December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season for Cookies: Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

There's something very satisfying about the peanut butter/chocolate combo, especially peanut butter and milk chocolate. Those two are part of classic combos that you easily think of, peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, cake and ice cream, just to name a few.

Also be sure check out the other participants of 'Tis the Season for Cookies to see their fabulous cookie recipes as well!:

Diana Cannone at To Di for Bakery.
Judy Chiappini at No Fear Entertaining.
Mandee Racer Pogue at The Kitchen Wife.
Marye Audet-White at Restless Chipotle.
Renee Joslyn at Flamingo Musings.
Sandy Smith at Eat Real.
And Sherri Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

This week's theme is Fancy Cookies! But nothing says fancy has to be hard. ;)

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Peanut Butter Ball Fillings

What You'll Need for the Peanut Butter Balls:
1 - 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of peanut butter (Note: You can use smooth or crunchy.)
1 cup of powdered sugar

Mix together a can of sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter until thoroughly mixed.

Mix the powdered sugar in to the peanut butter mixture until incorporated a ball forms.

Take roughly a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it in to a ball. Place the ball on a lined baking sheet and repeat until you run out of filling.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Peanut Butter Balls

Next make your chocolate coating.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Chocolate Covering

What You'll Need for the Chocolate Coating:
1 package of chocolate chips (Note: I usually use milk chocolate with peanut butter, but you can use dark or semi-sweet if you like instead.)
2 tablespoons of coconut oil

In a large glass bowl melt chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave on 10 seconds intervals, stirring between rounds, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Dip each peanut butter ball in chocolate until completely covered:

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Dipping in Chocolate

And place each ball back on the baking sheet:

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Dipped

Next make the peanut butter drizzle.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Peanut Butter Drizzle

What You'll Need for the Peanut Butter Drizzle:
1/2 cup of peanut butter chips
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
1 heaping tablespoon of peanut butter

Melt the peanut butter chips with the coconut oil on the same 10 second intervals you used for the chocolate, stirring between, until melted. Once melted stir in the peanut butter until smooth.

Drizzle each covered peanut butter ball with the peanut butter drizzle and put them back on the sheet.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls: Done!

Notes: You can sprinkle with crushed peanuts if you want, instead of the peanut butter drizzle (honey roasted peanuts would be particularly nice) or you can dust them with cocoa.

Posted by Dianne at 1:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 11, 2014

The Best Sausage Balls You'll Ever Make

The Best Sausage Balls You'll Ever Make

If you've been around Dianne's Dishes for a while, you know I'm all about making things myself, and not using mixes or pre-made things. That being said, some times, thinking out of the pre-made box is harder than others, this time however, that isn't the case.

Most of the time when you come across a sausage ball recipe, it calls for baking mix. Some baking mixes aren't bad, you actually turn the package around and it's made with flour and things you recognize, however most of them contain chemicals and stuff I surely don't want to eat, I don't know about you.

This recipe uses flour, along with the ingredients you would have in your standard biscuit recipe, minus the milk and butter, to make a sausage ball that is simply fabulous. Most people have these things in their cupboards right now. So grab some sausage, cheese and cream cheese, head in to your pantry and grab some dry ingredients and let's make some sausage balls!

What You'll Need:
1 pound of sausage (Note: I prefer the hot variety. Look for a brand without MSG.)
1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 cups of cheddar, shredded
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of a mixer, mix together sausage and cream cheese, until smooth.

Next add sugar, baking powder and salt and process until mixed in.

Now it's time to add the cheese. With the mixer running, slowly add cheese, until incorporated in the sausage/cream cheese mixture.

After the cheese is thoroughly mixed in, slowly add in flour until a crumbly dough forms. Depending on humidity, and moisture content in your sausage and cheese, this could be really crumbly, or more doughy. It's all good. Don't sweat it if it isn't exactly what you had pictured. You're going to shape the balls with your hands, and it all comes together.

Once the dough is made you want to make "balls" roughly the size of a walnut and place them on a large baking sheet.They can be close, but make sure they aren't touching. To make the ball roll a small about of dough between your palms until a ball forms. Remember when this is over to wash your hand thoroughly, you are dealing with raw pork here.

Once you have used all of your dough, place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

The Best Sausage Balls You'll Ever Make

Notes: Let's talk cheese! You can do a mixture of cheese in these. I like to use cheddar or Colby, but you can also use Monterrey Jack for all or part of the cheese. A friend of mine likes to add in some pepper jack. It's all a matter of personal taste.

Posted by Dianne at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 8, 2014

'Tis the Season for Cookies: Gingerbread Houses and "Pissy" Gingerbread Men Ornaments

Gingerbread House

I've always loved making gingerbread houses. I'm not sure when I made my first gingerbread house, school perhaps? Or with my mom? But I remember making them, and loving the process. The first one I made was with graham crackers and a milk carton, if I recall. I even made gingerbread houses one Christmas for all my friends.

When Alexis was born I couldn't wait until she was old enough to make them too, and once she was (we did our first gingerbread house when she was 3), we've made one every year since. We make a big production out of it...we make the cookies one day, along with hot chocolate, and then we assemble the houses the next. We make royal icing, get our candy together and construct away.

The secret to a good gingerbread house is a firm cookie, and these have a bit of a crunch to them. That also helps if you want to turn these cookies in to ornaments, because the firmness makes for a good ornament too. I'll give you instructions on how to do that below as well.

Be sure and check out the other participants of 'Tis the Season for Cookies to see their fabulous cookie recipes for this week as well!:

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Diana Cannone at To Di for Bakery.
Judy Chiappini at No Fear Entertaining.
Mandee Racer Pogue at The Kitchen Wife.
Marye Audet-White at Restless Chipotle.
Renee Joslyn at Flamingo Musings.
Sandy Smith at Eat Real.
And Sherri Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo.

The theme this week was formed and decorated!

Gingerbread House: The Pieces

What You'll Need:
1 cup packed natural brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl cream brown sugar, butter and molasses until smooth. Add water and mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

Sprinkle some flour onto the surface you're working on and roll dough out to between 1/4-1/8th of an inch thick:

Gingerbread House: Rolling the Dough

To make a gingerbread house cut out house shapes using a template, or gingerbread house cutters. To make ornaments, cut with the cookie cutters of your choice. If you are going to use the cookies for ornaments remember to make a hole for the string or ribbon to tie them onto your tree. You can do this by using a straw to make a hole at the top of each cookie.

Bake for 9-10 minutes and cool completely on the pan. Cooling overnight is best. You want them to get extremely firm, the firmer the better.

And if you're like Alexis, then you'll want a little bite of dough, or several bites of dough, or a lot of dough. It's good dough. And it is eggless, if you're worried about such things, which we aren't, but there you go.

Gingerbread House: Dough!

And make sure you get plenty of flour all over yourself. On your face, on your apron, on the floor...I mean the bigger mess the better. Just ask Alexis! ;)

After the cookies have cooled and sat overnight you want to make some royal icing if you're making gingerbread houses (see below) or you can paint them if you've decided to make gingerbread ornaments.

Gingerbread House: Royal Icing

What You'll Need:
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
8 cups of powdered sugar

Add all the ingredients to a large glass bowl and stir until mixed.

Beat on medium speed for 5-6 minutes until icing is thick and has a pearly sheen to it.

Use immediately to make your gingerbread house, or to decorate cookies.

Now you get to assemble your gingerbread house!

Take a piece of cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil. This will be your "yard" for your house. Next add a layer of royal icing for the "snow" on the yard, and this also serves as glue for the bottom of your house walls:

Gingerbread House: Snowy Yard

Now you want to put up your walls:

Gingerbread House: Putting it Together

I like to use a canned good, or a bottle to balance the walls on until the "glue" dries. Add a line of royal icing to each wall and balance them against each other. Once the icing dries you will do the same process to add the roof to the house.

While the walls are drying you can also start adding some of the decorations around the sides of the house:

Gingerbread House: Decorating

The roof can be tricky, because gravity, well she's a bitch. You'll need to hold the roof on while the icing dries. Be generous with the icing on the edges of roof peek, so that it has plenty to hold on to. This is when you can watch a Christmas movie, or something, while you're sitting there holding the roof. If you're really talented you can figure out a way to brace the ceiling with cans or bottles, but you have to have the perfectly situated can or bottle size and it's easier said than done. Your best bet is holding it on and amusing yourself for a bit some other way.

Decorate with icing, candy, sprinkles or other embellishments if you're going to cookie route. Whatever you like works. Just let out your inner cookie creator!

If you're making ornaments paint them with craft or acrylic paints and let dry completely. Once the paint is dry you can "seal" the ornaments by painting or spraying on a coat of polyurethane if you want them to last for many years. If you want to make "Pissy" Gingerbread boys and girls, like the one pictured below, use a fluted cutter to cut a "bite" out of the side of their heads or even their foot if you want, because after all wouldn't you be a little pissy too if someone took a bite out of you? ;o)

Pissy Gingerbread Man

See? Doesn't he look pissy? I absolutely love these ornaments! To make a girl gingerbread person, paint a little bow on the other side of the head away from the "bite".

I've made gingerbread houses for almost 30 years now. Wow. That's a long time! Alexis gets a little impatient and doesn't wait for her "glue" to dry so she ends up with a disaster house, more often than not. Being the laid back kid she is, she just goes with it. Last year she said her collapsed house was hit by a tornado. This year she explained it was caused by a tsunami. But hey, she kept decorating it anyway!

Gingerbread House: Decorating Her Disaster

I mean how disastrous does this look?

Gingerbread House: Catastrophee

Candy cane loss, Christmas tree chopped in half, Santa hanging out next to the rubble. The kid makes it fun, even if it's not what you expect in a gingerbread house!

But what she really enjoys about the collapsed houses, other than having fun in general, is eating the parts!

Gingerbread House: If it Collapses, Eat it!

What's not to like about a little nibble of gingerbread? Oh and royal icing. AND candy! ;)

This was the first year my house collapsed too. I've made so many houses over the years, but this one just gave up. I think it had to do with the humidity in the air, as a friend of mine suggested. We had a very rainy day on Saturday, like ark worthy rain, and when I decorated the roof the weight of the icing and candy, just took out the house.

gb12

I'd like to tell you I was as cool about my house collapsing as my 11 year old, but sadly not so much. As I've said I've never had one collapse I wasn't impressed, so it took the wind out of my sails a bit, and it felt like a big defeat. But then again I nibbled on mine too, so that made it all better...well sort of! ;)

Gingerbread disasters aside, a few years ago I made a Fangtasia gingerbread house:

Fangtasia Gingerbread House

I was a big fan of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and even though they didn't end up the way I would have liked, this is still one of my favorite gingerbread houses I've ever made. I put a bite out of Bill's head, like the pissy gingerbread men, as if Eric had gotten tired of his nonsense and finally taken a bite out of him to put him in his place. I made Sookie look Christmasy, and I did a cross between book Eric and Skarsgård Eric, by the pink spandex from the book, and the black muscle shirt from the show.

The point being, gingerbread can be anything you want it to be. Just have fun with it. After all, isn't that what the holidays are about?

Posted by Dianne at 1:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 1, 2014

'Tis the Season for Cookies: Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

I've been meaning to get back to the blogging thing for a while, and I've got plans for a redesign and change around for the the New Year, but when some online friends in a blogging group I'm in on Facebook started to talk about having a cookie post round up in December, I could resist and I signed up for 'Tis the Season for Cookies right away!

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Week one's theme is fruit and/or nuts and I knew these Pecan Pie Cookie Bars were just the thing! This is one of my all time favorite recipes that I got from a friend years ago. They're just perfect for sharing during the holidays and make the perfect addition to a cookie tray or gift for someone on your list. They take the comfort of pecan pie and turn them in to an easily transported cookie bar that is a whole lot easier to take, not to mention a less messy alternative to share, than your traditional pecan pie.

Be sure and check out the Pinterest board for the group for more great cookie recipes from the other participants. We'll be posting recipes each Monday for the next few weeks.

Also check out the other participants of 'Tis the Season for Cookies to see their fabulous cookie recipes as well!:

Diana Cannone at To Di for Bakery.
Judy Chiappini at No Fear Entertaining.
Mandee Racer Pogue at The Kitchen Wife.
Marye Audet-White at Restless Chipotle.
Renee Joslyn at Flamingo Musings.
Sandy Smith at Eat Real.
And Sherri Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo.

Happy Holidays!

Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

What You'll Need for the Shortbread Layer:
1 1/2 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 sticks of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a bowl stir together flour, sugar and salt until combined. Next add butter and stir until dough forms.

Mash flour mixture in to the prepared dish, spreading it out to cover the entire bottom of the pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

While the crust is baking, make the pecan filling. (See Below).

Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

What You'll Need for the Pecan Filling Layer:
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 cups of pecans, chopped

In a large glass bowl melt butter in the microwave.

Once butter is melted add sugar, corn syrup, eggs and vanilla extract and stir until well mixed.

Next add the chopped nuts. (An easy way to "chop" the nuts? Put them in a ziplock bag and beat the snot out of them with a rolling pin. Not only do you get "chopped" nuts, you have the added benefit of getting out some of your frustrations at the same time. What's not to like about that?) Stir nuts until thoroughly incorporated with the sugar/corn syrup mix.

Pour filling on to the baked shortbread crust and spread out to the edges. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cool completely before cutting in to squares.

Notes: You can stir a package of chocolate chips into the filling if you like. You also do a mix of nuts instead of all pecans, or how about adding in some seeds of some sort like pumpkin of sunflower, for part of the nuts.

Posted by Dianne at 2:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)