Monday, December 22, 2014


Bizcochitos are the official state cookie of New Mexico and have been around in different versions for hundreds of years.  They're traditionally made with lard, always seem to have anise and some type of alcohol (like brandy or wine) or juice in the dough, and are sprinkled with or rolled in cinnamon sugar.  I've been wanting to make them for years and finally did it!  No regrets, these cookies are delicious.  They have a crunchy, shortbread texture to them and the anise is delightful.  It's definitely there, but is not too strong at all.  Even my husband liked these quite a bit.
This time around I used shortening and orange juice, but in the future I would like to experiment with butter, solid coconut oil, and MAYBE even lard for the fat, and brandy and wine for the liquid.  We liked these so much that I plan to make these every Christmas, so I will have many opportunities to experiment!
I got this recipe from a blog called The Nickel and Dime Ranch.  The blog owner, Bridget, says the recipe came from a New Mexican cookbook called License to Cook.  After I made the recipe, I found basically the same recipe on AllRecipes!  I wonder if the recipe submitter got it from the same cookbook as Bridget.

Tip:  After you've pressed the cookie cutter down into the rolled out dough, wiggle it around a bit so the cut out will be sufficiently separated from the surrounding dough.  This will make it easier to remove the excess cookie dough.

1 C vegetable shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp anise seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 egg
1/4 C orange juice
3 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 C sugar
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

With an electric mixer, cream together shortening, sugar, and anise.  Beat in egg, then orange juice.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to shortening mixture and stir just until the dough comes together.  Do not over work the dough.  The dough should be fairly soft and not sticky.  Gently form the dough into a ball.

Lightly flour a clean, flat surface.  Place the dough ball on the middle of the rolling surface and pat it down a bit with your hands so it's flat.  Dust lightly with flour and brush the flour around with your hand.  Roll the dough out carefully with a rolling pin, so it's about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick- whichever you prefer.  I did both and they were all great!  Add a little more flour if the dough starts to stick to the rolling pin.
Cut the dough out with cookie cutters and carefully move the cut outs to the prepared baking sheets with a very thin pancake turner.  The shapes won't really spread in the oven, so you can space them 1 inch apart. Repeat rolling out the dough until it's all used up.
When the cookie sheet is full, stir together the 1/4 C sugar and 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon and sprinkle it generously over each cookie.  Bake until cookies are light golden around the edges, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on how thinly you rolled the dough and how big your cookie cutters are.

Optional:  You can gently roll the cookies through the cinnamon sugar again when they come out of the oven (before they cool) if you want.  I didn't do this because we liked the cookies just fine as they were, but I'm sure it would be good this way!

In either case, let the cookies cool until you can handle them without them breaking, then remove them to wire cooling racks.  When they've cooled completely, you can store them in a tin or an airtight cookie jar.

Yield: 25-50 cookies, depending on how thin you roll the dough and the size of your cookie cutters.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

This is another recipe from Making Memories With Your Kids!  Thanks for being such a great source of Christmas treats this year, Erin :)
I've always liked coconut macaroons, but my husband didn't finally give in and start liking coconut until recently.  He loved these, and so did I!  The almond extract is just perfect in them.  They're so dense, chewy, rich, crunchy around the edges, and just perfect.  I'm not sure if they should be classified as a cookie or a candy, but they can definitely be classified as amazing and a recipe to make again next Christmas!
My only changes for next time are that I would make them a little smaller because they're so rich (I used a cookie scoop and only got 15 out of this recipe), and I would dip them in melted semisweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  I have a definite preference for milk chocolate if I'm just eating it, but it's so sweet and the chocolate flavor was kind of lost here.  Normally I don't post a recipe on my blog if I have changes to make, but the chocolate thing is pretty minor and I'm 100% sure the semisweet chocolate will work.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
14 oz bag sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together condensed milk and extracts.  Break up the coconut with your hands and sprinkle it over the condensed milk, then sprinkle the flour evenly over that.  Stir together until everything is well combined.  Use 2 spoons or a small cookie scoop to scoop up the mixture and make little balls on the prepared cookie sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  These don't spread or grow in the oven, so keep that in mind when you shape the macaroons!  I chose to squash mine down slightly so they wouldn't be rounded.

Bake until the macaroons are light golden and the stray coconut bits are browned.  How long this takes will depend on your oven and the size of the macaroons, but somewhere between 10 and 16 minutes will probably work.
Let macaroons cool on the cookie sheets until you can handle them, then put them on a plate and refrigerate until very cold.  Save the parchment paper.
Melt chocolate chips.  I used the microwave and heated them in 15 second increments at 50% power, stirring between each cooking burst, but use whatever method you prefer. 

When you're ready to dip the macaroons, remove them from the refrigerator and set your parchment paper lined cookie sheets nearby (you can use the same parchment paper they were baked on).  Dip the bottoms into the chocolate.  Set dipped macaroons on the parchment paper lined cookie sheets and refrigerate them until the chocolate is set.  You can store the finished macaroons in a tin at room temperature.

Yield:  Depends on how big you make them.  About 15 big ones or 30 small ones.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


December is always full of baking cookies and other treats, and I have 3 great recipes to share over the next few days.

The first is Snickerdoodles.  How well known are these cookies?  I'd never even heard of them until I was 10 and I met a new friend with a super cute bunny named Snickerdoodle, my husband had never heard of them until I made these, and a friend of mine didn't know what they were either.  Although I have eaten Snickerdoodles (and knew they were amazing), for some reason this was my first time making them, and they were incredible.  As in, my husband, who has a HUGE preference for chocolate chip cookies, said they give his CCC recipe a run for its money!  Wow! 
The recipe is from Erin over at Making Memories With Your Kids.  I was assigned her blog for Secret Recipe Club last week and made White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies for that, but went on to make these a few days later, and then just yesterday I made another of her cookie recipes (which will be posted here soon!).
Erin, you may get a kick out of this- when I was ready to make these, I asked my husband to pull up the recipe on his computer and he typed into Google "making memories with your Snickerdoodles."  That did lead to the correct recipe!

These cookies are fantastic as they are, but next time I may experiment with using 2 t cream of tartar because a lot of other recipes I looked at use that much for this amount of flour.

1 C butter, softened
1 C white sugar
2/3 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
3 C flour
1/4 C white sugar
1 T cinnamon
Cream together butter and sugars for 1 minute.  Beat in vanilla extract and eggs, then salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda.  Mix in flour, being careful not to over mix.  Refrigerate cookie dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 300 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 C sugar and 1 T cinnamon.  Roll dough into walnut sized balls and roll in cinnamon sugar to coat.  Space 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake cookies just until starting to turn golden.  This was 17 minutes in my oven, but yours may take more or less time!  I'd suggest checking on them after 10 minutes.
Yield: I got 30 cookies from this recipe.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

This is my second Secret Recipe Club assignment for this month!  I signed up for Cookie Carnival.  Basically, I was given the blog Making Memories with Your Kids and told to make any cookie recipe, then post about it.  Making Memories with Your Kids is written by a very hardworking mom named Erin.  Her blog is absolutely full of amazing looking recipes and child friendly craft ideas.  She has a lot of great looking cookie recipes, and I chose White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies.  I've always wanted to make this kind of cookie, but couldn't figure out how to do the raspberry part.  Jelly would be too runny and would burn, raspberry flavored chips wouldn't seem right... What to do?  Well, it turns out the secret ingredient is POP TARTS!  Genius, Erin!
Anyway, I made these exactly according to the recipe, except I cut back on the salt a little, and had to use semisweet chocolate chips.  I swear this was not intentional.  I thought I had white chocolate chips in the pantry, but did not, and my dough was all ready for the chips, so I simply had to use what I had.  They turned out fine, but I truly believe they would have been best with the white chocolate chips because the semisweet flavor overpowered the raspberry a bit.  Shame!  Sorry, Erin!  I have written the recipe below calling for white chocolate chips, though, and will definitely use those next time.  At some point I would also like to experiment with white chocolate chips, lemon extract, blueberry Pop Tarts, and maybe even adding some oats to the dough.  Regardless, these cookies are a winner for sure!

Erin has so many yummy cookies, I think I'm going to have to make her Candy Cane Pudding Cookies, Marble Cookies, Root Beer Float Cookies, Andes Mint Cookies, Peanut Butter Mallow Cookie Treats, Chocolate Dipped Macaroons, and Snickerdoodles.  I'm actually headed to the kitchen right now to make her Snickerdoodles, and have the ingredients for Chocolate Dipped Macaroons on my grocery list!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies
1 C butter, softened
3/4 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 C white chocolate chips
pack of 8 Raspberry Pop Tarts (14.7 oz box)

Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Cream together butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Stir into butter mixture, then stir in white chocolate chips.  Break up Pop Tarts with your hands and then gently fold them into the cookie dough.

Roll dough into golf ball sized balls and arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake until cookies are light golden, about 10 minutes.

Yield:  This made 30 for me, you will get more of course if you don't make your cookies as big as mine!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Baked Lemon Pasta

This recipe is from the Pioneer Woman blog.  As usual, I changed it a bit, but nothing too drastic.  I have another lemon spaghetti recipe that we love, but this one is different enough to have earned its own tiny spot in my pasta loving heart because it is AMAZING.  I can't even properly describe it, but it's creamy, savory, full of great parmesan flavor, and the lemon is perfect: light and mild within the baked pasta, but with occasional bites that have extra punch because of the additional juice drizzled on top at the end.  This is definitely a new favorite!  I'm even considering preparing just the sauce part and seeing how it tastes spooned over asparagus and other veggies.

I made a half recipe because my husband wasn't going to be eating it for dinner (he had several nights of leftover pizza to work on) and I wanted to try something I didn't think he'd enjoy.  He seriously dislikes angel hair pasta for some reason, is easily overwhelmed with lemon in savory dishes, and has some lactose intolerance issues that are especially bothered by sour cream.  Regardless, he tried a tiny bowl of this and really liked it, too.
One last thing- the pasta reheats great in the microwave.  It's a bit firmer, but the sauce part doesn't curdle or do anything weird. 

Baked Lemon Pasta
8 oz angel hair pasta
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 C sour cream
salt to taste (I used 1 tsp total)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lemon, zested and juiced
about 4 oz grated parmesan by weight, divided
about 1/2 C cilantro or parsley, minced
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 1 quart baking dish.  Cook angel hair pasta in lightly salted water, drain, and return to pot. 

While the noodles cook, place the butter, olive oil, and garlic in a microwaveable bowl or cup and heat until garlic is light golden, about 90 seconds.  Stay close by and check on it every 30 seconds to make sure the garlic doesn't burn!  Stir sour cream, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, the lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, and half of the parmesan into the butter-garlic mixture.  Taste and add more salt if needed.
Stir sour cream mixture into the cooked pasta and spoon into the prepared dish.  Bake until some of the noodles are a little golden, about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining lemon juice, then the remaining parmesan.  Return to oven until parmesan is melted, about 5 more minutes.  To serve,  you can either sprinkle the entire dish with the cilantro, or sprinkle it on individual plates of pasta.

Yield: about 3-4 servings

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cheesy Bacon, Beef & Rice Casserole

Please do not judge this recipe by its photo!  Casseroles are inherently ugly, but oh boy, this one REALLY is.  I've been referring to it as "50 Shades of Brown Casserole", it's not often you see this many variations on the color brown.  Hideousness aside, this casserole is really good.  It was originally billed as Mexican Rice Casserole on the CopyKat Recipes blog where I found it (it was from a lady named Virginia McDowell in 1968!), but I don't think it really tastes like the rice you get in Mexican restaurants.  The bacon doesn't really help it seem Mexican, either, but it does help it be even more delicious!
You could serve the casserole with sour cream, cilantro, salsa, and the like if you want it to taste more Tex-Mex (I actually made a side salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and this Creamy Salsa Dressing), but on its own, it just tastes good and is a perfect comfort food.  You could also try adding more chili powder, some cumin, and some black beans to play up the Mexican factor.  I wouldn't leave the chili powder out, though, because it does add a special little something.

Note: The original recipe called for minute rice (quick cooking rice).  I don't like minute rice, so just used regular rice since the recipe looked like it had enough liquid and the simmering time of 20 minutes is just right for cooking it.  It turned out great this way!  I also used the whole bell pepper (yellow, in my case) and onion because I didn't want to waste the rest.
Now I'm no great shakes when it comes to photographing food, but isn't this ugly?  I almost feel bad for it!

Cheesy Bacon, Beef & Rice Casserole

4 oz bacon
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 C uncooked rice
1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 3/4 C water
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 t chili powder
1 t salt
2 C cheddar cheese, grated
Cook bacon in a large skillet over low heat.  Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Add diced onion and bell pepper to the bacon grease and cook until they begin to soften.  Add rice and cook for a couple of minutes, just until it starts to turn opaque and gets a little golden. 

Add ground beef and cook, stirring constantly.  Keep a close eye on the heat because the rice could burn easily!  It's okay if the beef isn't cooked all the way through if you run the risk of burning the rice. 

Add the water, tomato sauce, chili powder, and salt, bring skillet contents to a boil while stirring, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Cook without removing lid for 20 minutes.
While that's cooking, turn the oven to 400 and grease a 2 quart baking dish.  When rice and meat mixture is done, stir thoroughly, then spoon half of it into the baking dish.  Top with half of the cheese.  Layer with the rest of the rice mixture, the rest of the cheese, and the bacon.  Bake about 15 minutes, until cheese is golden.
Yield: 6-8 main dish servings

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ginger Apricot Cranberry Sauce

My Secret Recipe Club assignment for December was The Pajama Chef and this is one of the three recipes I made from that blog.  I made my official post for SRC a couple of days ago, but really wanted to share her Ginger Apricot Cranberry Sauce, too!

A bit of background: My husband loves homemade cranberry sauce, so I make it every Thanksgiving.  It's usually the very first Thanksgiving dish I make and I do it the night before.  I like cranberry sauce okay, and in the past have always just used the recipe on the bag of cranberries (cranberries, sugar, water).  It's good, but regardless of how much my husband likes it, we always end up throwing some of it away after a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Well, when I made this, we actually finished the entire bowl in a few days.  A first!  If that doesn't speak to how good it is, I don't know what would.  It's such a perfect combination of tart-sweet-spicy (from the ginger) and the apricot actually does manage to hold its own against the cranberry flavor.  I may experiment with other cranberry sauce recipes in the future- found one with crushed pineapple that appeals to my pineapple loving heart!- but this is definitely our default cranberry sauce recipe from now on.

Note: The recipe says to cut the halved apricots into thirds.  I thought that seemed really big and cut them into 6ths.  The apricots kind of fell apart during the cooking process and disappeared into the cranberries.  It still tasted amazing, but I think bigger pieces may be the way to go and will do it this way next year.

Ginger Apricot Cranberry Sauce

12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 C sugar
1 t ground ginger
15 oz can halved apricots
Place cranberries in a pot and add sugar and ginger.  Drain the apricot juice into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1 cup liquid.  Add to pot.  Cut apricots into quarters and add to pot.  Stir to mix.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and are softened, and the sauce cooks down and thickens.  This will take about 15-20 minutes.  Refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.