Posts tagged easy to make

30 minute Italian shrimp

My youngest used to love shrimp but now she’s going through denial. So we’ve been having shrimp a lot lately. Even with our ‘you’ve-got-to-eat-at-least-a-bite’ rule around our house she hasn’t budged to sampling more than she has to. I have hope: As a kid, I didn’t like shrimp either.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

1 pound spaghetti

20-30 medium raw shrimp

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 lemon (optional)

1 jar spaghetti sauce

Directions

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Prepare the shrimp. Note: I usually add half a bag of the medium-sized shrimp from Costco into warm water while I’m making the pasta. By the time the pasta is done, the shrimp is thawed. I removed the tails and dry off the shrimp before sauteing.
  3. Bring the olive oil to medium-high heat in a large skillet.
  4. Place the shrimp and garlic in the pan and cook until the shrimp begins to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and the cayenne pepper, then pour the spaghetti sauce (Barilla is my fav) into the pan and cook until heated through, about 4 minutes.
  5. Serve the shrimp over the spaghetti.

Kids’ reactions: Well, you know what my youngest said. My teen gave it two thumbs up; my tween was mediocre on this one. She ate it, didn’t love it. But Mr. Squid (not technically a kid) was a fan and even finished off the last three shrimp left in the pan.

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Chocolate cake in 3 minutes

My mom sent me this recipe from the newspaper years ago. But I didn’t make it. The recipe was marked “dangerous chocolate mug cake.” The danger was in the ease of making a chocolate cake in 5 minutes–2 minutes for throwing together the ingredients (all right into the mug) and another 3 for baking.

There’s a couple of reasons I held out making this recipe. The first? I didn’t think it would work. I mean, mixing up a chocolate cake in a coffee mug? And even if it did work I figured it would be tasteless, or at best, grainy.

The second reason: What if it was good? Being able to put a individual-sized piece of cake together so quickly is downright dangerous for your waistline.

But that torn piece of newspaper had been nagging at me, so I decided to give it a try. Result: it’s good. I don’t know if I’m happy or disappointed about that. You really do put all the ingredients together in the order of the recipe and cook for 3 minutes to turn out a moist piece of chocolate cake. You can serve the cake in the mug or turn it out onto a plate.

I’ve now made the chocolate mug a few times (trying to keep myself from making it too often) and let me give you a few hints.

  • The cake turns out better if you mix the ingredients in the mug. When I mixed it in a separate bowl and then placed it in the mug, the top of the cake didn’t end up round, it was more flat. Plus, you can avoid cleaning up another bowl by just using the mug.
  • I’m an almond extract fan so whether you choose almond extract or vanilla you do need a bit of a flavor boost in the cake.
  • Okay, this one is a bit obvious, but I’m always anxious for a bite of cake: give it at least a couple minutes to cool before you eat it.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 regular-sized coffee cup

¼ cup flour

½ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons baking cocoa

1 egg

3 Tablespoons milk

3 Tablespoons oil

¼ teaspoon almond extract

3 Tablespoons chocolate chips

1 Tablespoon nuts (opt)

Directions

  1. Add all of the dry ingredients to the mug and stir.
  2. Add the egg and mix.
  3. Pour in the milk, oil and extract.
  4. Mix the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) into the batter.
  5. Place the mug on a small plate.
  6. Bake in the microwave for 3 minutes on high.
  7. Note: The batter will rise above the top of the mug. Not to worry, the batter shouldn’t overflow.
  8. Allow the cake to cool for a couple minutes before eating.

This is the perfect recipe to make while thumbing through a few real-life Valentine’s stories available at Parents.com. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day sweet? As you’ve probably gathered, mine is anything with dark chocolate.

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3 Ingredient recipes for an easy romantic meal

I think I have more food traditions tied up in Valentine’s Day then any other holiday (Christmas included!). First, I don’t cook–it’s like Mother’s Day. I don’t clean up either (notice a trend?). And finally, no matter what we have for dinner, for dessert my husband makes crepes. He makes them just once a year and Valentine’s Day happens to be it.

Unlike me, he doesn’t use a recipe book but takes a peek at ingredients online and then judges whether he’s got the batter right by checking the thickness. Then he makes a filling with a combination of bittersweet chocolate, pecans, almonds, coconut, honey, and whatever else he happens to find tucked in the back of the kitchen cabinets. Then he serves it topped with fresh whipped cream.

See, now you’re getting why we only have this once a year.

Well this year I’m going to try to let him concentrate on his crepes and let my kids take over the main meal. They’re actually pretty excited about this (my oldest mentioned something about tying it into the Chinese New Year, my youngest just loves any excuse to throw on her little apron).

But I’m going to try to make it easy on them. I want them to feel good about what they make. I’ve been brainstorming a recipe ideas that only take a few ingredients. Here’s a few ideas from our house, I’d love to hear some of yours too!

Spaghetti

Ingredients= noodles, Italian sausage, 2 jars marinara

I always make my spaghetti sauce in the crockpot. I’ll brown the Italian sausage over the stovetop until it’s cooked through and then put it in the slow cooker along with the marinara. I set it on low for the day and the sauce takes on this rich, restaurant-worthy flavor. I think my kids can handle cooking noodles and then scooping out the sauce.

Asian wraps

Ingredients=Ground turkey + Boston lettuce + teriyaki sauce

This meal is easy to throw together. You just need to brown the ground turkey (job for the 12 y-o), add in the teriyaki sauce and then serve it on the lettuce pieces. If you don’t have a little person old enough to be at the stovetop you could brown the meat for her or you could use a purchased rotisserie chicken and have her mix in the sauce. Of course, everyone likes washing-lettuce duty.

Caesar salad

Ingredients=Romaine lettuce + salad dressing + grated Parmesan cheese

For a non-cooked meal, Caesar salad happen to be my favorite. Your kids can take care of washing the lettuce, pouring on the dressing and grating the cheese. If you want you can add croutons or even pieces of leftover chicken.

There are other ways to make the day fun for your whole family–while not spending a bundle. Check out these suggestions for Love on a Budget from Parents. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

Your turn–any creative ideas (simple recipes) that your kids can make for Valentine’s Day?

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Pretty mini-quiches

A few weeks ago I tried out crustless quiche on a whim and it was a big hit at my house. I became a fan too–the recipe was so versatile and fast that I could make a meal in under 10 minutes (well, baking time took longer, of course). Serve a slice of quiche with a generous salad and dinner is done.

But then I wanted to get a little creative, try out spinach in the quiche, or maybe roasted veggies, breakfast sausage in some and ham in another. I wondered if I could use ramekins in place of a pie plate so that each person could have their own quiche and choose what ingredients they wanted. It was kind of like make-your-own pizza, but with quiche.

Putting the ramekins together takes a little more work than a single quiche, but not much. You’ll need to lightly coat each ramekin with baking spray. Put about 1/8 cut of ingredients into the bottom of the ramekin and then pour the egg mixture on top.

I filled a pan with various ramekin sizes (4 and 7 ounces) and quiche flavors–spinach and gruyere, cheddar and sausage, ham and potatoes. And yes, you can make these a day ahead and reheat them. Plus they slide right out of the ramekin so if you want to serve them out of the dish, you can.

So if you’re looking for something fun for New Year’s Day to serve to your crew, try out these mini-quiches. (And then next week when you need a quick dinner–yup, you can try these out again just with different fixins.)

Here’s a few tweaks to the crustless quiche recipe to make the mini version.

  • Instead of greasing a pie plate, use 6, 7-oz ramekins or 8, 4-oz ramekins (or a combination)
  • Fill each ramekin with about 1/8-1/4 cup fixins of your choice (sausage, spinach, roasted veggies, diced ham)
  • Pour the egg mixture on top of the fixins.

For more fun brunch ideas perfect for New Year’s Day (or breakfast for dinner)–like french toast fondue, check out these Come To Brunch ideas. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

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Zingier Cookie Bars

Raspberry barsI love holiday baking. Let me repeat I LOVE holiday baking. But I don’t always have time for it. Then my 12-year-old mentions she needs a plate of goodies for choir or I really want to give a baked present to a friend but I have about 30 minutes to make something decent–and yeah, I need to do a load of laundry in between.

My secret? A little zing can make any cookie bar better, whether you’ve made it from scratch or enlisted the help of Krusteaz or whatever boxed mix you happen to have on hand. (Nope, no sponsorship from Krusteaz here, I just really like their raspberry crumb bars.)

Here are a few tweaks that will make your cookie bars stand out–

•Zest: Lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, adding a little citrus zest to your crumble bar batter will give it an added tanginess. (Use about a teaspoon of zest for a small batch and zest the entire fruit for a cookie-pan sized batter.) Fun pairings: orange zest with chocolate, lemon zest with raspberry, lime zest with strawberry.

*Confused about how to zest? No worries. Click for the lowdown on zesting.

•Fruit slices: After you’ve zested the fruit, don’t just send it down the garbage disposal! Cut thin, circular slices of the fruit. Then cut a line from the outside of the fruit just barely toward the center. Twist the fruit slice and place it on top. Make sure to add the twists just before serving. Refrigerate them until you’re ready.

•Almond extract: My vanilla extract bottle has been gathering dust lately. I don’t know, it just doesn’t have enough oomph for me. But the smooth flavor of almond just screams holidays to me. So I’ve been putting almond extract in place of vanilla in every recipe.

•Nutmeg: Another flavor that will inspire you to start singing Christmas carols, any recipe that calls for cinnamon, go ahead and add some nutmeg (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon). If you’re daring, toss a few shakes of ground ginger in the batter too. Nutmeg pairs perfectly with most recipes calling for oatmeal.

•Nuts: Pecans are pricier than other nuts so I usually only get them around the holidays. Looking for a less expensive option? Almond slivers. No need to chop them before you use them, just add a few slivers to one of your favorite bars to make it look a little fancier. Or what about cashews?

•Chocolate: Okay, if you read my blog regularly you know I’ll use any excuse to add a little chocolate, but try something different–like mini-chips or chunks instead of your regular variety.

Shaped raspberry cookie bar

If only I had a star cookie cutter!

And to make your cookie bars really stand out, forget the bar! Refrigerate the cooked bars for about 1 hour and then instead of cutting, use a cookie cutter to make different shapes (warning: you’ll get fewer bars this way, but your kids will love having the job of eating the extras.)

Ready to get baking? Check out these recipes for the Best Cookie Bars. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates. (The peanutty buckeye bars are on my list to make:)

What about you? Do you have any hints for making your cookie bars even more tasty?

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Quick Crustless Quiche

Crustless quiche

Santa, please bring me a better camera so I can take decent pictures...

Quiche is pretty much a glorified omelet. But you can only have omelets for dinner so many times before it gets dull.

I like the standard quiche, but there’s something about the crust that just makes me think dessert instead of dinner. It could be that I once tried to save myself some time by buying the crust instead of making it from scratch and I inadvertently bought a dessert dough (not the savory, sugarless variety). Hey, I like to try new flavor combos, but ew. Just ew.

My solution? Go crustless.

Without the crust, quiche becomes a lot more versatile. And leftovers are literally soaked up with an egg custard and a generous helping of cheese. Pair yesterday’s ham and roasted potatoes with sharp cheddar cheese for a quick comfort food dish. Or spruce up spinach and bacon with some Swiss cheese.

Are you seeing where I’m going with this–easy dinner during the holiday rush that also cleans out the fridge? Ah, now you’re starting to brainstorm how to use what you’ve got and refashion it in a pie tin.

I’ve included a recipe with specific directions, but I like to think of this as a guideline, so let me explain crustless quiche construction. First, you need to grease your pan, easy enough. And don’t feel like you have to stay with the pie shape—an 8×8” square pan works well too (this recipe doubles well too). Then it’s all about what your family likes—add ham, sausage, bacon, or veggies to the bottom of your pan. Once that’s in the pan you pour the egg mixture on top to seal the ingredients together, of course the cheese in the eggs helps with keeping things together. I also like to add a little extra cheese and herbs (fresh or dried) on top of the quiche, just to spruce up the appearance.

The quiche doesn’t cook quickly, but while it bakes you can do a little online shopping or wrap a present or two. I usually serve a hearty slice of crustless quiche with a salad and a muffin.

Recipe

Servings: 4-6

Prep time: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients

4 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 cups milk

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

pepper to taste
¾ cup-1 cup shredded cheese

1 cup chopped ham, cooked sausage, bacon or cooked veggies like broccoli, mushrooms

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and flour using a hand mixer. Add the spices and ½ cup of shredded cheese (I like to use a combination of Parmesan and sharp cheddar).
  3. Grease a 9” pie pan or small casserole dish.
  4. Place your cooked meat and/or veggies on the bottom of the baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top.
  5. Add the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until cooked through and browned slightly on the top.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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Secrets to Prettier Brownies

Peanut butter topped browniesWhy is it always holiday cookies? Have you noticed that brownies never seem to make it onto the treat-giving trays.

Sure, glorified Chex mix studded with chocolate and powdered sugar pops up (affectionately known as puppy chow at our house). But brownies seem relegated into the last-minute-I-just-remembered-I-had-to-make-something category. It’s too bad.

Here’s my theory–most brownies just aren’t pretty enough. I thought about that the other day as I was flipping through a flyer for holiday gifts and the Perfect Brownie Pan Set was right on page one. Really? A whole pan dedicated to baking neatly cut brownies. Again, my thought is that folks really want to make brownies good enough for the cookie tray. But forget about an extra pan!

If you really want to spruce up your brownie, try a few of these tweaks. And hey, if it doesn’t work for you, you can still buy the brownie pan later…

•Wax paper to the rescue!

Brownies get crumbly when you cut them in the pan. Try coating your regular brownie pan–mine is a 9×13″ casserole dish–with cooking spray. Then press in a piece of wax paper onto the bottom and sides of the pan (parchment paper works even better–but I always have wax paper on hand, not so for pricier parchment). Once the brownies have cooked and cooled you can lift them out of the pan on the waxed paper and then cut.

•Chill, then cut

Using a paper lining–either waxed or parchment–is the first step, the next is to wait to cut your brownies. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll put the whole brownie pan in the fridge overnight and cut on day #2. If I need the brownies that day, it’s into the freezer for an hour or so. Once the brownies are chilled, then lift them out of the pan, using the paper, and then onto a cutting board.

•Cut diagonally

Resist the urge to just start cutting. Look at your rectangle’s worth of brownie and make your cuts from corner to corner instead of just across. Diamond-cut brownies are so much prettier! (And you’ll have to eat all the extra ends:)

•Top it

Now that you have a perfectly cut brownie (no extra pan insert required), it’s time to add pizzazz. My standby is to melt about 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips along with a tablespoon of butter in the microwave until smooth. Then, using a fork I drizzle chocolate across the cut brownies. Another trick: fill a Ziploc baggie with 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter. Place the sealed bag (make sure there’s no extra air) into a cup of warm water. Let it sit for a couple minutes and then trim a small hole in one corner of the bag. Make peanut butter patterns on your brownies then add chopped peanuts to complete the look. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour more to set.

•Top it again

Along with drizzling chocolate or peanut butter over your brownies, what about adding crushed Oreos, candy canes, mini chocolate chips…I could go on, but you get the idea.

Do you have any tricks for making your brownies, well, more presentable?

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3 Fancy cookies. 10 minutes. No kidding!

Pie crust windmillsSome delectable cookies take days to make. And I love every minute of it. But when you’re crafting your cookies with kids there’s just no way to hold their interest through multiple steps of mixing, rolling, filling, dipping (well at least around my house, the last time I tried the cookies ended up paper thin thanks to my 7-year-old’s hearty rolling skills).

Still, I like making cookies with my bakers-in-training. I stumbled on a solution by accident (thank you coupon circular!). Pie crusts. Unlike pre-made sugar cookie dough that can spread and leave carefully constructed raspberry cookie volcanoes deflated, pie crusts withstand little fingers’ various designs. Added bonus: The dough comes rolled for you!

Here are just three ideas to make fancy cookies with pie crusts. And yes, you can make these in the time it takes your oven to heat up to 375 degrees (okay, maybe mine is slower than most).

Ingredients to have on hand

Pre-packaged pie crusts

Jam, I used apricot and raspberry

powdered sugar

sliced apples

cinnamon and sugar


Ready to make cookies?

•The Windmill

(Pictured above.) I drummed up the idea for this one from my 9-year-old’s origami book. Start by cutting a 1 1/2 to 2″ square with the pie dough. You make four slits almost to middle, starting from the corner working toward the center. Slather about one teaspoon jam (any flavor), starting from the middle working out. Fold one corner toward the inside and repeat with each corner tip. (I found a helpful tutorial with paper). Press the tips in the center and top with a chocolate chip, dried cherry or whatever else you have on hand. Bake for about 10 minutes or until just browned.

Apricot kolaches•Kolaches

Sure, these aren’t authentic, but I can make 3 dozen of them in under 20 minutes (not including baking time:) and they taste almost as good as the real thing. For the kolaches, use a pizza cutter to make 1-inch strips in the pie dough. Cut again, to make 1-inch pieces. Add about a half teaspoon of jam to the center of the square and fold two corners toward the middle and leave the other two open. You can brush the folded sides with egg yolk and then sprinkle with raw sugar. Or, after you’ve baked the cookies, give ‘em a dip in some powdered sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes.


Mini turnovers•Mini Apple Turnovers

My 7-year-old had so much fun with these! With a 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter (you could also use a drinking glass) I had her make circles in the dough. A 9-inch pie crust will make about 10 circles. I had a bowl of thin-cut apple slices on hand that I’d squeezed with a bit of lemon. On one half of the circle, she placed a piece of apple (she cut them to fit using a kitchen knife). Then she folded the dough over the apple and sealed the two ends together (you might want to use a little water to make the seal stick). Then she dipped the turnover in melted butter and then her favorite, cinnamon and sugar. Alternatively, you can brush the dough with egg yolk and then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Or go without dipping altogether!

We’re still inventing ways to make cookies out of pie crusts–it’s a lot of fun. Looking for more ideas? Check out these Creative Holiday Cookies. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

And congrats to the winner of the King Arthur $60 gift certificate. Happy baking to Darcy B!

Your turn–what cookies are you making this holiday season?

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Making Thanksgiving Fun for Kids

Trouble board gameTrouble. Sorry. Whoonu. Don’t worry–I’m not expecting any problems on Thanksgiving, other than maybe a little indigestion. These are the games I’m going to bring over to a friend’s house where we’re spending the day.

See, sometimes Thanksgiving can seem like more of a grown-up holiday. So this year I’m trying to look for ways to keep my kids involved (and to win at least a round or two of Uno—seriously, when did my 7 year-old become such a card master?!).

Plus I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my girls without having to worry about homework getting done, being late for basketball practice, or even keeping up with my email.

Here’s what I’m planning so far–I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Board games.

Classics like Checkers and Monopoly can be fun, but since we’ll be with friends, I’m bringing along games that encourage conversation.

  • Whoonu lets players rank items on cards according to how much they like them. You rank “macaroni and cheese” above “petting zoos”? Cue: Whoonu?
  • Apples to Apples Junior is another favorite, giggle-inducing, didn’t-know-that-about-you game. Players take turns being the “judge.” The judge puts down a green apple card that has a word on it, say “dangerous,” and from the other players’ stash of 5 cards, they put down what they think best matches. The judge then picks the winner–and at least at our house–has to justify why she chose “doing the dishes” over “pirates” as the best match with “dangerous.”
  • For more board games your family might enjoy, click through this round-up of games from Parents.com. I’ve been checking out their site as part of the Motherboard team.

Napkin animals.

My 9-year-old has become an origami machine. She’s already filled two shoe boxes (and we’re talking winter boot boxes here!) full of paper-fashioned frogs and snakes dragons. I asked if she wouldn’t mind trying out some of her skills with napkins and her eyes went two shades brighter blue. She went and grabbed her origami book and read the Table of Contents asking what requests I had. So along with bringing rolls, a dessert, and some games, we’re bringing napkin animals.

Baking art.

Lately, when I’m making batches of goodies to give to friends, I save a little dough for my kids. I just let them create whatever shape comes to mind. Last week my 9 year-old crafted a volcano sugar cookie oozing with raspberry jam lava. And before that my 7 year-old built snowmen out of coconut truffle dough, complete with M&M eyes. So along with making one regular batch of dinner rolls, I’m going to let my three kids roll out the second batch. My guess is some will end up crescent shaped, some frogs (a current fascination) and others snakes–because it’s just fun to roll the dough out with two hands and then add a couple raisins for eyes.

Do you remember anything fun that you did as a child at Thanksgiving to make it memorable? Are you planning on doing anything different this year to keep your kids involved?

*Reminder: If you haven’t already, make sure to enter the King Arthur $60 Giveaway. The deadline for the contest is next Monday.

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Pumpkin Cookies from Just Baked’s Pam Turkin

pumpkin cookies

Photo credit: Pam Turkin

From cupcake queen Pam Turkin, the mind behind Just Baked, comes this recipe for pumpkin cookies.

Ingredients

4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (saigon is my favorite)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups butter
1 can (15 oz.) 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup Mini Marshmallows

Directions

  1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
    COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pie spice in medium bowl. Beat soften butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture into pumpkin mixture at low speed until combined. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
  2. BAKE for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Spread each cookie with frosting.

Frosting ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 tsp Vanilla

dash cinnamon

Directions

Add Milk and vanilla to powered sugur until thin enough to drizzle.  Once cookies have cooled drizzle over cookies to taste and enjoy!!

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