Try something new with these easy zucchini casserole and cookie recipes

-I have used both semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips, and they both work well in these cookies. Believe me when I say this: these are some of the best cookies I have had, and they are quite addicting.

Trying new things: to some it is scary, to others it is exciting. I usually have a mixture of the two feelings when I am about to try something new, but once I do it, I am so glad I did.

I have done a lot of new things in the last year, and I am so glad I have! In doing so, I have met many new friends and wonderful people. One new thing I started doing in this last year is writing this column!

Can you believe it has been a full year since I have started writing to you, my dear readers? You guys are so lucky! I kid, but I have really enjoyed writing the column and sharing my cooking and baking experiences. I also enjoy hearing from you and what you think of the recipes.

Another new thing I did recently was take my horse out to Medora for the first time, to go camping and riding with a couple of dear friends of mine. This new adventure will be something I will never forget. It was a wonderful experience to be able to spend three days riding through some beautiful scenery – even my horse Annie was in love with it.

Now let’s talk about trying some new foods. Something that is keeping me busy lately is my zucchini. Last year was the first year I had zucchini in my garden, and I got to try a few recipes out. This year, there are three plants out in my garden, and they are producing zucchini quite nicely and somewhat rapidly.

I have gotten to try quite a few new recipes out this year, so I am going to share a couple with you.

The first recipe is for zucchini pizza casserole. This casserole is easy to make and is very good – believe me, you will go through the leftovers quickly (if you even have any after you make it).

The second recipe is for zucchini chocolate chip cookies. I have used both semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips, and they both work well in these cookies. Believe me when I say this: these are some of the best cookies I have had, and they are quite addicting. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

Zucchini Pizza Casserole

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini, 1⁄2 tsp salt, 2 eggs, 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided 1 pound ground beef, 1 can (15 ounces) Italian tomato sauce.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place zucchini in strainer; sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze out moisture. Combine zucchini with the eggs, parmesan and half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Press into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the beef over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add tomato sauce; spoon over zucchini mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake 20 minutes longer or until heated through.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened, 2 cups sugar 2 eggs, beaten 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 2 small zucchini, grated (you want it to measure approximately 2 cups of grated zucchini), 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 1⁄2 to 2 cups walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Cream your butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the butter mixture gradually; mix well.

Stir in the zucchini. Fold in your walnuts (optional), and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful with 2 inches between each cookie onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Do not over bake or you will not enjoy your cookies. Let stand to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and place on wire racks to allow to cool completely.

A very berry holiday: celebrate with some fresh raspberry desserts

Serve up this fresh raspberry crisp with some ice cream while it’s still warm for a great after-supper summer dessert.

Some things I know to be true for me:

-Summer is the busiest time of the year, and has been even busier this year.

-I spend most of my free time volunteering for various things.

-I love having a garden and being able to just walk outside and get various veggies and some fruits when I want to, thanks in large part to my husband.

-July usually means our raspberry bushes are going to be producing some yummy berries very soon, and that makes me happier than anyone can imagine. That last truth is kind of important for this month’s column. When I was thinking of what I wanted to do for a recipe, I suddenly realized it was almost July and that berry season is upon us! Ironically, I also found out that July is National Berry Month. How do I plan to celebrate this fantastic occasion, you ask? With a couple of new raspberry recipes, of course!

The first recipe is for Fresh Raspberry Crisp. Serve it with some ice cream while it is still warm and you have a great after-supper dessert. The berries called for in this recipe are interchangeable – you could use strawberries instead, or blueberries even, but raspberries always win in my book.

The second recipe (because why stop with one) is Raspberry Oat Bars. This is a new recipe that I found, and it is simple, yet delicious. The bars make a great snack; I imagine they would be great with coffee in the morning. You will have to let me know on that one, since I am not a coffee drinker. Enjoy your summer and enjoy National Berry Month. I know I will!

Fresh Raspberry Crisp Ingredients: 1 qt raspberries, 1/3 cup sugar, 1⁄4 cup margarine, softened, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 3⁄4 cup rolled oats

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place raspberries in the bottom of a 9 in square baking pan and sprinkle sugar over the fruit. In a medium bowl blend together the margarine, flour, brown sugar and oats, until it resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle over the raspberries.

Bake 30 minutes or until slightly browned.Serve hot. Variations: Can use berries of your choice.

Raspberry Oat Bars Ingredients: 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 package (10 ounces) frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed (can use fresh also), 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 1 cup quick-cooking oats, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup cold butter, cubed

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in raspberries until blended. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in extract. Cool.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, wheat flour, salt and vanilla. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press 2-1/2 cups crumb mixture into a 9-in. square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread with cooled berry mixture.

Sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com

Potato salad and baby back ribs: perfect for summer parties

Try these tasty potato salad and slow cooker baby back rib recipes for use at graduation parties, barbecues and other summer get-togethers.
Photo by Jessica Honer, for the Perham Focus

I’m going to take you back to the year 1997-98.

Why? Well, that was a particularly good year for me as a 4-H’er at the fair.

I usually took many projects to the fair as a 4-H kid: my top involvement was horses, but I also loved to take part in foods. (I know, imagine that, I took food projects to the fair – who would have thought?!) Each year I would try and experiment with something new. I had to choose a dish, prepare it, and then submit a presentation about it, with the recipe and details about making it, to a judge.

Usually I would make something once, a couple months before the fair; I’d take a picture and write down the recipe and other information. Then would come that one busy week in July (all 4-H kids know when this is – crunch time, the week of the fair) where I’d need to make the food again to present to the judge.

I did a few different food projects that year, but the one that stood out most was the potato salad. It was a recipe I decided to try that was molded and had a design in it.

It was interesting, to say the least.

Why did it stand out?

Because, while I got blue ribbons with all my projects, I got a Reserve Champion with that potato salad. I was pretty darn proud of that.

Why am I telling you this story?

When I got to thinking about what I wanted to do for my June recipe, I started thinking about summer food and what would be good. As I was going through my old 4-H project record book (I was reminiscing one day), I spotted the picture of my award-winning potato salad and had an ‘Aha!’ moment.

BBQ’s, grilling and potlucks are coming up, and what do you usually see at these? Potato salad.

Now, while I no longer have the recipe I used for that 1997-98 fair, I did find another delicious potato salad recipe for all you fans out there. This is some of the best potato salad I have ever had, hands down.

I use fat free ranch and low fat miracle whip to make it a little healthier – you can’t even tell the difference. I also leave the onions out of mine, only because I am allergic to them.

I can’t just let the potato salad stand alone, though. I am a fan of BBQ, and have a great slow cooker recipe for baby back ribs. I again leave the onions out, but add in about a tablespoon of garlic powder.

Potato salad

Ingredients:

6 eggs

10 red potatoes

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup ranch dressing

1/3 cup dill pickle relish

2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon celery seed

1 onion, chopped

Directions:

Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until cold. Peel and cube once cold.

Place the eggs into a saucepan in a single layer and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Pour out the hot water; cool the eggs under cold running water in the sink. Peel and chop the cooled eggs.

Stir together the mayonnaise, ranch dressing, relish, mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, and celery seed in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, potatoes, and onion; stir until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Slow and easy baby back ribs

Ingredients:

4 pounds pork baby back ribs, cut into 2-rib portions

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup tomato paste or tomato sauce

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water

Directions:

Place ribs in a 5-qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the onion, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, paprika, Worcestershire, mustard, salt and pepper; pour over ribs. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove ribs to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer juices to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with ribs.

Contact me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

Two rhubarb recipes that get rave reviews

Spring has officially sprung, and so far it is a wet one. We get it, Mother Nature, at least it isn’t snow, but I wouldn’t complain if you threw a little sunshine in with the rain.

With the rain, though, comes more time for me to cook and bake, so I can’t complain too much.

I look forward to spring because that means that it is time to plant the garden, and soon I will be eating fresh berries again. People have also been reminding me that the rhubarb is ready. Rhubarb is usually one of the first things ready in the spring; of course, around here, it depends on what kind of winter we have had.

Here is the thing about rhubarb, though… I don’t like it at all. I know that’s a strong thing to say, but it’s true. I don’t even like it a little bit. I don’t care what I cook or bake it in, I am not going to eat it. And before you ask, yes, I have tried it, but rhubarb and I just don’t get along.

I am sure you are wondering why, then, I have shared two rhubarb recipes in this month’s column. Well, there are a few foods that I don’t necessarily care for, but I still cook and bake with them; then I give them to other people who do enjoy them (those poor, poor taste testers, the things I put them through). So it works out for everyone. It also gives me a chance to cook with other foods and try new things with them.

The two recipes I have included for this month are rhubarb bread and rhubarb dessert. I have made both, and they look fantastic, but I couldn’t tell you how they taste. I did bring them both into work for my co-workers recently, and they got rave reviews, so I will take their word for it. I hope you enjoy them just as much as they did!

Rhubarb bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2cups brown sugar

2/3 cup oil

1 beaten egg

1 cup sour milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 tsp soda

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Combine ingredients in order given. Pour into 2 greased 5×9 loaf pans. Optional: Blend 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes.

 

Rhubarb dessert

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup softened butter

Dessert:

4 cups rhubarb – cut up

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Red food coloring

2 cups mini marshmallows

8 oz cool whip 1 (3 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix

Directions:

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and softened butter together and press into the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Cook rhubarb and water until soft. Add sugar and cornstarch. Cook until thick. Add some red food coloring. Cool, spread on top of crust. Mix 2 cups mini marshmallows with 8 oz cool whip. Spread over rhubarb. Prepare instant vanilla pudding as directed on package and spread over cool whip. Keep refrigerated. Can sprinkle a few graham cracker crumbs over top.

Contact me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

Classic spring recipes: Light carrot cake and deviled eggs

With spring comes spring cleaning. This year, I decided to reorganize most of my kitchen and pantry. I was starting to run out of room for places to put all my pans and other kitchen items and I wanted to have my pantry organized to make things easy to find and grab.

When you do this, you tend to find some odds-and-ends-type of things and things you had no idea you had. I sometimes looked at something I found and asked myself, “Where did I even get this and WHY do I have it?”

Then sometimes you find something you’ve been searching for a long time, and it’s like Christmas. It makes for an interesting day of spring cleaning.

What also comes with spring is the blooming of flowers and trees – one of my favorite things to see. And, you can enjoy (hopefully) more time outside.

When thinking about what I wanted to do for a recipe this month, I ended up being torn between a couple possibilities. I was thinking something spring-like would be nice, and we also have Easter coming up.

So, you are going to get two recipes this month. Actually, you are getting three, since one is a two-parter. You lucky readers, you!

The first recipe is for carrot cake, and this is a healthier version of carrot cake than many others. Top it with the cream cheese frosting I am including and you have a real winner!

The second recipe is for deviled eggs. To me, you can’t have an Easter meal without deviled eggs. Seriously, you can’t. I might love deviled eggs a little bit; OK, a lot. The recipe uses 6 hard-cooked eggs, but you can easily double or triple the recipe to make more. I usually do a dozen at a time.

Deviled eggs and carrot cake: enjoy them both. I would maybe enjoy them separately, as I’m not sure how well the two go together, but I have seen stranger things.

Light Carrot Cake Ingredients:

1 cup cake flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour one 9×13 inch pan or two 9-inch round cake pans. Separate eggs and beat egg whites until frothy, then continue whipping and gradually add 1/2 cup of white sugar. Beat until stiff. In a large bowl combine the cake flour, wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, mix until blended. Add the oil and the buttermilk and mix well. Add the egg yolks and mix well. Fold in the egg whites and then the carrots. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting using light cream cheese.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

3 oz light cream cheese, softened

1 tsp vanilla

4 to 6 tablespoons butter

3 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp milk

Directions:

Beat all ingredients together. May need to add more powdered sugar and milk to get to desired thickness.

 

Deviled eggs Ingredients:

6 hard-cooked eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

Paprika

Directions:

Slice eggs in half lengthwise, remove yolks and set whites aside. In a small bowl, mash yolks with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, mustard and salt; mix well. Stuff or pipe into egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until serving.

Contact me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com

 

 

Think outside the box: Slow cooker mac and cheese is ooey, gooey good

Now that March is here, and hopefully spring is just around the corner (fingers, toes and everything else crossed), things are probably going to start getting busier for everyone. I know they will be busier for me, though I’m not sure if I have even had a slow moment lately. In fact, if anyone has some extra down time they are not in need of, you can just send it my way, and I may find a good use for it!

There are times when I make myself slow down and enjoy a nice meal and relax. This makes me think of comfort foods.

What are comfort foods? They all mean and are something different to each of us. To me, they are foods that tend to soothe the soul by reminding us of comforting childhood memories.

When you think of comfort food, what is the first thing you think of? Peanut butter and jelly? Ice cream? Maybe cookies? The first thing I think of is macaroni and cheese – to me, that is about as comforting as you can get. The cheesy, creamy goodness is pretty hard to pass up.

I’m not talking about the box kind. In fact, I’ve had a hard time eating the box kind ever since I found a slow cooker recipe that far exceeds that stuff. If you already enjoy macaroni and cheese, you are going to love this simple-to-throw-together recipe.

I’m not kidding. Not even a little. I have brought this recipe to a few potlucks and let’s just say that I do not go home with leftovers.

If you want, you can substitute some of the cheese in the recipe with whatever shredded cheese you would like. For instance, instead of a Mexican cheese blend, I use a blend of Italian shredded cheese. Next time, I might use Colby blend. Don’t be afraid to experiment with it – and enjoy it!

Slow Cooker Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1 pound processed cheese (Velveeta), cubed

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Mexican cheese blend

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese

1-3/4 cups milk

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup butter, melted

Directions: Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Place in a greased 5-qt. slow cooker. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees, stirring once.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com 

February is Hot Breakfast Month: Celebrate with these pancake and muffin recipes

As I sit down to write my cooking column this month, I am trying to focus on a couple of things at one time: 1) Thinking of something brilliant to write; and 2) Watching and wondering where Cooper, our new 2-month-old puppy, is at. Can you guess which of these two things is winning my attention right now?

If you guessed, “Not this column,” you’d be right!

Cooper is a German shepherd puppy we got a few weeks ago. I am training him to be a service dog for the Patriot Assistance Dogs program. Right now, he is trouble, with a capital ‘T.’ Cute, fuzzy and adorable, but still trouble. Of course, most puppies are. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But back to cooking.

I wanted to share something with all of you: it’s National Hot Breakfast Month. Did you know that? Well if not, you do now! This actually made me pretty excited, because I have a couple of great breakfast recipes – at least to me they are, but you can be the final judge.

On weekdays I am not big into making breakfasts; it’s usually just some cereal for me. My husband is up earlier than me during the work week, so we are each on our own for breakfast. No need to make anything fancy. Also, I should confess, I am by no means a morning person. He can testify to that and I know a few other people that could, too.

But, on the weekends, I usually love to make a big, hot breakfast at least once. My favorite thing to make is pancakes. Honestly, I will make these for supper sometimes, too. A while ago, I found a great recipe for homemade pancakes – no boxed mix required! I absolutely love them. I have changed the recipe for myself and my husband, using white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, and they are wonderful.

The other recipe I will share this month is for whole wheat blueberry muffins. I love, love blueberries, and to put them in muffins is even better. I froze a bunch of blueberries this past summer, and every once in a while it is nice to pull some out and make a couple of batches of these muffins.

Now, I am off to go and see what a certain puppy is up too. It’s too quiet in the house, and that means either he is asleep somewhere or has found some trouble.

Simple homemade pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

3 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a whisk or large fork, mix in the buttermilk and egg until well combined and smooth. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour pancake batter onto hot griddle.

Variations: Blueberry and banana pancakes: Stir in 1 cup fresh berries into batter.

Whole wheat blueberry muffins

Streusel Ingredients:

¼ cup white whole wheat flour

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp cold butter

Muffin Ingredients:

¾ cup milk

¼ c butter, melted

1 egg

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour

½ cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line muffin cups with paper baking cups or grease bottoms of the pan. In a small bowl, mix dry streusel ingredients. Cut in cold butter until crumbly. Set aside.

In a large bowl or your mixer, beat milk, melted butter, and egg until well mixed. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt just until moistened. Fold in blueberries.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups; sprinkle each with streusel. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until done. If using greased cups, let sit 5 minutes before removing from pan. If using paper cups, remove immediately.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

A comfy casserole’s just the trick on a cold day

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season.

Is anyone making their New Year’s resolution list? I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions – never have been and probably never will be. I have goals that I set for myself during certain times of the year, though. For instance, one goal I recently set is to not repeatedly fall on my backside when I go skiing at the end of January. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been skiing, so, fingers crossed that all goes well!

To those who do set a yearly resolution, I wish you the best of luck in the New Year!

P.S. – did you know that January 17 is National Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day? It’s the most common date to give up your New Year’s resolutions. If you can make it past that day, then you are doing great!

Now that winter seems to have fully settled in, I like to make more casseroles, hot dishes and maybe some soups: you know, the warm, filling types of food. I have more time in the winter to really enjoy making them, plus it’s so cozy in the kitchen with a warm stove going.

This month’s recipe is a chicken casserole. It is a warm and filling casserole, which makes a great winter meal.

To make it a little healthier for myself, I use light or fat free sour cream; I also use sodium-free chicken broth and cream of chicken soup. My husband likes to add mixed vegetables to his, but I am not a mixed vegetable fan (I know, bad Jessica!) so they are usually added in after it comes out of the oven and he has his own dished up. He says it’s delicious, and I will just have to trust him.

Enjoy!

Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chicken (or just chicken breast), cut up

8 oz. sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 box (any variety you choose) Stove Top stuffing

1 stick melted margarine

1 can chicken broth (14 oz.)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Layer chicken across bottom of oblong pan. Mix sour cream and soup together and spread over meat. Take box of stuffing and spread over the meat and sour cream mixture. Mix margarine and broth together and pour over top of casserole. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over top. Bake uncovered at 350 for one hour.

Contact me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

Spritz cookies and fudge – need I say more?

I would like to start out this month’s column by clarifying something: I am not blind.

That may seem like a strange thing to bring up in a cooking column, so allow me to tell you a short story. Recently, while on one of my weekly grocery shopping trips, I ran into someone who gave me a very nice compliment on my column, then cautiously asked if I was blind. This was not the first time this has happened.

Why, do you ask, would someone ask me that? If you have ever seen me around town, you know I always have a companion with me, of the four-legged variety. I volunteer to foster and train service dogs for a very special program based out of Detroit Lakes, called the Patriot Assistance Dogs program.

Right now I have a German shepherd named Bella who is usually with me wherever I go: work, grocery shopping, chiropractor appointments, etc. It may look like she is my guide-dog; but on the contrary, I am guiding her into her future ‘career’ as a service dog for a veteran.

Bella is nearing the end of her training and then I will be on to the next service dog. If you see me about town and want to say “Hi,” I gladly welcome it and would be happy to discuss the training program.

One more thing: Bella doesn’t help me bake, she just helps pick out the supplies. You never know, maybe we can even help you with your grocery needs if you see us at the store!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

With Thanksgiving in the books, I have now turned my thoughts to Christmas baking. I’ll be honest with you, I could write a column for every week this month with the amount of recipes that I have for holiday goodies. I have so many favorites that I wasn’t even sure what I was going to pick out to share with everyone.

After a lot of thought, I decided on two recipes that I really enjoy. The first is Classic Spritz Cookies. These cookies are melt-in-your mouth delicious. I love using my Wilton cookie press; the cookies turn out so well with the different disks that I have for my press. The second recipe is for Creamy Chocolate Fudge. First of all, it’s easy to make, and second of all – it’s chocolate – need I say more?

If there is ever a recipe that you would like to see in my column, shoot me an email. Maybe I have just the thing for your collection. I hope everyone has a great holiday season!

Classic Spritz Cookies

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups butter softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon no color almond extract

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until combined. Do not chill. Fill cookie press with dough and with desired disks, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool two minutes on cookie sheet on cooling rack. Remove from sheet; cool completely.

Creamy Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:

1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow crème

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1/4 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk chocolate chips

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Line an 8×8 inch pan with aluminum foil. Set aside. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine marshmallow cream, sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt. Bring to a full boil, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour in semisweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Chill in refrigerator for two hours or until firm.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

Things to be thankful for: rolls and white sauce

Remember when I said I had an addiction to anything spinach? I might also be addicted to something else: kitchen supply stores.

A friend recently told me she was going to hold an intervention after we were in Fargo shopping and I just could not make myself leave Creative Kitchen. Let’s be honest – I need one of at least everything! OK, maybe not ‘need’ so much as ‘want.’ I may need a bigger kitchen someday.

But we are not just here to talk about my addictions. Let’s talk about November. November is one of my favorite months, and not just because it’s when I have my birthday, though that does help. I love it because it’s time to prepare for the holiday season. I’m not just talking shopping for gifts or decorating. I am talking about the food, of course! I have dedicated weekends – yes, weekends – for baking and cooking.

I love to make bread and rolls, some with the help of a bread maker and a lot from scratch. A few months ago, I found a great dinner roll recipe when looking for new recipes to use with my bread maker. I plan on making plenty of these for Thanksgiving, because you can’t just have one of these dinner rolls.

What comes with all this baking and cooking, though? Leftovers. Ever wonder what to do with that leftover turkey you have? I think I have just the recipe for you! Medium White Sauce. This is a delicious sauce that you serve with rice.

Chop up some turkey (or chicken), mix it all together, and you have an easy to prepare meal. Added bonus? You can also turn it into a yummy cheese sauce! I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe to have enough sauce to mix with the rice. (Thanks to my mother-in-law for giving me this recipe).

Enjoy the rolls and white sauce recipes. I know I do!

Medium White Sauce

Melt 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in a bigger bowl in the microwave. Blend in 1/2 teaspoon and 2 tablespoons flour.

Stir in 1 cup milk.

Heat 2 to 3 minutes in microwave, stir and heat some more until sauce is thick.

Add cubed cooked Turkey or Chicken. Season with celery salt and onion powder and serve over cooked rice. (Double or triple for better amount).

For cheese sauce: Omit celery and onion salt and add American or Velveeta cheese before continuing to heat in the microwave. Add cheese to individual taste.

Bread Machine Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Ingredients:

1 cup water

2 tablespoons butter (unsalted), softened

1 egg

2 cups Bread Flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Instructions:

Measure carefully, placing all ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.

Select Dough/Manual cycle. Do not use Delay Cycle.

Remove dough from pan, using lightly floured hands; place on lightly floured surface. Cover dough and let rest 10 minutes.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch pan with shortening or cooking spray. Divide dough into 15 equal pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball; place in pan. Brush with melted butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until double in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Heat oven to 375°. Uncover rolls; bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm, or cool on a cooling rack.

Reach Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.