Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scrumptious Orange Bites

Scrumptious orange bites are an easy to make cookie that is great for cookie exchanges and/or bake sales where you need to make a few dozen or more cookies quickly.  They are especially pretty when frosted, and would be a fun thing to make with your kids help - as they do not require a lot of precision.  They are also easily hand-mixed (another benefit), as the butter is melted and cooled...and the rest of the ingredients added to in.  The addition of carmel chips makes them especially decadent!  Enjoy!

Makes almost 4 dozen

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups chopped pitted dates (I prefer to buy mine whole and chop them)
1 cup packed light brown sugar (these cookies are somewhat sweet; sugar could probably be reduced to 1/2 cup)
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup orange juice (plus 1-2 TBS more if making glaze)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups butterscotch chips
2 cups pecans, chopped
1-2 cups powdered sugar, for dusting or glaze

Heat oven to 375 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Turn heat off when melted, and stir in dates, brown sugar, orange zest, and orange juice.  Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.  Once cool, stir in eggs, butterscotch chips, and pecans.  Then, add flour mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.

Drop generous tablespoon-size portions onto the prepared cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake about 10 minutes, until the edges are brown and the cookies are soft and puffy looking (do not over-bake).  Remove from the oven and let rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes until cool enough to handle without falling apart.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lightly dust cookies with powdered sugar just before serving or glaze/frost them with 2 cups powdered sugar and 4 TBS orange juice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Boursin-stuffed Mushrooms

1 package (10 oz.) mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
1/4 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 package (5.2 oz.)
Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove and chop mushroom stems. In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and cook mushroom stems and onions, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until tender. In medium bowl, pour mushroom mixture over breadcrumbs. Stir in Boursin, parsley, salt and pepper. Evenly spoon mushroom mixture into mushroom caps; arrange on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and golden.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Best Buckeyes (Peanut Butter Balls) Ever!

Makes 60 Pieces

My husband went to a potluck at his office several years ago and had one of these amazing buckeyes.  He pestered the woman he worked with for six months to give him the recipe.  She finally gave him the ingredients but no instructions on how to make them (I think this was her way of getting my husband to stop pestering her without giving away her entire "secret" and "famous" recipe).  I've tweaked these a bit over the years and now use a scale to measure the ingredients by weight, as peanut butter is especially sticky to measure into a measuring cup and then scoop out; by weighing, I can just set the mixer bowl on the scale, zero it out, and skip all the measuring cups (savings time, hassle, and clean-up).  These make great Christmas candy!

I've put the measurements in cups as well, however, for those of you who are old school and don't yet have a digital kitchen scale!

What sets these buckeyes apart from any other I've tried is the little bit of "crunch" that is created by the crushed-up graham crackers; most people won't be able to put their finger on what exactly this "secret" crunchy ingredient is, but it makes them absolutely remarkable.

These are a bit "time consuming" to make, as it is best to give them time to refrigerate and then freeze, so the peanut butter will firm up - and you may need to stop periodically and put the tray of "in progress" buckeyes back in the fridge or freezer for a bit, so they don't become too warm!  My recommendation is to make them over a 24 hour period; start them the day before...put them in the fridge (wrapped in plastic) to firm up the peanut butter mix overnight...scoop them and roll them by hand into balls in the afternoon the next day...freeze them...and then, in the evening, enrobe them in chocolate and put them back in the freezer for  a bit so the chocolate can harden completely before putting them into a tupperware container and freezing them until needed.  I like, however, that this is a project I can start and then walk away from...and then restart when I have a bit more time.

Once removed from the freezer, the buckeyes will soften quickly, so it is best to arrange them decoratively on a tray immediately (before they begin to thaw) when you are ready to serve them.  They will defrost in about 25-30 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room.


20 oz smooth peanut butter (I like Skippy brand) - or approximately 2 cups
8   oz powdered sugar - or approximately 2 cups
5   oz graham crackers, crushed - or approximately 9 sheets
6   tbs unsalted butter, melted
24 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Nestle brand) - or approximately 4 cups
2   tbs vegetable shortening (unflavored)


In the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer, measure peanut butter, powdered sugar, graham crackers, and butter.  Using the paddle attachment, mix until combined (the mixture will resemble cookie dough).  Unhook the paddle attachment and leave it in the bowl; it's easier to scrape the paddle with the cookie scoop once the dough is firm!  Wrap the bowl in plastic, and refrigerate the mixture for several hours until it is chilled and firm.

Once chilled, line a large baking sheet with wax paper, and using a small stainless steel cookie scoop (about 1.25 inches in diameter), scoop out uniform portions of peanut butter and quickly roll with your hands to shape into a smooth ball (approximately 1" in diameter).  Place immediately on a wax lined cookie sheet.  (The recipe will make approximately 60 balls).  Place the cookie sheet, uncovered, in the freezer for an hour, until the balls are frozen.

About 30 minutes before you remove the balls from the freezer, place a medium size bowl over a pot with about 2 inches of gently simmering water; be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Add the chocolate chips and shortening, and stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until smooth.  When the chocolate is melted, remove the balls from the freezer and using two small forks, drop each ball individually in the chocolate and cover the peanut butter completely.  Roll the ball onto one fork and use the other fork to remove any excess chocolate from the top, sides, and bottom.  Take extra care to scrap the underside of the work to push away excess chocolate that may be hanging from the bottom.  Return the ball immediately to the wax paper lined baking sheet.

Notes about enrobing in chocolate: excess chocolate on the bottom of the fork may form a large "puddle" under your buckeye that will make them less attractive once they're chilled!  Also, as you are working, if the peanut butter becomes too soft or the chocolate becomes to hard to effectively work with, return the balls to the freezer and the chocolate to the simmering water for a few minutes; it is better to be patient and take a few breaks or the balls will become misshapen!

When you are finished enrobing the candy in chocolate, place the baking sheet, uncovered, back in the freezer for about 1 hour, until the buckeyes are completely frozen.  Then, stack them loosely into a container that can be frozen and has an airtight lid (like a pyrex dish with a lid).

About 30 minutes before serving, remove them from the freezer and place the buckeyes decoratively on your serving piece; do not let them defrost first, as they will become soft and stick together.

These buckeyes give Reese's Peanut Butter Cups a run for their money!  So, enjoy responsibly!

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