Newlyweds navigating their way through married life – and the kitchen

Category Archives: Holiday Dishes

groundhog cupcakes

“Rise and shine, campers, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.”  (love that movie).  Happy GROUNDHOG DAY folks!

Ya gotta feel for poor Punxsutawney Phil – he lives in a hole, and the one time that anyone cares what he has to say is one day a year, when 9 times out of 10, he let’s us know that there will in fact be another 6 weeks of Winter.  And then everyone gets mad at him and he goes back in his hole all sad until next year.

Groundhog Cupcakes

I guess I have a weakness for furry animals with buck teeth.

Well today I’m giving Phil a shout out – these cute little Groundhog Cupcakes, adapted from an idea a co-worker sent me from Family Fun where they actually used chocolate pudding cups and Milano cookies, which is equally as fun and delicious!  But  I decided to up the anty a smidgen and make brownie cupcakes out of them.  The groundhogs take a bit of time to assemble, but once they’ve come to life, well they’re almost too cute to eat.  Almost I said.  Sorry Phil 🙂

Groundhog Cupcakes
Adapted from Family Fun

INGREDIENTS
*yields 12 cupcakes

1 box of your favorite brownie mix, prepared according to the instructions

12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 Nutter Butter cookies

sliced almonds (not slivered)

peanut butter chips

white chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

*green sprinkles or Oreo crumbles

1) Prepare your brownie mix according to instructions.  Take a 12-muffin tin, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and fill each muffin slot 2/3 way full with brownie batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick comes out clean.

To assemble your groundhogs:

1) Start by taking 1/2 of the 12oz bag of chocolate chips (6oz) and melting them over a double boiler or in the microwave.  This chocolate will be used as the ‘glue’ to paste your eyes, cheeks, teeth, etc. to the groundhog.Groundhog Day Cupcakes

2) When the chocolate is melted, you can start putting his ‘face’ on.  Start with the teeth – find some broken almond pieces that kind of look like teeth and if you can’t find any, just take some of the slivers and break them. They don’t have to be perfect.  Take a toothpick, dip it in the melted chocolate, and dab a little bit of it on back of the almond and stick it in the center of the Nutter Butter, about half way down.

3) Then add the nose by taking another dab of chocolate and making a small circle right at the top of the teeth/almond.

4) Then add your ‘cheeks’ by cutting the tips off of 2 peanut butter chips so that they lay flat on the cookie.  Take another dab of chocolate to the side of the chip that you cut off, and then place a chip on either side of the almond teeth, underneath the nose, almost making a diamond shape.

5) Add your eyes by again, cutting the tips off of two white chocolate chips, dabbing chocolate on the cut side of the chip, and then gluing the eyes to the top part of the nutter butter.  Take another small dab of chocolate to make the ‘pupils’ of the eyes in the center of the white chips.

6) Lastly, take 2 sliced almonds and stick them on either side of the top of the nutter butter to make the ears.  They stick really nicely in the peanut butter so you won’t even need to use the chocolate to glue them in.

To assemble the cupcakes

1) Prepare your chocolate ganache topping by combining the remaining 6oz. of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup heavy cream in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.  Top each cupcake with the ganache so that it covers the entire cupcake top (it’s ok too if it spills over the sides).

2) While the ganache is still wet on the cupcake, sprinkle the green sprinkles (for grass – slightly unrealistic for Groundhog Day) or the Oreo crumbs (for dirt – I used sprinkles – trying to be optimistic about spring!).

3) Take each groundhog, cutting about 1/4 off the bottom (otherwise they’ll be a bit too tall for the cupcake) and sticking in the center of the cupcake, just so their heads are peeking out.

And the best part is that I made sure these guys did NOT see their shadow, so get your bikin’s out folks 🙂 Spring’s a comin’!

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Homemade Oreo Cookies

There’s a lot of great things about Boston – one of them being Flour Bakery.  Joanne Chang, the owner and brains behind the operation, decided that her degree in Applied Mathematics & Economics from Harvard and thriving consulting career wasn’t making her jump out of bed with excitement every morning, so she decided to pursue her love of cooking.  And after spending several years at several jobs as a pastry chef in Boston and NYC, Flour was born – and it’s now one of the best bakeries in Boston (in my opinion anyway!), with three locations throughout the city and it’s very own cookbook! Love inspirational stories of success such as that one!

My first Flour experience was a mixed box of treats – one of them resembling a whoopie pie, one of my all-time favorite desserts.  But when I bit into it, it wasn’t in fact a whoopie pie – it was actually an Oreo! Tasting very similar to everyone’s favorite cream filled cookie, but softer and MUCH bigger – bonus!

I’ve been meaning to try these for years now so Christmas was the perfect opportunity to give them a whirl.  They took a bit of time to make, primarily because of the chilling time required for the dough, but I’ve always been a firm believer that patience is a virtue 🙂

Homemade Oreo Cookies
*Adapted from Flour Bakery’s Recipe

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 16-18 large oreos

For the Cookie

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1 egg

1 & 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

For the Filling
(this is actually doubled from the original recipe – I prefer Double Stuff if ya know what I mean)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 & 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons milk or cream

2 Pinches salt

1) In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and the sugar until combined. Whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Add the egg and stir until well blended.

2) In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to blend them. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The finished dough should feel like Play-Doh. Cover the dough with plastic, and chill for 1 hour.

3) Place the dough on a long sheet of wax or parchment paper. Use your hands to shape it into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 & 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the log at the wide edge of the paper and roll it around the log. With your hands on the paper, roll the dough into a tighter log, keeping the diameter the same.

4) Refrigerate the log for at least 2 hours  – after 2 hours it should be firm enough to slice without crumbling.

5) Set the oven at 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

6) Remove the dough from the paper. Cut the log into 32 slices, each about 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick. Set them on the baking sheets 1 inch apart.

7) Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, checking them often after 15 minutes, or until they are firm when touched in the center. Let them cool completely on the sheets.

8) In the meantime, prepare the filling  – in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low speed for half a minute. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.

9) Beat in the milk and salt. The filling will be somewhat stiff and spackle’ish.

10) Place 2 tablespoons of filling on the flat side of 16 cookies. Press the remaining 16 cookies on the filling, flat sides against the cream, to evenly distribute the filling.  Be careful when pressing the top cookie down onto the filling.  I found that the stiff texture of the filling caused the top cookie to crack a little when I was pressing it down so just be gentle with it.

11) Store finished cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Safe to say you’ll never go back to store bought after having these puppies 🙂


New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Coming down off of the Christmas High is like coming down from Prom when you’re in high school – or your wedding day – all the planning, the cooking, the baking, the wrapping, the shopping and then BOOM, it’s over like that.  But, the best part is that there’s only 364 more days until we can do it all over again!

Anyway though, I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas – we did a lot of eating, drinking, and traveling (not all in the same order) but it was a fantastic few days spent with family and friends.  I’m always sad to see it end, but it was great while it lasted.

Another thing that was done in abundance was BAKING – holy moses.  5 different cookies, which in reality doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re in the throws of flour, sugar, and butter, well you realize that it is in fact a.lot.  Some of the usual suspects showed their faces – Easier than Ina’s Pecan Squares & Chocolate Drizzled Macaroons, but a few new players were introduced to the rotation. And even though the Christmas Baking accessories have maybe been put away for the year, these are year-round winners.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who doesn’t love a Chocolate Chip Cookie – it seems like they’ve been around since the creation of man, and there’s probably some cave in the arctic that has the recipe chizzled on the walls.  But there are many many different versions of this all-time favorite circulating the earth.  Back in June, I tried these Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies  and mmm…they were good. But, anyone whose read this for a bit knows that many a recipe on this blog has been inspired or just flat out stolen from my friend Ashley, and this recipe is another ‘hot’ recipe of hers.  We were still rooommates when she first started making these ‘New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies’ and over the years, she has gotten them down to a science, experimenting with ingredients, cooking and dough-chilling times, literally perfecting this cookie.  The recipe differs from others in that it uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour vs. the standard all-purpose flour and it also adds the seemingly unlikely touch of salt on the tops of each cookie, which really adds a lot of dimension to the flavor.

They are worth their weight in gold (and whatever weight they add to your hips) 🙂

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
*Adapted from Jacques Torres & Chef Ashley Rogers

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 20 cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
*If you can’t find Cake Flour like me, this is a great alternative from Joy the Baker to make your own

1 & 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 & 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 & 1/2 sticks (1 & 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 & 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 & 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks, at least 60 percent cacao content
*I used the Ghiradelli 60% Cacoa discs

Kosher Salt

1) Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2) Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

3) Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and stir them in by hand with a wooden spoon.

4) Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

6) Take a 1/4 cup and measure out 6 mounds of dough (1/4 cup each – the size of generous golf balls), roll them into a ball, and place onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie.

7) Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and bake until golden brown on the edges but still soft in the center, about 16 to 18 minutes. Let cookies sit on sheets for a couple of minutes & then slip them onto a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

There were many tips both from the original recipe and from Ash that were useful, but above is exactly how I did them.  I think they key with these is experimentation, trying different baking & cooling times, on and off the baking sheet, as well as varying how long you chill the dough.  Personally though, I let this dough sit for just about 72 hours based on her recommendation as it allows the flavors to really meld together producing a really rich tasting cookie.  And the size of these may be off putting, but if you’re someone who likes a cookie with crunch edges and a soft, chewy interior, than these are your cookie.  You could certainly make them smaller though too.  Ash originally recommended measuring out 2.5 ounces of dough, but since I didn’t have a food scale I thought 1/4 cup would yield a healthy sized ball of dough and that amount seemed to work really well.  Also don’t be alarmed when the cookies come out, as they’ll still look a little undone in the center.  That’s what will make the chewy goodness when they’re cooled!

If you go make these now, your dough will be ready just in time for some gigundo NYE Chocolate Chip Cookies! Why would you start your diet now anyway? There’s still a few more days of holiday fun to be enjoyed 🙂


Angel Sugar Cookies

Last Friday started out like any other day a week and a half before Christmas at Sandy Hook Elementary School – Christmas pageant preparations – final touches on Christmas wish lists to Santa.  But it soon turned into a nightmare, a day that changed a community and the lives of 26 families forever, when 6 heroic faculty members and 20 innocent first graders lost their lives to an unspeakable tragedy.

Our hearts are heavy with a wide range of emotions being felt, not just here in New England, but all over the world.  That feeling of relief that it didn’t happen in our town, to our family or friends, that we can still hold our loved ones close to us, knowing that they’re safe, contrasts with the feeling of guilt that it wasn’t us who it happened to – that we still can hug and kiss our loved ones whenever we want, and that there are 26 families out there that will never have the chance to do that again.  The world can be a scary and confusing place sometimes, and in my 30 years on this planet, this is one of those times where I can’t seem to wrap my head around what has happened to these people, and why – why?

I know that no matter how many tears are shed, and screams of anger and frustration are uttered, it won’t change that they’re gone. But we can honor their memories in so many ways – and that is what these angel cookies are – 26 angel cookies for those 26 angels who were taken from us too soon.

Angel Sugar Cookies
*Adapted from Land O’ Lakes & Peppermint Plum

INGREDIENTS
*this is actually halved from the original recipe and strangely enough, made just about 26 angel cookies.  I think it would yield about 2 & 1/2 dozen medium sized sugar cookies though.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted utter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1.5 teaspoons. vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 & 3/4 cups flour

Wilton© White Chocolate melting discs

Flipz©  White Chocolate Covered Pretzels (2 bags)

Mini Chocolate Chips

Twizzler Pull & Peel Licorice

Various sprinkles

*Decorating these is obviously your choice! I kept it simple, but you could use different color frosting, sprinkles, get creative!

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and then the sour cream.

3) In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda, and flour, and add to the butter/sugar/egg/sour cream mixture.

3) Roll out on a WELL floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. (this dough is pretty sticky and tough to handle, so make sure you have lots of flour!)  These are meant to be nice and thick and chewy so make sure to not roll the dough too thin.

4) First, cut out small circles for the angel heads with either a cookie cutter or you could even use a shot glass as your ‘cutter’ – about the diameter of a tablespoon (that’s what I did).  Carefully transfer with a spatula onto one cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Next, with the rest of the dough, cut out the angel bodies.  I actually used a gingerbread girl cutter that I had and just cut the arms off.  You could also just eye ball a triangle with a knife.

Angel Sugar Cookies

5) Bake these for only about 7-8 minutes.  They may still look undone, but that is what will make them chewy and soft, not overcooking them.  After 8 minutes, let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, and then remove them to a wire rack.

6) While the cookies are cooling, you can melt your candy melts in a double boiler.  Once the heads have cooled, you can ‘put their faces on’.  Dip the tops of the heads in chocolate and then in the sprinkles to make the ‘hair’.  Then, I used two mini chocolate chips for the eyes and a small piece of string licorice for the mouth (I used the pull & peel kind, since that’s a bit more pliable than the regular string licorice).  Simply dab a small amount of the white chocolate onto the face and then place the eyes and mouth on top.  Hold in place for about 30 seconds until the chocolate dries.  Get creative with these faces!  There’s so many fun things you can do!

Angel Sugar Cookies

7) To assemble the angel bodies, take 2 White Flipz, dip them in the melted chocolate, and then flip the angel body over and adhere them to the back of the cookie, holding for a few seconds to let them stick.  This will form the wings.  Then, dip the bottoms of each cookie in the melted chocolate and dip in sprinkles.  If you have left over chocolate like I did, you can drizzle it over the angel bodies to add some zing.  Get creative with this too!

Angel Sugar Cookies

8) Once you have your bodies and heads ready, take the remaining chocolate and smear a dab of it onto the back of the angel head, and then stick it on to the body.  Hold it there with your finger to hold in place until it sticks.  And there you will have your angels 🙂

Couple Tips for these:

1) I personally thought it was easier to prepare the heads and bodies separately and then stick them together, but you could also put the head on top of the body and bake them together as one cookie, vs. having to assemble them later.  Might save you some time.

2) For the mouths, I used the Licorice, however, I would recommend just getting one of those mini tubes of red or pink frosting for the mouth of each angel.  Trying to get the licorice to stick was somewhat of a trying process, so I think the frosting would be a lot simpler and look just as cute!

Angel Sugar Cookies

While these were time consuming and a bit of a process, even on a Monday night after a full day of work, I didn’t mind it.  It was almost theraputic in a way, watching each little angel come to life.  This really is a fantastic sugar cookie recipe though, for any cookie decorating you’re planning to do with the kids.  And with these angels, you can really let them get creative with different frosting/sprinkles/hair color/etc.  I decided not to add Halos onto these angels, but you could certainly do that as well.

They certainly weren’t the most perfect looking angels in the world – they were different shapes and sizes – some of their eyes were closer together than others – but the same can be said about all the boys and girls that lost their life on Friday – they were all different shapes and sizes with their own personalities and smiles, and as angels, they’ll be just the same 🙂


*I truly can’t say enough how so very sorry I am to the families of those lost in yesterday’s tragedy – so many thoughts, prayers and condolences to all of you

* * * * *

Well ladies and gents, we’re about a week and a half away til’ Santa squeezes those rosy buns down the chimney.  And I’ve been thinking recently about how much I love this time of year – I really do just love it, maybe a little more every year. But there are some items that seem just a little more special during the holidays – here’s my list:

BUTTER

Favorite Holiday Things

I don’t even want to know how much butter I’ve used in the last few weeks – but if I added it up, I’m sure I could have a small sized toddler made entirely of butter.  Holiday recipes aren’t meant to be ‘butterless’ so hell, add an extra tablespoon or two – you’ll be back to the gym with the rest of the world on January 2nd, sweating yellow butter sweat.

COOKIES

Holiday FAvorite Things

Do yourself a favor – make these

For breakfast – for lunch – for an afternoon snack and then dessert (if not for dinner too) What is it about Christmas that makes people cookie crazy? They make amazing gifts and even better desserts so go ahead, try that new cookie recipe you’ve been eyeing all year – if there was any time to do it, now is it!

COCKTAILS

Favorite Holiday Things

Cherry Pomegranate Sangria – a Christmas Winner! Click here for the recipe!

December = parties: work parties – family parties – parties for one – christmas eve – christmas day – new years eve – champagne – wine – ‘special punch’ – one tequila – two tequila – three tequila – FLOOR.

Drink up kids – your liver will also be back to the gym on January 2nd with a nice tall H2O on the rocks – so go ahead, get the family size Advil and finish that bottle of pinot! You know you wanna…come on now…

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Favorite Holiday Things

Last year’s Holiday Gathering of my High School friends where we all dressed as our favorite Christmas character. Can you guess who’s who? I know…we’re a strange bunch…I think it was the water…

It could be your mom, a cousin, a BFFAOT (Apart Or Together – I saw you scratching your head) or your next door neighbor.  The holidays are meant for spending time with the ones you care about the most in life and it doesn’t mean that if you don’t have a huge family with first, second and third cousins coming out of the woodwork that you can’t have just as great a time celebrating with a new friend, a co-worker, or heck even Fido the dog!

THINGS THAT SPARKLE

HOilday favorite things

Shamefully bedazzled things of all shapes and sizes: wrapping paper – sparkly tops and dresses – a Clark Griswold portion of christmas lights.  A line from an old favorite song of mine says “All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade away…” and while it’s slightly depressing and has NOTHING to do with Christmas, I feel as though it’s fitting.  This is the only time of year where excessive sparkle is not only encouraged, it’s mandatory.

SPECIAL ORNAMENTS

ornaments

When you’re a kid and you open something like 1) underwear 2) new boots 3) a christmas ornament, after subtly rolling your eyes and looking around for the next box that looks like something more desirable that you can actually use for a whole day and then get sick of, well you don’t realize the importance of things that those ‘old people’ tell you that ‘someday you’ll appreciate’.  Nothing could be more true than my Aunt Mary’s ornaments – every Christmas, she and Uncle Charlie would host the family for a Christmas party – Santa came – sounded eerily like our Great Uncle Dave, but of COURSE it was just a coincidence – and we’d get our gift from Santa’s sack, usually something small that was on our list but not Nintendo or Teddy Ruxpin – a more modest gift like a barbie or G.I. Joe.

Aunt Mary was an amazing painter – amazing actually doesn’t even accurately describe it.  But she would hand paint – HAND paint – an ornament for every.single.grandchild (got all the way up to 17 + 2 great grand’s!) So holy mother of god – I cannot even imagine how long it took her to get all of these done.  But every curve on the face of every snowman she painted was perfect, and we’d all say “Thank you Aunt Mary”, tossing the ornament to our mom’s to hold onto so we could get back to Polly Pocket or whatever ridiculous toy we got.  But now, so many years later, they mean probably more to me than any stupid gift I ever got as a kid.  And she knew that us dumb kids might not realize how special they were just then, but she knew that someday we would.  Damn she was smart 🙂

And well, the list could go on and on and ON and on…but you all get the idea and I’m sure have your own favorites that make the Holidays that time of year that is enjoyed so much so, that it seems it’s over as quickly as it began.  So take this next week and a half and savor each and every moment! Each and every favorite! And share some please – I’d love to know what makes the Holidays special for you 🙂


Mint Cookie Dough Ball

When I was young, there were many things that I wasn’t able to do because I was “too young” – and I swore, when I got older, G’damnit I was gonna DO IT! Stupid things like staying up late – eating McDonalds as many times a week as I wanted – and eating as much raw cookie dough as I could stand whenever making cookies.

For some reason, I have vivid memories of  making cookies with my mom when I was a wee young thing, and always wanting to stick my face in that buttery, sugary chocolate chipy goodness that was the cookie dough, right before it went into the oven.  Or when we did slice and bake, I always thought “One slice for me, one slice for the oven” – but nooooooo – “you’ll get a tummy ache” – “that’s not good for you” – “get your fingers out of there!” – augh, the trials and tribulations of my adolescence.

I found one of the most sinful and genius looking concoctions on Picky Palate’s blog for a Peppermint Crunch Cookie Dough Ball – um, WHAT? I suspect maybe she was denied many a raw cookie dough sample as a child too to come up with this amazingly genius idea for indulging in cookie dough without worrying about the raw eggs.   I modified hers a smidgen, to still be minty, but CHOCOLATEY instead and all I can say is, take that mom!

Mint Chocolate Cookie Dough Ball
*Adapted from Picky Palate

INGREDIENTS

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon mint extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup your favorite brownie mix
(I used Ghiradelli)

1 cup mini-chocolate chips

8-10 Andes Mints, chopped into small pieces

*Confectioners Sugar

Mint Cookie Dough Ball

1) In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined and fluffy.  Then add the mint extract.

2) In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the salt, flour and brownie mix.  Then add gradually to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on low speed until all the ingredients start to combine together.

3) When the dough starts to form, you can add the mini chips and Andes Mints and mix by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

4) Transfer the dough onto a piece of wax paper and form into a ball with your hands.  The dough will be quite sticky, so I layed some confectioners sugar out (not a lot, just enough to lessen the stickiness – probably about 1 or 2 tablespoons) and rolled the dough in that, just to take the sticky edge off.

5) Roll the dough ball in fun Christmas sprinkles or leave as is!  Serve with Oreos, animal crackers, graham crackers…the options are endless.

I felt like a kid again last night, licking my fingers eating as much of this delicious dough as  I wanted without anyone telling me I couldn’t! Oh what fun!

But, after one too many dips and a lingering sugar hangover today, it didn’t take long for me to realize that most times in life, you should listen to your mom 🙂

*Many apologies for the meh photos – don’t let this stop you from trying this recipe! It’s delicious! Hairy and I were partying late last night while Dave was at his Hockey Game and my pictures suffered as a result…

Mint Cookie Dough Ball


Lemon Surprise CookiesMy Uncle Jimmy is a great and funny guy – a creature of habit if you will.

On summer days when I’d be over playing with my cousins Erin and Jen, he’d come home from work every day at noon on the dot, watch t.v. for a bit, and eat his lunch with one of ten bags of ‘Tri-Sum’ potato chips on top of the fridge.  At every holiday, when stocking the fridge or cooler, you’d see at least 1 liter or a few cans of Coke, an Uncle Jimmy necessity.  There’s a comfort in people like my Uncle Jim, in their predictability and routine – they make you feel like in this crazy world we live in that changes every hour of every day, that as long as there’s ice-cold Coke in the fridge and potato chips for lunch, than all will be o.k with the world.

But….since he’s retired….he’s gone a little crazy….

Lemon Surprise Cookies

…doing things like growing goatees – going to Ireland for bachelor parties and drinking whisky! WITHOUT Coke! And much to my delight, he’s developed a knack for baking, which I discovered at Thanksgiving.

Of 75 desserts on the table, you really need to strategize your plan of attack.  But there was one dessert on the table that I noticed was new, not one of the old stand by’s like my Aunt Kathy’s Eclair Ring or my cousin Jen’s picture perfect trifle.  These little bite size, ball shaped cookies with chocolate drizzle.  I popped one in my mouth, and not only was it delicious, but it had a surprise chocolate kiss interior – and after I ate about 1/2 dozen of them I said “ok, who made these?”  And who was the culprit?

Uncle Jim.  Who knew?

Now this past weekend, I tried making them for a cookie swap.  I followed the recipe to a T and waited with baited breath for them to come out of the oven.  But when it was time to take them out, they looked NOTHING like Uncle Jim’s – TASTED nothing like them either – they were a hot mess of cookie, pun intended.  Honestly, I have no idea what happened.  My theory is that perhaps I chilled the dough for too long (the original recipe called for some chilling time to make the dough easier to handle, which is pretty standard with shortbread recipes) Disappointed was an understatement, because I was so excited to showcase these.

I woke up Sunday morning though, feeling determined to get these right, so I tried AGAIN using a different shortbread recipe, this time not chilling the dough and making a few other changes here and there, and B.I.N.G.O! Success!

Lemon Surprise Cookies
*Uncle Jim (and pillsbury & simple bites)

INGREDIENTS
*makes about 6 dozen

3 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon extract

3 & 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 bag (13 oz) KISSES® milk chocolates, unwrapped

Powdered sugar

8 oz. milk chocolate, melted
(about 1/2 bag chocolate chips – I used Trader Joe’s 1lb Milk Chocolate Bar)

Lemon Surprise Cookies

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the lemon extract.

3) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

4) Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and bring everything together with your hands.  Take about 1/2 tbsp. of the dough and wrap it around the hershey kiss.
*This step is key, as you really only want enough dough to just cover the hershey kiss.  If you use too much dough (which is another mistake I made first time around) the shortbread will flatten out on the bottom, making the finished product look more like little hats instead of balls. 

5) Take the dough-wrapped hershey kiss and roll it in between the palms of your hands to form a ball.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

6) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute then remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 15 minutes on wire racks.

7) Lightly sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar. In a double boiler or microwave, melt the chocolate and drizzle over each cookie.

Lemon Surprise Cookies

While being slightly labor intensive, the end result is well worth it as this slightly lemon flavored shortbread has a chocolatey surprise center and the recipe makes a TON, so they’re perfect for gift giving or swapping – 1 batch will make more cookies than you’ll know what to do with!

So thanks for the recipe Uncle Jim! Keep livin’ that ‘crazy’ retired life – it looks good on you 🙂



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