Almond Biscotti

Having realized that I forgot to make any biscotti over the holidays, I had to remedy the situation right away by making a batch.  I kept it simple and went with a fairly plain almond biscotti.  But sometimes plain can be so, so good.

Because I’m me, I made a few changes – I omitted the egg wash and orange zest and I mixed the dough in my stand mixer instead of in the same sauce pan that the butter gets melted.  Click the link below to Bridget’s blog if you want to see the original instructions.  But I was very happy with the results.  I found the dough to be a little bit more sticky than any other biscotti I have made.  It made shaping the logs slightly difficult, but the final product was just fine.  I should also point out that I don’t like my biscotti overly brown, so I shortened each baking time by a minute or two.

Almond Biscotti

Source:  adapted from The Way The Cookie Crumbles

3¼ cups (15.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 large eggs
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 teaspoon salt
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
1 tablespoon orange zest – sadly I omitted this
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, mix the flour and baking powder.

2. In a small sauce pan, heat the butter just until melted. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir in the sugar and salt.  Stir in the eggs, one at time; add the extract, liqueur, and zest.  Slowly mix in the flour mixture, then the almonds.

3. Divide the dough in half.  On the prepared baking sheet, shape each half into a log 2-inches across and ¾-inch high. Brush with egg white. Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.

4. Carefully transfer the logs to a cooling rack; cool for about 30 minutes.  Leave the oven on.

5. Slice each log on the diagonal into ½-inch thick cookies.  Lay half of the cookies cut side down on the baking sheet.  Bake 11 minutes; remove the pan from the oven and, using tongs, turn each cookie over onto its other cut side.  Bake 7 minutes, until the edges are browned. Transfer to a cooling rack.  Repeat with the remaining cookies.

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Zesty Snack Crackers

This is normally one of the goodies that I make with my mom and sister when we do our annual Christmas baking, but Tim has mentioned that it should be a regular snack to have around the house.  I couldn’t refuse, because I totally agree.  Why save it for just the holidays?!

It also makes a great topping for soup or chili.  Give it a try!

Zesty Snack Crackers

Source:  adapted from a hometown cookbook {I don’t want to mention names on the blog, but a shout out goes to a good friend”s mom!}

1 package {10 – 12 oz.} oyster crackers

1 package dry ranch dressing mix

1 tsp garlic powder or garlic salt

1 heaping tsp dill weed

1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning – optional, can use up to one Tbsp

1/2 cup vegetable oil {you can use up to one cup, but 1/2 cup works for me}

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir or shake at least 4-5 times over a one hour period.  Store in an air tight container.

Enjoy!

Christmas Salad

Tim’s cousin made this salad for a family function a few months ago and I tried to recreate it at home not long ago.   I kick myself for not getting the exact recipe from her because I know there is something different about the way she made it.  I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is though.  For one thing, I know she soaked dry chickpeas, but I went ahead and used canned.  In any case, it is still delicious.   I’ll caution that you start small on the amount of onion that you use.  I have found that a little bit of raw onion goes a very long way.

Instead of a salad, I could see this used like a relish for grilled or roasted meat such as pork tenderloin.  And I could also see it used as a salsa.  With the addition of chopped tomato it would be fantastic scooped up with tortilla chips.

Named for the red and green colors, it is a beautiful salad any time of year that pomegranates are in season.  Not just at Christmas time.

Christmas Salad

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

seeds from one large pomegranate

1/2 of a small red onion, very finely chopped {or less}

bunch of cilantro, chopped {about 1/4 cup}

juice of one lime

s & p to taste

1 tsp cumin or to taste

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil {about 2-3 tablespoons)

Directions:

Combine everything in a large bowl and allow flavors to meld for 1 hour before serving.

Eggnog Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

It is a tradition for Tim’s family to drink eggnog at Christmas dinner, so I went ahead and concluded that they must like eggnog in a dessert as well so I decided to make these cupcakes for our get together with them.  And I was right!  Everyone really enjoyed them.

These cupcakes were fantastic – very moist and dense.  Although for me, the real star was the cream cheese frosting.  I’m not a huge fan of drinking eggnog, so I found the frosting to be the best part.  But there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with the cupcake itself.  The eggnog taste wasn’t overpowering at all.  I’ll definitely make these again next year!  Heck, I might even make them again for New Year’s!

My changes include – increasing the cinnamon and nutmeg used in the batter from a 1/4 tsp each to a full teaspoon each.  I also increased the amount of frosting because I really swirl it on heavy with Wilton’s 1M star tip.  I also added some eggnog to the frosting to help it reach the consistency I wanted and I figured a little extra eggnog flavor couldn’t hurt!  I sprinkled each frosted cupcake with ground nutmeg for decoration.

Eggnog Cupcakes

Source:  Life’s Ambrosia

Makes 12

You will need:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
  • additional nutmeg for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, using a hand held mixer cream together oil and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla.
  4. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix until combined. Beat in eggnog. Gradually add in remaining flour, beat just until combined.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full with cupcake mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs on it.
  6. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the cupcake pan. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost with maple cream cheese frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes

You will need:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 tablespoons butter {one stick}, softened
  • 2 tablespoons eggnog
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2- 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar – approximate
  1. Using a stand mixer on medium speed cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Beat in maple syrup.
  3. Gradually add in powdered sugar and beat until it becomes a thick spreadable mixture.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of eggnog until desired consistency is reached.

Eggnog Muffins

After Christmas, I had exactly 1 cup off eggnog left in the carton a day before the “best by” date printed on the carton, so I figured I would bake with it.  We needed a homemade breakfast baked good anyway.

These turned out very moist and fluffy!  The eggnog and nutmeg flavors are really dominant.  Perfect for the holidays!  I’ll definitely make them again.

The only minor issue I had with the recipe was that it says it makes 12 muffins.  I filled 12 muffin liners and still had enough batter for 2 more.  I ended up putting that extra batter in a large ramekin which worked fine.

Eggnog Muffins

{source: Midwest Living}

Ingredients

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup dairy eggnog
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract (I substituted more vanilla extract)
  • Nutmeg-Streusel Topping (recipe below)

Directions

1. Grease twelve {or more} 2-1/2-inch muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

2. In another bowl, combine eggs, eggnog, melted butter, vanilla and rum extract. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Sprinkle streusel topping over muffin batter in cups.

3. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

4. Nutmeg-Streusel Topping: In small bowl, mix 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg using pastry blender. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Christmas sugar cookies

Here’s some of the decorated cut-out sugar cookies that I made for Christmas.  I hope to improve a ton before next Christmas!

Ornaments and presents

Pork Tenderloin

Traditionally on Christmas Eve, Tim and I stay home and I’ll cook a nice meal of roasted pork tenderloin, potatoes and steamed broccoli (Tim’s favorite veggie).  This year we made other plans on Christmas Eve, but I still wanted to prepare our traditional meal.  So, I did just that 2 days after Christmas this year.

To accompany the pork tenderloin this time, I served baked sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon or brown sugar, broccoli salad with dried cranberries instead of raisins, dinner rolls (leftover from Christmas), and homemade applesauce.  It was a delicious meal!  The pork was very moist and just a little spicy.

If you wish, you can certainly adapt the spices to suit your taste.  And this doesn’t have to be a special occasion meal either.  You could put the rub on the pork in the morning before work, place it in the fridge, and throw it in the oven when you get home.  You’ll have a meal ready in about 30 minutes.  Pretty nice for a weeknight!

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper – leave it out if you don’t like heat

3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of thick and grainy spicy mustard

1 or 2 tablespoons brown sugar

approximately 1.5 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat

Directions

Mix the oil, mustard, sugar and seasonings together to form a paste {will be a little thin}.  Rub or brush it over the pork on all sides.  Place the pork in a shallow baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to marinate.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the tenderloin uncovered in the oven for anywhere from 25-40 minutes or until done.  Let rest about 10 minutes, then cut into 1″ slices.

This would easily serve 4, but leftovers are great too.  I’ll probably cut up the pork and use it in pork fried rice tomorrow or the next day.

Enjoy!

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