Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fruit Cake Cookies

Fruit Cake cookies in March…seriously? Shouldn’t I be making something more on the lines of a spring or Easter recipe? Wouldn’t Fruit Cake cookies be something that we would be more likely to make around Christmas? After all that is the time of year that we think of fruit cake….if we think of it at all. As a matter of fact, I did receive this recipe in December but never got around to making it. Besides, even though it’s March 30, it’s 31 degrees and snowing so it feels more like Christmas than Easter.

You may remember that last December I discovered that Michael liked fruit cake so I was trying to find some tried and true recipes…with no luck. I did, however, receive two recipes for fruit cake cookies. One I got from the King Arthur Flour Company called Fruitcake Drops, which I did make, and they were delicious and the other from my cousin Jill. This post is about the recipe for Fruit Cake cookies that she sent me.

The recipe Jill sent me had two different lists of ingredients, the recipe as she originally received it and the other with the adjustments she made. Since she is a very good cook and baker, and I trust her opinion, I went with her list. So, since I still had some leftover candied and dried fruit, I decided to make Jill's Fruit Cake Cookies.

Fruit Cake Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup candied cherries
1 1/2 cups dates and/or figs, chopped
1/2 cup candied pineapple
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

Cream butter and sugar until light.
Add egg and beat until well blended.
Reserving a little of the flour to toss with the fruit, combine remaining flour with the salt and baking soda.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk.
Toss fruit with the reserved flour.
Fold in the floured fruit and chopped pecans.
Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches between cookies.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-13 minutes, depending on size of cookies
Let sit on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely
Makes from 3-5 dozen fruit cake cookies.
Store in an airtight container.

Butter and sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light.

  Add egg

Beat until well blended

 After removing a little of the flour to toss with the fruit, combine the remaing flour with the salt and baking soda.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the dough. 

 Toss fruit with reserved flour. Isn't that pretty?

 Fold nuts and fruit into dough. 

Dough is ready to drop onto greased baking sheets. Or better still, use parchment or Silpat liners.

I 've been using rolls of parchment that I buy at the supermarket, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc., until recently. I was in a GFS store the other day and found a large package of parchment sheets. The sheets are for full sized baking sheets (used in professional kitchens) but I cut them in half for a normal/half sized (what you and I use) baking sheet. So, if there is a GFS near you, I recommend buying your parchment from them..... much easier than dealing with the rolls of parchment.

Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches between cookies. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-13 minutes, depending on size of cookies. Let sit on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing.

Finish cooling on a wire rack. This is another thing I like about using parchment, all you have to do is lift the parchment from the baking sheet onto the rack...cookies and all.

These cookies were a little different than the ones I made in December…a little more of a cake cookie, not as chewy. Even though different, they were still very good. Michael showed his approval by grabbing a plate of cookies, a glass of cold milk and retiring to the living room…the plate was returned empty.

Which do we like best? It’s hard to say they are both good but different, one had a cake like texture and the other was chewy. I may be having a fruit cake cookie bakeoff in December.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Lo Mein

I love Chinese food! It isn’t something that I’ve always took some getting used to and a little trial and error, but eventually I liked it and now even crave it from time to time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm a gal from the midwest and, while growing up, our meals consisted mostly of meat and potatoes so Chinese food was not something that fit in with our meal plan. I remember the first time I tried Chinese food, I hated it....wouldn't, couldn't even finish my meal. But after a few times of going to Chinese restaurants and trying different dishes, I finally found a few that I liked. Now, after several years, I have a large list of dishes that I enjoy.

I have three favorite restaurants that I frequent but lately all of them have failed me. The last three or four times I’ve been to these restaurants the food has been horrible! So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and attempt to prepare one of my favorite dishes myself. Chicken Lo Mein is a recent addition to my favorite Chinese dishes and hoping that it would be easy to make, I went online and searched until I found one that looked good and easy.

Chicken Lo Mein
Print Recipe

1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (I used Mirin - sweet cooking rice seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound Chinese noodles
1 cup thin carrot strips (about 1 carrot)
1-8 ounce can straw mushrooms (I'm slicing these next time)
3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying, or as needed
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
Salt and pepper to taste, if desired

Cut the chicken into thin strips about 2 inches long. Add the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, sesame oil and the cornstarch. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the other ingredients: Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Cook the noodles in boiling water until they are cooked al dente (tender but still firm). This will take about 3 minutes for fresh noodles, and 4-5 minutes for dried. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Cut the carrot into thin strips to match the chicken. Rinse the straw mushrooms under running water to remove any "tinny" taste. Drain Thoroughly.

In a large frying/saute pan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high to high. Add the garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds until aromatic, then add the chicken. Stir-fry the chicken until it changes color and is 80 percent cooked. (If you need more oil, try adding 1 tablespoons water). Remove the chicken and clean out the pan.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and the salt in the wok. Add the carrots and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 1 minutes, then add the chicken. Add noodles, stirring to mix in the other ingredients. Add the sauce into the pan, mixing with the other ingredients.

Cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and add salt or pepper if desired. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

Spaghetti or linguini can be used instead of the Chinese noodles.

If you don't like the whole straw mushrooms, slice them. If you don't want or can't find the straw mushrooms just use a can of regular. Can also use fresh mushrooms.

Sliced boneless skinless chicken breast - 1/2 pound.

Ingredients for marinade.

The Marinade: soy sauce, Chinese rice wine (Mirin), sesame seed oil and cornstarch in a bowl...I used a pie pan.

Chicken combined with the marinade.

Remaining ingredients...except for the noodles.

Oyster sauce.

The Sauce: chicken broth, oyster sauce and sugar.

I wanted to use authentic Chinese Lo Mein Noodles so I drove (about a 40 minute drive) to Jungle Jim's International Market  (a favorite place to shop) in order to buy some. Had to laugh when I found them in their Asian section and saw, in the lower right hand corner, the words, Made in the USA. I guess we still do make a few things here, just surprised that it's Chinese noodles.

  These are the "authentic" Chinese noodles, if you can't find them, substitute spaghetti or linguini.

Boil noddles for 4-5 minutes. Should be tender but firm (al dente).

Straw mushrooms....I've never seen these before. If you can't find them, substitute regular canned mushrooms or fresh. When using canned, rinse and drain well.

I forgot to take a picture of this, but you need cut carrot into thin strips.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high to high heat. Add chopped garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds.

Add marinated chicken and stir-fry until almost completely cooked. Remove from pan and clean out pan (wipe with a clean cloth or towel). 

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil, add salt. Add the carrots and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 1 minute. 

Add the chicken. 

Then add the noodles and stir to mix in. Add the sauce, stirring to mix in with the other ingredients. Cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Now you're ready to serve!

This was very good! Michael and I both agreed that it was better than any of the Chinese meals that we’ve had in a long time.

Now that my first attempt at making Chinese is a success, I’ll be looking for more dishes to try. Anyone have a good egg roll recipe?
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