Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Sugar Cookies

This is a quick short-cut version. If anyone would like my homemade recipe I will be happy to share that as well. Make your cut-out cookies using Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix. Roll them out at least ¼ inch thick so they will puff up nice and high when baked. Be careful not to over bake – take them out when they are just slightly brown on the edges. Remove to wire rack to cool.

For the Royal Icing you will need:
4 Egg Whites
1 teaspoon Vanilla or Lemon Extract (using lemon will keep your icing nice and white)
4 to 4 ½ cups Confectioners’ Sugar
Food coloring - black, red + yellow = orange

Combine the egg whites and extract and beat until frothy 2 to 3 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes. Divide into bowls and add food coloring to achieve desired shade. Apply icing with a knife or small spatula. Allow to dry. Pipe faces using a contrasting icing shade. I use a small Wilton icing tip that I pierce through the end of a disposable bag. This icing will dry to a nice hard and shiny finish and it will keep in your fridge for up to a week. Note – Black food coloring is hard to find at regular grocery stores, even around Halloween. I can normally find it at Michael’s.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I used to always order Spinach and Artichoke Dip when dining out. Several years ago I worked on perfecting a rich and creamy version I could make myself. I don’t order it out anymore – this is so good. A family favorite and great for the upcoming holidays or anytime you want some decadent and delicious comfort food!

Spinach & Artichoke Dip
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
14 oz. can artichokes, drained and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese 
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 8 oz. package cream cheese 
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can mushrooms
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
½ cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large deep baking dish. Mix all ingredients very well. Place in baking dish and bake for approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Add the slivered almonds to the top of the dip for the last 10 minutes. Serve with bread, tortillas or crackers. This is also great with veggies. 

Note – Use mayonnaise, Miracle Whip will not work with this recipe. Also, I have tried fresh spinach and it does not work well. Too much liquid drains out of the spinach during baking and makes the dip too watery. Make sure and press the thawed spinach well with paper towels – get out as much water as you can before adding to mixture. Feel free to substitute with half and half. It is not absolutely necessary to use the heavy cream but it does make a richer and creamier dip. This recipe makes a lot! I have cut it down from my original recipe, but still, be prepared to freeze some for later use. It reheats very well from frozen state. One last thing – this is a very forgiving recipe. Feel free to make changes here and there if you want – it should work out just fine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ultimate Beer Bread Recipe

This is a very simple recipe. It has only a handful of ingredients but it will totally knock your socks off. These have been affectionately referred to as cholesterol bombs. Because of, you know - the butter - lots and lots of butter. I recommend making it in a small muffin tin. The crust to crumb ratio is perfect. I’m a crust girl myself. If you choose to make this in a loaf pan it is great sliced and toasted. 

3 cups self rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 can beer (Your choice – I prefer a dark full bodied beer)
Melted Butter 

Combine flour and sugar. Add beer, a little at a time. Mix well, the mixture should have the consistency of a very thick batter. Thicker is better for this bread. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray and spoon mixture into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush melted butter on tops of muffins. I normally remove the miniature breads from the muffin pan and brush butter on the bottoms too. Also, while you have the bread out you might as well go ahead and coat the pan with the melted butter. Place breads back in the pan and then sprinkle with salt. Place back in oven and bake until golden brown - approximately 15 additional minutes. You can also place the breads right on a cookie sheet for the second bake (omit returning them to the muffin tin) this will yield a crustier bread.