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White Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

I generally do not like raisins in my baked goods. Oatmeal raisin cookies are pretty much my one exception. However, once I substituted white chocolate chips and dried cranberries for the raisins in this recipe – the plain old raisin variety pretty much bit the dust. These cookies are just how a good cookie should be. Slightly crisp around the edges, but still soft in the middle. These are packed with hearty oat flavor thanks to good old-fashioned oatmeal, and lots of it. You may be tempted to add cinnamon to this recipe (many oatmeal raisin cookies include it) – just try it without, you may be surprised to find you like being able to taste the oats…instead of just spices.

White Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

White Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 C packed light brown sugar
1 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 C old-fashioned rolled oats (Quick cooking oats may be used, but you’ll lose some of the flavor. Instant oats should not be used.)
3/4 C sweetened-dried cranberries
3/4 C white chocolate chips

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 325°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars  on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until combined.
3. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture until just combined. Mix in the oats, cranberries and white chocolate chips until just incorporated.
4. Working with 3 tablespoons of dough at a time (or use a lever release ice cream scoop…it’s right about 3 T), roll the dough into balls and lay them on the baking sheets. Space about 2 inches apart. Flatten the cookies to a 3/4 inch thickness using your palm.
5. Bake the cookies until the edges are set and beginning to brown, but the centers are still soft and puffy. 22-25 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. The cookies will look underdone – don’t overbake.
6. Let cookies cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

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Tonya’s Super Fantastic Scones

I have pretty much become famous off these scones – at least in my small corner of the world. My sisters ask me to bring them to anything they can: camping trips, brunches, bridal or baby showers, Mother’s Day, treat-day at school. You name it, I’m asked to bring these. The sour cream and baking soda combo makes the texture perfectly airy and yet still moist. The possibilities are endless for mix ins – try whatever you fancy!

Fresh Blueberry Scone

Tonya’s Super Fantastic Scones

* 1 cup sour cream
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 cup white sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup butter
* 1 egg
* 1 cup raisins (optional)

Optional Egg Wash: For a golden color when baked, mix one egg yolk with a little water and brush on scones prior to baking.

DIRECTIONS

1. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 355° F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
3. Cream the butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat the egg with vanilla and add to the sugar/butter mixture.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture – do not overmix.
5. Stir the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened.
6. Mix in any toppings – for orange/cranberry scones 1 C dried cranberries and the zest from one orange. For chocolate chip scones, 1 C mini chocolate chips.
7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, form into a ball. Cut in half.  Roll or pat each half into two 3/4 inch thick rounds. Cut each into 6 wedges, and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
8. Bake 14 to 18 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown on the bottom.
9. Allow to cool completely on wire racks. Glaze or top as desired. For orange glaze – orange juice, zest and powdered sugar until desired consistency.

Chocolate Chip Scone

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

This is one of my all time favorite cookies to make. First of all, peanut butter cups are like the perfect treat. Bite sized, chocolate/peanut-y deliciousness. The only thing that could make them more perfect is to wrap them in a peanut butter cookie. I once had to remake these cookies three times between Thanksgiving and Christmas because the batches kept being devoured anytime I had guests over…finally, I put them in the freezer to keep them from being eaten. Which reminds me – these freeze beautifully for up to a month.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup peanut butter
* 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 tablespoons milk
* 48 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
3. Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk. Add the flour mixture; mix well.
4. Use a 1 inch melon baller to scoop dough and drop into an ungreased mini muffin pan. No need for rolling into balls – they’ll get all craggy and messed up when you press the peanut butter cups into them.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Cool completely and carefully remove from pan. I use a butter knife to remove these – slide it down one side of the muffin pan and then pop out gently. Be patient! If you try and get them out too soon – you’ll just end up with a big mess!

Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve been using up some beef most of the week – and tonight was in the mood for some light chicken. Also, it’s Friday…the start of the weekend! Perfect time to pop open a bottle of the good Sonoma Valley wine my husband bought on our recent family vacation to Windsor, CA. Since I don’t drink wine, I try to cook with it whenever my hubby wants to indulge in a good glass. So, what can I make with chicken and a good petite sirah? Why, chicken cacciatore of course!

Chicken Cacciatore over farfalle

Chicken Cacciatore

1 cup all-purpose flour for coating
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes + 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 C fresh chopped parsley
3/4 C red wine
2 cups fresh mushrooms, quartered
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pat chicken dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Combine the flour, more salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Shake the chicken pieces in flour until coated. Using tongs, shake excess flour from chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet (one that has a cover/lid) over medium high until pan is hot. Fry the chicken pieces until they are browned on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside on plate.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the skillet and saute until the onion is slightly browned, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet and add the tomatoes, parsley, Italian seasoning and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes over medium low heat.
  3. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes. If you desire a thicker sauce dissolve 1 T cornstarch into 1 T water and add to sauce, stirring quickly to incorporate.

We served this up over farfalle pasta (what my daughter calls little butterflies) with some fresh steamed broccoli and homemade quick rolls. It was earthy, full of flavor and delicious. The chicken was fork tender and practically melted in my mouth. The great thing about this dish is that it’s really light, despite the full-bodied flavor. There’s almost no fat in it at all, but you’d never guess it by the taste! This is also easily adaptable to whatever you like – if you’re a fan of chicken on the bone, this would be amazing, I’m sure the chicken would be falling right off the bones. You could omit any of the veggies you don’t like or add some additional ones (carrots anyone?). I’m sure you could use white wine or chicken broth/stock instead of the red. Really it would be pretty hard to mess this up. As with almost all Italian dishes, once the leftovers have smooshed (very technical word) their flavors together overnight, it’s even better! Actually, I just took the pieces of chicken that were left, cut them up into chunks and mixed them in with the remaining sauce for easy serving leftovers. Is it tomorrow yet?

Penne With Chicken & Asparagus

Penne with Chicken and Asparagus

  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried penne pasta
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped into chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
  2. Warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in chicken, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook until chicken is cooked through and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to paper towels.
  3. Pour vegetable broth into the skillet. Then stir in asparagus, garlic, and a pinch more garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cover, and steam 5 minutes – add bell pepper and re-cover, steaming until the asparagus is just tender, about 5 more. Return chicken to the skillet, and warm through.
  4. Stir chicken mixture into pasta, and mix well. Let sit about 5 minutes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, stir again, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

* 3/4 C buttermilk, warm (110 degrees)
* 6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
* 3 large eggs
* 4 1/4 C all purpose flour
* 1/4 C sugar
* 1 envelope instant or rapid-rise yeast
* 1 1/4 t salt
* 1 t ground cinnamon
* 1 C  raisins soaked in orange juice, then drained well
* 1 large egg
* 1 T water
Glaze:
* 3/4 C powdered sugar
* 1 t orange juice
* 2 t milk
* 1/2 t vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1. For the buns: Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 C of the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cinnamon in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes, more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/4 C flour, 1 T at a time until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, add the raisins and knead by hand to form a smooth round ball with evenly distributed raisins. Place the dgh in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place (turn oven on to 400 degrees for 1 minute, then turn off and place dough inside with door closed) until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
4. Grease a 13×9 inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, divide it into 12 even pieces. round the pieces of dough into small taut rolls. Arrange the rolls in the prepared baking pan and wrap tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size and are pressed against on another, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
5. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg and water together and brush over the buns. Then, using a sharp knife, cut an X through the top 1/4 inch of each bun. Bake until golden and puffed, 25-30 minutes.
6. For the glaze: Let the rolls cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Whisk the powdered sugar, milk, orange juice and vanilla together then drizzle in an X into the cut groves of the buns. Serve warm.

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