T-Rex Cookies.

I adore T-Rex – for reasons that make for too long of a story to tell here. But for Solstice this year, one of my sons bought me a T-Rex cookie cutter. I waited, patiently, for the holidays to be over so we would have room for snacks – and today I made a trial batch of cut-out, flood-iced cookies.

SO CUTE.

SO CUTE.

I’ll be honest – this is the one that turned out the best. It was a learning process to get the eye placed properly and the outline and flooding done reasonably. But I am ridiculously pleased with how they turned out – and sad that I didn’t make more of them (this recipe made 9 cookies).

Here’s the cookie recipe that I used:

1 Dozen Cut-Out Cookies

Ingredients
3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla again)
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a stand mixer,  cream together the butter and sugar. Scrape down the sides frequently.
  3. Once everything is light and fluffy, add the egg yolk and extracts. Mix well.
  4. Sprinkle half the flour mixture into the bowl and continue to mix on a low speed until combined. Add the remainder of the flour mixture.
  5. Mix until no visible flour remains (don’t over-mix!)
  6. Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Squish the dough into a ball. Using a floured rolling pin,  roll out the dough until it’s large enough to make approximately 8 medium-sized cut-outs.
  7. Place the shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Gather the dough scraps,  re-roll, and cut out the rest of the shapes. Put them on the cookie sheet too!
  9. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and start heating your oven to 350F.
  10. When the oven reaches temperature, remove the cookies from the freezer and put them into the oven.
  11. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just start to turn brown.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the pan for a few minutes and then move them a wire rack to cool completely.
  13. Don’t frost the cookies until they’re fully cooled.

I used this method for doing the outline and flooding. It worked well, but I had to add quite a bit more powdered sugar to my recipe (possibly because I make my own sugar in the blender so it doesn’t contain corn starch?)

For my own records, this is what the recipe looked like for me in the end:

Icing for Border & Flooding

For the border icing:

1.5 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring extract
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons milk or water
Food coloring, optional

For the flood icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring extract
2 1/2 tablespoons milk or water
Food coloring, optional

Directions:

  1. Mix the ingredients together for the border icing. It should be quite thick. Spoon it into a squeeze bottle and then make the outlines. Allow the icing to dry to the touch (about 10 minutes, at most).
  2. Mix the flood icing. it should be thick but not too much. Spoon it into a squeeze bottle and then use it like a magic marker to colour inside the border icing. FUN. Allow to dry overnight.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups.

My middle son has declared that this is his favourite dinner. I am pretty sure that he’s made that same declaration about a few other foods. At any rate, the entire family enjoys this and we usually only have a roll or two left when we’re finished.

Spinach! Lasagna! Roll-up!

Spinach! Lasagna! Roll-up!

For a long time I was ridiculously afraid to use the lasagna noodles that you need to boil – I always bought the “oven ready” kind. This meant that I didn’t experiment with recipes like this one. I regret all those years – now I have to make up for it by eating this recipe at least once a month.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

Makes one large 9×13″ pan of roll-ups!

Ingredients:
1 pkg lasagna noodles (I like the spinach ones best)
2 small containers of ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 eggs
2 bricks of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (microwave!)
6 cups of your favourite pasta sauce
pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the full package of lasagna noodles and cook them until they’re soft – not mushy! Drain them, rinse quickly with cold water, and set aside.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, combine the thawed spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, pepper, and parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Mix! Stir! Combine!
  3. Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray the inside of a 9×13″ pan with some non-stick spray.
  4. Take one cooked noodle and lay it flat on the counter. Coat it nicely with the filling, then roll it up! Place in the pan. Repeat for all as many other noodles as you can fit into the pan.
  5. Pour the pasta sauce over the noodles – use a spoon to make sure all the surfaces are covered.
  6. Cover the dish in tin foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, discard tin foil, allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
I make this based on this recipe – we like our filling to be extra, uh, filling, so we doubled the original and added extra mozzarella cheese for good measure. I also use more sauce on top to prevent the noodles from drying out.

Guest Post: Abby’s Christmas Crack.

This is a guest post from my delightful friend Abby. She made this recipe for our work holiday drop-in; I am pretty sure that all of it was gone into the bellies of our staff before anyone managed to drop in. It’s called “Christmas Crack” but I feel confident that we could rename it “Violet’s Birthday Crack” or “Monday Crack”. Whatever. Here we go. Let’s start with a photo that Abby stole from the internet..

Mmmm.. Crack!

Mmmm.. Crack!

Christmas Crack

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (use light probably – dark was kinda weird)
about a half a bag of pretzels (mini ones or square ones are best but in a pinch just rough crush sticks or regular pretzels in your hands)
1 bag chocolate chips (mini work best)
coarse sea salt

Directions:

  1. First and foremost – relax! this is kind of a no-brainer type of recipe so don’t freak out about it. don’t go all A-type or freak-out – just make the damn thing. Maybe have a drink to help with the relaxing (this part is optional but recommended).
  2. Start by lining a medium-size/regular cookie sheet with tinfoil. The thing needs to have sides. Don’t be all Martha Stewart-y and think parchment is better here – it will stick. $.50 dollarstore tin foil will do the job, just make sure it covers the cookie sheet (and up the sides) to make for easy clean-up.
  3. Dump the pretzels onto the cookie sheet and give’r a shake. Aim for about a single layer – roughly half of the bags I buy. But again, refer back to step 1.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the sugar in a pot. Again, go back to step one. This isn’t rocket science folks. Melt the butter however you want – hi, medium heat – doesn’t matter. Add in the sugar and stir until the butter is fully incorporated. This takes a few minutes but really, just take a breath (or a drink) and it will happen. Keep stirring til it comes to a pretty decent bubble, then turn down the heat to low. Watch the pretty bubbles and stir for about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the bubbly sugar/butter mixture over the pretzels. You guessed it – refer back to #1. Try to pour it over most of the pan but the stuff will spread out in the oven. Promise.
  6. Pop the pan into the oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn off the oven. Pull out the pan – that delicious goo spread out didn’t it? Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the whole bubbly thing. Pop back into the (now off but still hot) oven for a minute-ish to melt the chocolate. Remove from oven – use a spatula to spread out the chocolate. Some of the pretzels might not be fully covered, some might shift – this ain’t a beauty pageant kids. Relax. Sprinkle with coarse sea-salt – however much you want.
  8. Let sit for a few minutes while you clean up (one pot. nice.) and then pop in the freezer for about an hour. Remove from tinfoil and break into piece. Done!

Store in a container in the freezer. Best served if it’s sit out at room temp for a little bit but I’ve been known to grab a piece every time I pass by the freezer. Ain’t no shame.

Looks like a lot of steps but to review: Line a pan. Dump pretzels. Shake. Let butter and sugar make pretty bubbles. Pour. Oven. Chocolate. Oven. Salt. Freezer. BAM.

Sriracha Lollipops.

For the holidays, I bought my husband a package of sriracha-flavoured candy canes. He liked them. He likes sriracha on pretty much everything we eat, so it wasn’t much of a surprise – but he did comment that the flavour wasn’t very strong.  Then I saw this recipe.

I have never made candy before, but I’m trying very hard not to shy away from making new things – even if I have a pretty strong feeling that it won’t turn out or that it’ll be way harder than I expect.

As it happened, I needed my husband to help me make this recipe – specifically because I was freaking out a bit (unnecessarily) and because I felt like I didn’t have enough hands!

In the end, we learnt some valuable lessons – like “candy sets up pretty fast” and “don’t overfill the molds”. I wouldn’t package these up to give out to people as a gift because they’re a bit messy and wonky, but I would totally make them again and see if I could get them a bit more even next time. We did make a few that were just blobs of candy poured onto parchment paper with sticks added.

Also: sriracha candy is really, really good.  And nowhere near as challenging to make as I expected!

Blobs of candy + sticks!

Blobs of candy + sticks!

Clowns!

Clowns!

I followed this recipe – with only minimal changes. I’m printing the recipe below, with my slight changes (for my own records). If you want to make these, I recommend going to the original site and using those instructions instead.

Sriracha Lollipops!

Makes about 15-20

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce, divided
1/2  tsp. orange-coloured gel food colouring

Directions:

  1. Grease a candy mold with cooking spray or cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Put a candy thermometer into the mixture.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Heat without stirring until the bubbling mixture reaches 244°F.
  4. Drop one level tablespoon of sriracha sauce into the bubbling mixture– do not stir! When the mixture reaches the hard crack stage (302-310°F). Remove pan from heat.
  5. Stir in the remaining 1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce and food coloring. Be extra careful because the mixture will bubble and sputter with these additions.
  6. When the mixture has stopped bubbling, pour it into molds and let harden.  Alternately, spoon onto the parchment-covered tray and place a stick in the middle of the blob. Add more candy on top if you want!
  7. Wrap the cooled lollipops in cellophane or wax paper and store in an airtight container.

Notes:

Candy sets up REALLY FAST. Work fast! After everything is done, soak the pot and utensils (and everything else in the kitchen) in really hot water. Scrub. Add more hot water. Scrub again. More hot water. Eventually it’ll all come clean.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Cooooookie.

Cooooookie.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Makes a thick, chewy, 10″ cookie.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups coffee/chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla, mixing and scraping down the sides of the mixer.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt – mix to combine.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and mix just until everything is neat and tidy together.
  5. Firmly press the dough into a 10″ cast iron skillet.
  6. Bake for  about 20 minutes (until golden and  set)
  7. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Notes:
I used coffee-flavoured chocolate chips – the local grocery store had them available just before Christmas, so I figured I’d try them. You can use whatever kind of chocolatey-chip-like thing you like best. Adapted from this recipe.

1 Hour Focaccia Bread.

SO GOOD.

SO GOOD.

When I bought my cast iron skillet, a friend sent me a bunch of links on Pinterest to various foods – made in cast iron skillets. This one intrigued me in no small part because the claim was that it could be made in an hour (or less) and because it’s bread. Also, I’m a fan of focaccia bread.

There’s one huge problem with this bread – it was gone, completely, within 10 minutes of coming out of the oven. And then we were sad. It’s soft, buttery, covered in melted parmesan cheese (or clumps of parmesan, if you’re like me and can’t quite brush things on evenly) and the bottom is lightly crispy.

It took a lot of self-control to not make another one right away.

1 Hour Skillet Focaccia Bread.

Makes one 10″ focaccia bread.

Ingredients

3/4 cup warm water (~100F)
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted + extra for greasing the skillet
1 Tbsp grated parmesan
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Instructions:

  1. Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer and add sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir gently to mix.  Wait for the yeast to foam – yay yeast!
  3. With the mixer on low, add 1 cup of flour and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  4. When flour is incorporated, add the olive oil and continue to mix.
  5. Slowly add the remaining cup of flour – until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl.

  6. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees F and when it’s ready turn it off (leave the door closed). If your oven has a proof setting, you can skip this step.
  7. Grease the skillet with a bit of butter.
  8. Dump the remaining flour onto your counter. Dump the dough onto that flour! Knead gently until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
  9. Roll the dough into a circle that’s about 10″ – the size of the skillet. Place the dough into the greased skillet and, using your fingers, stretch the dough upward on the sides.
  10. Cover the dough with a cloth and place into the warm oven (or in the oven with the ‘proof’ setting on).
  11. Wait 20 minutes.
  12. Take the skillet out of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F.  Using your fingertips, jab the dough to make some dents (these will collect the butter and the cheese and the spices.. oh yeah.)
  13. In a small cup, mix the melted butter, parmesan, and Italian seasoning. Brush the dough with half the mixture.
  14. When the oven has reached 400F, put the skillet back in there and bake for 20 minutes (or until golden brown on top).
  15. After removing the bread from the oven, brush it with the rest of the butter mixture.
  16. Cool slightly, slice, and eat. (Good luck making this last more than 10 minutes.)

Notes:
You can easily mix the dough by hand – no need to use the food processor.  Just knead it!