cookies.

As you can see, I found it easiest to put the frosting into a ziplock bag and then cut a corner off the bag to make a sort-of pastry bag.  I then piped the frosting into the center of each cookie.

Place the remaining cookies on top of the frosted cookies, pressing down to spread frosting evenly in between.  Aren't they cute?

These would make a great gift for anyone or a perfect addition to any party.  And they require so few ingredients that they are highly economical.  I'm keeping this recipe around for future baby showers (think pink and blue fillings) or other special occasions.  

Christmas Sandwich Cremes
from Taste of Home's "Food Gifts"
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
sugar for coating
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
food coloring

In a small bowl, combine the butter, cream, and flour.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Divide into thirds; let one portion stand at room temperature for 15 minutes (keep remaining dough refrigerated until ready to roll out).  On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness.  Cut with a 1-1/2-in. round cookie cutter.  Place cutouts in a shallow dish filled with sugar; turn to coat.  Place on ungreased baking sheets.  Prick with a fork several times.  Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until set.  Cool on wire racks.

For filling, in a small bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Tint with food coloring.  Spread about 1 teaspoon filling over half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies.

To enter the giveaway for the THREE Taste of Home holiday magazines, just leave a comment telling me what your favorite holiday food is!  Yes, it really is that simple.  The giveaway will run until December 7, and then I'll announce the winner on December 8 (my birthday!).  Be sure to provide an e-mail address where you can be reached so that I can contact the winner.  GIVEAWAY OVER.

Monday, November 5, 2012

vanilla cupcakes

I had to share with y'all another great Tasty Kitchen find.  These vanilla cupcakes were made-from-scratch and easy!  I've made a lot of chocolate cakes from scratch before, but I've never really found a vanilla cake recipe that I liked until now.  Take a closer look...

I made some variations to the original recipe to make it more vanilla-y (and cause I'm a rebel), and the end product was oh so good.  These were perfect to take to a potluck we were going to because they made so many.  I don't know if I'm going to be able to wait until another potluck to make them again...I just liked them way too much!

To make, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat two sticks of softened butter until creamy.

Add the sugar, and beat for another 7 minutes, or until nice and fluffy.  Then, add your eggs, one at a time, beating in between each one.

At this point, I added the innards of a vanilla bean.  Take a vanilla bean, cut it lengthwise, and then use a spoon to scoop out the "caviar" inside.  Your hands will smell uh-mazing!

Finally, alternate adding your flour mixture and milk, ending with the flour.  Be sure to not over-mix (you want to stop the beater the minute everything is combined).

Finally, what would vanilla cupcakes be without vanilla extract? :)  Pour in two teaspoons and beat to combine.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter - use an ice cream scoop for perfect and even measurements every time!  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack and let cool before frosting.

These would go great with just about any type of frosting.  The original recipe recommended chocolate...I used a light cream cheese frosting.  I combined one stick of butter, one stick of cream cheese, a few cups of powdered sugar, and enough milk until it looked right. :)  Sorry I couldn't be more specific...I was making it up as I went along!

Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from this recipe on Tasty Kitchen
3 cups flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 whole eggs, room temperature
caviar from one vanilla bean (optional)
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a cupcake tray with liners.

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat on the "cream" setting with the butter for 7 minutes, scraping the bowl when needed (batter should be nearly white and fluffy). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla "caviar".  Turn the speed to low and alternately, add the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with flour until just mixed. Add vanilla extract until just mixed.

Divide the batter into the cupcake liners until 2/3 full (I used an ice cream scoop which was the perfect amount to fill 1 cupcake). Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out just clean, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

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