Mocha Hazelnut Orange Brownies

One of the favorite cookies on a plate always seems to be brownies. While I have several recipes, I’m sharing one that is usually popular. For me, the combination of chocolate, orange, and hazel nut is hard to resist.

Mocha Hazelnut Orange Brownies

Eight ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter (two sticks)
5 eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 tablespoons coffee crystals
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Melt chocolate and butter in microwave. Stir in coffee crystals. Cool slightly. In another bowl, beat all, sugar and vanilla on high speed for five to eight minutes. Blend in melted chocolate mixture on low speed. All flour, beating just to blend. Stir in nuts.

Spread mixture in greased 13 x 9-inch jelly roll pan or in two 8 x 8-inch cake pans. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Do not over bake.

Frosting

½ cup butter (one stick)
1 pound powdered sugar
3 heaping tablespoons Nutella spread.
Juice of one orange
Grated rind of one orange

Beat the butter and Nutella with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar until well incorporated. Add grated orange rind and enough juice to make the frosting spreadable but not runny.

When the brownies are completely cooled in the pan, generously frost. To make them easier to cut, refrigerate until frosting is set.

Making Biscuits in a Hurry

Okay, everything takes some time but this is a pretty quick recipe to get into the oven. Just make sure you read the recipe a couple of times, line up your ingredients so you don’t have to go scurrying around the kitchen and . . . Bake!

Hurry Up Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled butter
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a parchment lined baking sheet.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Dice up the cold butter and using your hands, mix it in with the dry ingredients. You don’t want to warm up the butter so rather quickly rub the butter into the dry mix between your fingers until there are rough crumbs of it in the flour. Add the milk gradually and using a fork gently mix until it forms a soft dough.

Flour a surface and roll out the dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Don’t have a biscuit cutter? No problem! Just use a glass to cut out rounds of biscuits and place on your prepared baking sheet. You can brush the tops lightly with melted butter before putting them into your preheated oven. Bake for approximately 8-12 minutes or until golden brown.

This recipe makes about a dozen biscuits (depends on how big you cut them!) The recipe doubles nicely.

Ideas:

Add a quarter cup of granulated sugar to the dry mixture for a sweeter biscuit. It would even work for the base of strawberry shortcake.

Roll the biscuits a bit thinner than directed, put a bit of jam in the center of one and another thin biscuit on top sealing well. A great surprise to your family for a special breakfast.

Brush the tops with melted butter and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.

You could even cut a middle hole in your biscuits and deep fry them for donuts. Toss them in cinnamon and sugar while warm. Adding an extra quarter cup of sugar to the dough will make it sweeter but I like the taste of the biscuit with the sweet coming from the coating.

Barbara’s Dessert Squares

Barbara’s Dessert Squares

This is a fast and easy dessert to put in the oven about an hour before dinner so the melting ice cream I’m sure you will want on this will melt a bit into the little cakes. Hey, I would condone a serious helping of freshly whipped cream, too, if you felt so inclined!

1/3 cup softened butter (no margarine, please!)
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl until combined. Add the eggs and beat until light an fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. Combine the vanilla, milk, and grated zest. Add to the butter mixture alternately until just combined and smooth. Stir in the walnuts to distribute evenly.

Vegetable oil spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. I like the glass Pyrex baking dishes but any pan will work. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking pan and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until it springs back when gently touched in the center.

When partly cooled down, dust with powdered sugar. If you have a small strainer, this works well for evenly distributing the sugar easily on the cake. Cut into squares and serve.

Quick and Easy Candy Treats

Here is a fast and easy way to have some almost-instant treats on hand for unexpected guests who have just called and will be there within the hour! This happens a lot during the holidays so let’s put the ingredients on our shopping list and be prepared to amaze!

Quick and Easy Candy Treats

1 pounds Almond bark (You can find this in the baking section of most grocery stores in white or chocolate flavors.)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows. (If you can find the multicolored ones, think how pretty that would be!
2 cups crisped rice cereal
1 ½ cups of roughly crushed pretzels

Carefully melt the almond bark either in a glass bowl in your microwave or over a pot of simmering water on the stove. This stuff can burn easily so be prepared! Don’t get any liquid in the mix or it will seize up and it won’t be pretty or usable! Don’t ask me how I know that!

Remove from heat and gently stir in everything but the marshmallows. Carefully fold the marshmallows in last so they don’t over melt and you can still see them in the finished product. Drop by generous teaspoons full onto either parchment paper or waxed paper and let set completely. In a hurry, the refrigerator will hurry up that process.

Ideas:
If you can corral a helper aka one of your wandering children who have been whining about there being nothing to do, he/she can be offered the job of sprinkling the candy with colorful decorations before they set.

You aren’t limited to peanuts!

If you like a really sweet concoction, browse the cereal aisle for an alternative to the crisped rice cereal.

If you do chocolate candies, melt down a bit of white almond bark and drizzle it over the set candy. Switch around the concept if you used white almond bark for the candy.

Want to go for a slightly healthier approach, pumpkin and sun flower seeds can work in your creation.

Sherry Lemon Bundt Cake

Years and years ago, my mother came across a recipe that we have been baking for the family almost every holiday since then. The cake takes on the subtle tang of the included cream sherry and the spices enhance the overall flavor. If it lasts more than one day, it gets better with a little age. Top it with a lemon glaze and people will think you spent hours in the kitchen. Just don’t let them catch you putting the cake mix in your grocery cart!

Sherry Lemon Bundt Cake

1 package yellow cake mix
1 four-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cream sherry
4 eggs
Grated zest of one lemon

In a mixing bowl, add the cake mix, pudding mix, spices, oil, sherry, eggs and lemon zest and blend with the mixer until blended. Pour batter into a vegetable oil-sprayed bundt pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted toward the center comes up clean. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes and then turn out onto serving plate.

Glaze:
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Ideas:

If you don’t care for the taste of the sherry, you can use juice, water, or milk.

Not crazy about lemon? Substitute orange for the lemon in the cake and glaze recipe.

Want to add some mini chocolate chips? Well, no one will stop you.

½ cup of finely chopped nuts can only add to the ‘health’ factor, right?

Don’t have a bundt pan? You can bake the batter in cake tin rounds or in an oblong baking pan.

With this basic recipe, you can use any flavor cake mix or pudding you like. This is the basis for some very creative cake inventions.

Christmas Baking . . . It is Never to Early to Plan!

The weather is finally getting cooler in the evenings and, hopefully, foretells the coming of an Autumn season with some chances of having a reason to heat up the oven and begin some holiday baking. My first baking of that season is usually fruit breads. My favorite came about when I had leftover yams and I try never to let a leftover go to waste. My husband insists that everything we eat has roots way back to the first meal I fixed for him. I like these substantial loaves full of everything but the kitchen sink that stand up to a slather of butter, toasting, or just slicing and eating straight from the oven. There is also a lot of latitude for creativity and anyone who knows me, knows that I always find a twist in everything from my sewing to my baking. My husband’s only complaint in life is that I can never exactly replicate a favorite meal or baked good as I tend to stray off the printed pages of the cookbook . . . when I use one!

Besides the yam bread, I’ve included some ideas for making several other types. And, remember, as with ‘icing on the cake’, it never hurts to put a lemon glaze to soak into a tasty loaf of sweet bread when it comes out of the oven.

Yam Bread

2/3 cup shortening
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups cooked yams
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cups coarsely chopped nuts
2/3 cup raisins (optional)

Whip up the yams until fairly smooth.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of two loaf pans, 9x5x3 inches.

Mix shortening and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, yams, and water. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking power, cinnamon, and clovers. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into pans. (If batter seems too dry, you can always add bits of juice or water but go slowly as you don’t want it runny.)

Bake about an hour or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove and cool completely before slicing.

Pumpkin Bread
Substitute yams for 2 cups of canned pumpkin.

Zucchini Bread
Substitute 3 cups shredded zucchini. Blend in 2 teaspoons vanilla with the clovers. Decrease baking time to under 60 minutes

Banana Bread
Substitute 3 very ripe, smashed (and it ain’t easy getting them drunk!) bananas

Cranberry Walnut Bread
One cup roughly chopped fresh or frozen cranberries and ½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts.

Homemade Cheese Sticks

Homemade Cheese Sticks

Always nice to have something to nibble on while family and guests are waiting for the call to the main event – dinner! Besides some crunchy vegetables and a flavorful dip, these cheesy sticks will always be welcomed.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (Margarine won’t do it!)
4 heaping tablespoons of sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Mix the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a knife or a quick pulse or two in the food processor. Add the cheeses and enough cold water to form a dough that holds together. Refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a floured board to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into thin strips with a sharp knife. If you have a pizza cutter on hand, even better and faster for doing this.

Remove to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minute until pale golden brown.