Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Drunken Sugar Cookies: Two Ways

Have no fear! The holidays are still here! 

The best one is still approaching. The one night a year where everyone digs up all of their sparkly gear and sets out to drink champagne, liquor, and all sorts of delicious concoctions that bartenders spend the whole year dreaming up.
Yep, it's almost New Year's Eve!

I can't really participate in libations this year, doctors frown on the whole pregnancy and alcohol thing.

But I can eat rum that's been baked into some delicious sugar cookies and then stuffed with chocolate.

Or I can eat bars baked with rum and topped with still more chocolate and pecans.

Heaven is near folks. 

As 2012 approaches I intend to celebrate with these Drunken Stuffed Rum Balls and Rum Toffee Bars
Both variations start with the same dough making these cookies super easy. Plus if you dip the Drunken Stuffed Rum Balls in cocoa and powdered sugar it looks like you spent time making THREE different kinds of treats, when it's really a snap! 

These are kid-friendly, pregnancy approved, and party ready! I hope you had a great 2011 and I wish you an even better 2012!

And these may be a splurge, but after all the work you've put in this year to stay healthy, fit, and happy; I have a feeling you just might deserve this little treat.

Cheers and on with the recipes!

Basic Drunken Sugar Cookie Dough

2 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 Cup Unsalted Butter; softened
1 1/2 Cups White Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Rum

1. In a large bowl stir the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together to combine.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. 
3. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Stir until a smooth dough is formed.

Drunken and Stuffed Sugar Balls

1 Batch Basic Drunken Cookie Dough (recipe above) 

1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Butterscotch Chips
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

1. Prepare drunken cookie dough according to recipe above.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Combine the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a bowl. 

4. Pour the cocoa powder and powdered sugar into separate deep bowls. 

5. Using your clean hands, pinch a small walnut sized peice of dough and flatten into your palm. Make an indentation into the middle of the dough with your thumb. Fill with the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Fold the sides of the dough over the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Use a little extra dough to cover the chips if needed. 

6. Dip the stuffed sugar rum ball into the cocoa powder and place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat the balling and stuffing process and alternate dipping the cookies into the cocoa powder and the powdered sugar until all of the dough has been used. Refill the cocoa powder  and powdered sugar bowls if necessary.

7. Bake in the oven for 11-14 minutes. Remove and set on cooling racks to cool for about 20 minutes or just eat them! Yummy rum and chocolate/butterscotch explosion in my mouth!

Servings: 48 cookies

Nutritional Skinny (per cookie):

118 Calories / 5.4 g fat / 15.3 g carbohydrates / .3 g fiber / 1.3 g protein

Rum Toffee Squares

1 Batch Basic Drunken Cookie Dough (recipe above) 
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Butterscotch Chips

1/2 Cup Pecans; Chopped

1. Prepare drunken cookie dough according to recipe above.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Spread the dough on a greased baking sheet. Making the dough as even as possible and trying to smooth the dough all the way to the edges. I greased my hands and used them to press and smooth the dough.

4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. The edges should be browned and the dough slightly puffed up. Top with the chocolate and butterscotch chips and return to the oven for another minute.

5. Remove cookie squares from the oven and spread the chocolate and butterscotch chips using a spatula or large butter knife. Even coat the top of the dough with a nice layer of chocolate. Then sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top of the smoothed chocolate. Allow to cool for at least an hour. I chilled mine in the refrigerator to make sure the chocolate set and the pecans stuck to the chocolate. 

6. Then slice into squares using a pizza cutter. Serve immediately or keep fresh in the refrigerator until ready to serve! They will remain soft if kept in the fridge. My favorite kind of cookie is a soft cookie!

Servings: 48 bars

Nutritional Skinny (per bar):

126.7 calories / 6.3 g fat / 15.6 g carbohydrates / .4 g fiber / 1.4 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: As I said, I did spend time trying to figure out how to make these sweet indulgences a little less, well; indulgent. However, I ended up letting them be those perfect splurges that we all deserve. After all it's the end of a chapter. And a pretty big one for me and the beginning of a new start. A new year. So let's have our cake and eat it too. For one last blow out this year and really enjoy each bite. We deserve it after all the dieting, healthy eating, planning, and tread-mill time you've put in. Sit back, enjoy your hard work, and give yourself a pat on the back for another good year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sheperd's Pie

The holidays come with lots of turkeys, hams, and green bean casseroles. I love all of these things, but most recently I hosted a Christmas gathering at my cousin's house about two hours away.

I needed a recipe that I could make ahead of time and just pop in the oven at his place when dinner time approached. 

That's when the desire for Shepherd's Pie took over and I knew it would be a hit. I had strong memories of eating this during freshman year of high school for a best friend's birthday. Her mother was a world class cook, so I knew that I had my work cut out for me to duplicate her same flavor.

And as I had hoped, it worked like a charm and I came pretty close to my memory of perching on my knobby knees and eating this off the coffee table as a freshman.

I put it together the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight and packed it in my trunk for the drive. After we arrived I simply placed the whole thing in the oven for a little over an hour to make sure it was hot enough.

While it was baking I got to relax and visit with friends and family instead of working frantically in a foreign kitchen. 

And dinner was a hit. Warm, comforting, and best of all nutritious.

This Shepherd's Pie is a great idea for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day so that you don't have to worry about doing the cooking while your guests are arriving and wanting to visit. Even if the party is at your house, take a load off and make this one dish wonder ahead of time and give yourself permission to set the timer and relax at your own party!

Now on with the delicious recipe!

Shepherd's Pie

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Onion, Diced
1 Cup Baby Carrots; Diced
2 Stalks Celery; Diced
4 Cloves Garlic; Minced
Fresh Black Pepper
2 Pounds Lean Ground Beef
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 (10.5 Oz) Can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/2 cup Low Sodium Beef or Chicken Broth
1 Cup Frozen Peas
1 Cup Frozen Sweet Corn
Creamy Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)
1 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese

Mashed Potatoes

6 Large Baking Potatoes
4 Ounces Fat Free Cream Cheese
1 /2 Cup Skim Milk
Fresh Chive; Minced
2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Black Pepper

1. To make the mashed potatoes, peel the baking potatoes and dice into 1 inch cubes. Place in a large pot and cover the potatoes with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling allow the potatoes to bubble for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft enough to mash.
2. Drain the water off the potatoes leaving the potatoes in the pot. Add the butter, milk, chives, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes until creamy and smooth using a mixer or a hand masher. Then set the mashed potatoes aside.
3. For the the meat layer of the shepherd's pie, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute for 8-10 minutes. The carrots should soften and the onions become transluscent.
4. Add the ground meat and brown until all pink is gone, approximately 10-12 more minutes. Then stir in the worchestershire sauce, the cream of mushroom soup, and the beef or chicken broth. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture thickens, another 10-15 minutes. 

5. Add the frozen peas and corn to the mixture. Stir to combine and cook for 2-4 more minutes. Then remove the meat from the heat. 
6. Pour the meat mixture into the bottom of a 9 X 12 baking dish. Spread to make an even layer of meat. Top with the mashed potatoes and spread until the mashed potatoes make a smooth layer. Top with the shredded cheese.

7. Place in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until sides are bubbling, cheese is melted, and middle is hot. Serve with a large spoon and deep bowls!

Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

282.7 calories / 8.8 g fat / 27 g carbohydrates / 3.2 g fiber / 23.4 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: Whatever your plans may be this Christmas, make sure that this year you make yourself and your family and friends the priority. People will remember the food, sure. But, I'd like to guess that they'll remember the conversation with you more. Make sure that whatever dinner plans look like, do as much as possible before hand, let others help you with the cooking and cleaning, and make sure you are having as much fun as everyone else. In short, relax and enjoy. Christmas only comes around once a year. Make sure you savor every moment!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Perfect Christmas Gift: Homemade Apple Butter

'Tis the season for homemade gifts, right!?!?

Well, only if you are as crazy as I am. Most normal people go out and buy candy, chocolates, and gifts to give to loved ones. 

I just happen to be one of those people that don't quite have enough on my plate. As if having three jobs and growing a baby weren't enough for one person, I decided to give 'canning' or rather 'jarring' a try.  

And this was after struggling with broken Christmas lights that resulted in stomping, a Christmas tree falling on top of me, and whining like a baby. I'm not proud; just demonstrating that anyone can make this Homemade Apple Butter no matter what state of mind you may be in.
I had apples from my honey's mom's apple tree; 10 pounds to be exact and I pulled together a rather delicious Homemade Apple Butter recipe if I do say so myself.

I used baking Splenda for most of the sugar, but added some brown sugar to make the butter thicken and in reality the only really time consuming part was the actual 'canning'. It only took me so long becuase my pot only held five jars and I did twenty.

The Apple Butter turned out thick, tart, and absolutly delicious! I recommend spreading this on fresh toasted whole wheat english muffins which are my absolute favorite!

The perfect, thoughtful gift for neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives! I am planning to hand them out to everyone!

I hope you are enjoying your holiday season!

On with the recipe and some helpful tips! 

What you may want to help this process:

~Half pint jars, lids, and screw rings
~Canning lifter and funnel
~Large stock pot for boiling
~Metal grate that fits in the bottom of your stock pot
~Food processor

Homemade Apple Butter

8 Pounds Apples
2 Cups Apple Cider
1 Cup Water
2 Cups Baking Splenda
1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Ground Ginger
2 tsp. Nutmeg
1. Wash and slice apples away from their cores leaving the skin on. Chop into 4-6 pieces for each apple. Then place all apples in a large stock pot over medium-high heat with the apple cider and water. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes or until the apples begin to break down and become mushy.
2. Place the cooked apples into a food processor, in small batches, and process until smooth; approximately 30-60 seconds. 
3. Transfer all processed apples into a large pot over medium heat and add the splenda, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to combine and cook until the mixture bubbles; about 15-20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare your jars and lids by cleaning them with soap and water and heating them in a hot water bath. Then place hot water in your canning pot and begin heating the water over high heat.
5. Once the apple butter has thickened slightly so it sticks to the back of a spoon and is bubbling, begin funneling into your jars. Remove any air bubbles in the jars by gently hitting the bottom of the jar against the counter or using a spoon to smooth the top. Leave anout a half and inch on the top of each jar. Place the suction lid and screw the rim tightly to seal. Repeat this for each jar. Then place each filled jar into the bubbling water and allow to boil for 10-15 minutes. Make sure the water is boiling for at least 10 minutes. 
6. Once the jars have been submerged in bubbling water for at least 10 minutes remove each one with tongs or a canning lift and allow to sit out and cool for at least 45 minutes to an hour. 

Makes 20 Half Pint Jars

Each jar contains 20 1 Tbsp. servings.

Nutritional Skinny (per 1 Tbsp. serving):

4.3 calories / 0 g fat / 1 g carbohydrates / .1 g fiber / 0 g protien

Mental Health Benefit: If you aren't into jarring and all that boiling and trouble, you can simply freeze this recipe and store it that way. It will last about 6 months in the freezer and exponentially longer in the 'jarring' method. Also you can easily half or even quarter this recipe if you don't want to make quite as much! I made the jars Christmas cute with some cut fabric from the fabric store and holiday ribbon. Simple!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pineapple Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

'Tis the season for pumpkin pies, cranberry coffee cakes, and caramel covered pears. Being the person that I am, I decided to deviate from the norm here for a bit.

Just for a bit. 
While searching for a way to turn this nutritious gem into something sweet and gooey (I am pregnant after all folks), I stumbled upon this Zucchini Cake recipe that's sweetened with pineapple. Seemed brilliant to me.
I am craving sweets like no one should be allowed to, but I'm still aware that me and 'baby bump' have nutritional needs. So, in finding this sinful recipe on the Tasty Kitchen Blog hosted by Pioneer Woman, I made a few adjustments in the name of nutrition.

This cake is just simply sublime, You can't even tell there's zucchini and it makes a great 'hide' from your kids. A great way to get your kids to eat their vegetables.

I'm already well down the path into an oompa loompa shate, but I don't feel the need to rush this whole 'rounded-belly' thing. I'll let Santa take it this month. With only 146 calories per slice you won't have to worry about growing round in the middle either! Plus it's packed with a generous 3 grams of fiber! You just gotta try this recipe even if it's just to quench your curiosity. It really is that delicious and moist! Not to mention simple. Just shred, measure, open, mix, pour, and bake. Nothing to it!
Hope your holiday season is cookin' right along!

Now on with the recipe...

Pineapple Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
½ Cup All Purpose Flour
1-¼ Cup Baking Splenda
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger (optional)
1/4 Cup Milled Flax Seed
4 Tbsp. No Sugar Added Apple Sauce
Large Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups Grated Zucchini
1 can (20 Oz. Size) Crushed Pineapple In Juice, Drained (Reserve Juice For Cake Batter And Frosting)
1 Package (8 Oz. Size) Low-fat Cream Cheese, Softened
2 Cups Baking Splenda
2 tsps. Vanilla Extract
Splash Pineapple Juice, Approx 1 tbsp.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. To prepare cake, combine flours, splenda, baking soda, salt, spices, and milled flax in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.
3. In a separate bowl, combine apple sauce, eggs, and vanilla; stir well. Add the grated zucchini and drained pineapple. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Stir grated zucchini mixture into the flour mixture. Batter should be gooey. If it still seems too dry, just add a little splash of the reserved pineapple juice. My batter was super moist so I didn't have to add any more pineapple juice.
4. Spoon the batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for about 33–35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs and cake is pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely.
5. To prepare frosting, combine cream cheese and reserved tablespoon of pineapple juice in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer (or a whisk) until smooth. Beat in splenda and vanilla just until smooth. Add an additional splash of pineapple juice if necessary. 
6. Spread frosting over top of cake. You can garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired.

Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

146 calories / 4.8 g fat / 21 g carbohydrates / 3 g fiber / 5 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: The reality of this 'cake' recipe is that it contains almost a serving of fruit and vegetables. And it's a cake! And with 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of fat it is a recipe to be cherished. Plus the flavor will knock your Christmas stockings off. This is a great way to surprise people at a party. Call it a spiced cake, let them dig in, oooh and aaahh, then tell them it's loaded with zucchini. The look on their faces... Priceless.