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Orange Rolls

Orange Rolls

These sweet rolls are light (not in calories, unfortunately) and soft with a slight tang from the addition of sour cream and fresh orange juice. A nice change from a traditional cinnamon roll.

To keep your rolls light and airy, do not add too much flour to your dough, and knead only until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. I roll my dough out on a buttered silicon mat (instead of a floured mat). Greased hands will also help in handling the slightly sticky dough.

An easy way to cut your dough logs into rolls without crushing the dough and having the knife stick to the dough is to use dental floss (not mint!) or a strong sewing thread. The (really out of focus) picture below shows the floss in action.

Cutting Rolls 2

I like to first make shallow knife cuts in the dough so that I have a cutting guide. Then place the floss UNDER the dough. Cross the ends of the floss over the top of the dough (lining up with the knife cuts) and pull crossed floss ends until the dough is cut through.


Orange Rolls

Orange Rolls

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
3 Tbs butter
1 cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
about 4 – 4 ½ cups flour
1 Tbs instant yeast**
2 tsp salt

6 Tbs butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 tsp orange zest

3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs butter, softened
3 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp orange zest
dash salt

Combine orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest, 3 Tbs butter and sour cream in a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl. Heat slowly until butter melts and mixture is warm to touch, but not hot (do not allow mixture to boil).

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer with a dough hook attached. Mix in ½ cup sugar. Add eggs all at once and mix well. Mix in flour (start with 4 cups), yeast and salt. Knead dough, adding additional flour if necessary, until dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl, but is still soft and slightly sticky. Cover and let dough rest 10 minutes.

Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl; stir well.

Divide dough in half. On a buttered surface, roll each dough half into a large rectangle about ½” thick. Spread each with half of the filling. Roll dough beginning with the long edge; press edge to seal seam. Slice each dough roll into about 12 rolls (use dental floss or sewing thread for easy cutting). Place rolls in a buttered pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bake at 375°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until barely golden brown. Cool at least 15 minutes before spreading with glaze.

Combine glaze ingredients and mix well. Add additional cream or orange juice if glaze is too thick to spread. Spread on warm, but not oven-hot rolls.

**NOTE: If you are using regular, and not instant yeast, proof yeast for 5 minutes in 1/4 cup of the orange juice (or water), warmed, before mixing into the dough. Allow dough to rise in a covered bowl until doubled before rolling and shaping into rolls.

Yield: about 24 rolls

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Lemon Meringue Pie Bites

Lemon Meringue Pie Bites 7

All the goodness of a lemon meringue pie in a hand-held bite-sized dessert.

These bite-sized pies use packaged pre-baked fillo (phyllo) dough shells as a crust. For a gluten-free dessert, skip the crust all together, and bake pies in small ramekins.

Lemon Meringue Pie Bites 2

Lemon pie filling is a pudding made with egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. It is thickened by the eggs and cornstarch. Meringue is made from the remaining egg whites, stabilized with sugar and cream of tartar.
Lemon Meringue Pie Bites 5

For the mini-pies, I piped the meringue using a large star pastry tip. Because of their small size, it is not as important to seal the meringue completely to the sides of the crust.

Lemon Meringue Pie Bites 3

The pies are baked just long enough to cook and brown the meringue.

Lemon Meringue Pie Bites 4

You can, of course, make a regular lemon meringue pie by pouring the hot filling into a regular baked pie crust and spreading the meringue over the hot filling. Bake until meringue is golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Pie 1

Tips for keeping meringue from shrinking and weeping: Start with room-temperature egg whites for best results. Be sure to seal the meringue to the edge of the piecrust. It should touch everywhere along the edge of the crust. Also be sure that the lemon filling is hot when you spread the meringue over the filling. The hot filling will help cook the bottom of the meringue and keep it from weeping as it cools. The pie should also be completely cool before cutting.

Lemon Meringue Pie 2


Lemon Meringue Pie Bites (or Regular Pie)

  • Servings: 45 mini bites or 1 regular pie
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Lemon Meringue Pie Bites 4

1 ¼ cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups cold water
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 eggs, separated (at room temperature)
2-3 tsp grated lemon zest (from one lemon)
2 Tbs butter

3 packages Mini Fillo Shells or 1 Baked Pie Crust

½ tsp cream of tartar
½ cup + 2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine 1 ¼ cups sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Mix with a whisk. Stir in water and lemon juice until smooth. Separate eggs. Set egg whites aside to use in the meringue. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with the whisk until well mixed. Stir into cold liquid in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in lemon zest and butter. Continue to cook until butter melts. Turn off burner, but keep pan warm.

While lemon filling is cooking, prepare meringue: Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually beat in ½ cup + 2 Tbs sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla. Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fit with a large tip.

Place fillo shells onto a baking sheet. Spoon hot lemon filling into fillo shells. Pipe meringue onto filling. Bake at  350°F for 13-15 minutes.

Makes about 45 mini lemon meringue pie bites.

Lemon Meringue Pie 2

For regular Lemon Meringue Pie: Prepare filling and meringue as directed, but do not spoon meringue into a pastry bag. Pour hot lemon filling into a baked pie crust. Spoon meringue over hot filling, spreading to seal to edge of pastry crust. Use the back of a spoon to make peaks. Bake at 350°F for 15-18 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Cool completely to room temperature before slicing.

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Szechuan Beans

Szechuan Beans 3

Szechuan Beans are one of my favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants. Often at restaurants, they are made with Chinese long beans. When I make them at home, I use the skinny French filet beans.

These beans are slightly spicy, flavored with Szechuan peppercorns, a good dose of garlic, ginger and chili paste. Szechuan peppercorns are actually less spicy than regular black pepper or chili peppers. They have a slightly lemony taste and leave your tongue with an interesting tingly, slightly numb sensation.

Szechuan Peppercorns

Szechuan Peppercorns

I buy whole Szechuan peppercorns from Penzeys. If I am grinding a large quantity of the peppercorns, I use a mini electric coffee grinder. For times when I only need a small amount of ground peppercorn, I have a separate peppermill (the wooden kind you turn by hand) that I keep full of these peppercorns. Don’t use your regular black peppercorn mill to grind the Szechuan peppercorns and then refill with the black ones. As straight Szechuan peppercorns can leave your tongue feeling numb, your kids might not appreciate that sensation when they are expecting regular pepper.

I like to include a small amount of ground pork when I make these beans, but you could leave that out for a vegetarian dish.

Szechuan Beans 1


Szechuan Beans

Szechuan Beans 3

1 Tbs oil
¼ lb ground pork
4 green onions, chopped
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ground chili paste (use more for spicier beans)
1 tsp honey (or 5 drops liquid stevia)
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 lb Chinese long beans or French filet beans, ends trimmed

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground pork, green onions, garlic and ginger. Cook until pork is cooked through.

Add soy sauce, chili paste, honey and ground peppercorns to skillet. Stir to mix, then add green beans to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes. Add 3 Tbs water to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook beans for about 3 minutes, or until beans are not quite done.

Remove lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and beans are crisp-tender. Do not overcook beans. Serve immediately.

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Ginger Beef Stir-Fry

Ginger Beef 2

We eat a lot of stir-fries in our house. They are a fairly quick meal to get on the table, and they are one thing that I don’t hear complaints about from anyone. This Ginger Beef is not a saucy stir-fry, but is very flavorful. The beef marinates for about half an hour at room temperature and then is cooked in small batches over very high heat. Fresh ginger, cut into thin matchstick shapes, green onions and sliced serrano chiles (hot, but not overpowering) provide additional flavor. Because this dish is not as chock-full of vegetable as some other stir-fries, I often serve it with Szechuan green beans (recipe coming soon!).


Ginger Beef Stir-Fry

Ginger Beef 2

5 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey (or 5 drops liquid stevia)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ tsp red chile pepper flakes
½ tsp ground cumin

1 ½ lb flank steak or top sirloin steak
2 Tbs oil, divided
2-3 hot chiles, preferably red serranos, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchstick shapes
1 bunch (about 5-6) green onions, cut diagonally into 1” pieces
1 Tbs sesame oil

Mix together all of the marinade ingredients.

Thinly slice the steak (partially freezing the steak will make this easier) and place slices in a Ziploc bag. Pour marinade over the sliced steak. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This can also be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Remove beef from fridge 30 minutes before cooking.

Place 1 Tbs oil in a wok or  large skillet and heat over high heat until very hot. Place a small amount of the beef (about ½ cup at a time) in the hot pan. Sauté beef slices over high heat until juices in pan almost completely evaporate. Transfer cooked beef to serving bowl. Repeat with remaining beef.

Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to the pan and sauté the sliced chiles, minced garlic and ginger matchsticks for 1 minute. Add the beef back to the pan with the sliced green onions. Stir in the sesame oil and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately over steamed rice.

(recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

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Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning 4

Making your own taco seasoning mix is an easy way to cut chemicals and preservatives out of your food and save money at the same time. And it tastes so much better than any packaged mix. Make a large batch and then store in an airtight container. Use about 2 Tbs of the mix for a pound of ground beef to make regular tacos. You can adjust the amounts of spicier chilies to your family’s taste. Penzey’s (online or in person) is a great source for quality bulk spices.

Use this for more than just ground beef tacos. Try replacing spices in the following recipes with this taco seasoning mix:

Layered Chicken Taco Salad Bowls
Taco Cornbread Pie
Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas Verdes
Baked Chicken Taquitos
Chicken and Black Bean Chili
Hearty Beef Chili
Marinades for grilled steak or chicken


Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

  • Servings: Makes about 2 ½ cups
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Taco Seasoning 4

1 ½ cups chili powder
4 Tbs paprika (Spanish smoked or regular)
2 Tbs kosher salt (coarse grain; use less for regular table salt)
2 Tbs black pepper
2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs onion powder (not onion salt)
2 Tbs ground cumin
2 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs Ancho chili pepper
1 Tbs crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbs ground cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and store at room temperature in an airtight container. Use about 2 Tbs of seasoning per pound of meat. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Note: Adjust amount of crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper to make milder or spicier

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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread: where summer and autumn collide in a great tasting snack. This is a great way to use an over-abundance of zucchini from your garden (or local farmers’ market) and incorporate the great fall flavors of pumpkin and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.

You can also make these in muffin form for a delicious on-the-go breakfast or lunch box treat. There is no easier way to get your kids to eat their veges. Chocolate chips are optional, but always appreciated (unless you are a certain son of mine).

Pumpkin Zucchini Muffin


Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

  • Servings: Makes 2 loaves
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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups canned pumpkin
2 cups shredded zucchini
½ cup butter, melted
1 Tbs vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (or cloves)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, optional
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 medium loaf pans.

Combine eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add pumpkin, zucchini, melted butter and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Gradually add to pumpkin mixture and stir until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour into 2 loaf pans.

Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

FOR MUFFINS: Line muffin pans with paper liners (or grease pan). Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes.

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Croquembouche for a Sweet Sixteen

Croquembouche 2

The end of the school year and all of the activities that come with it have left me behind in writing about some of the treats we have been enjoying here. So today I am going back a few weeks to the Sweet Sixteen celebration we had for our Middle K. She didn’t want a party, but was excited to come home with a driver’s learning permit. Three drivers under the age of 21: don’t even ask about our insurance rates!

Croquembouche 1

Instead of a traditional birthday cake, Middle K wanted a Croquembouche: a cream puff tower drizzled with burnt-sugar caramel that sticks the cream puffs together. We filled them with a simple butterscotch mousse made from packaged butterscotch pudding whipped with half milk/half cream.

Many croquembouche are very tall (2-3 feet tall) and are served as wedding cakes. We were not quite as ambitious with ours, but it certainly made for a fun birthday cake.

Croquembouche 3

Just-Baked Unfilled Cream Puffs



Croquembouche 2

Cream Puffs
½ cup butter
1 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Filling: Pudding, whipped cream, custard or mousse

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart, onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Fill with desired filling (SEE ASSEMBLY TIP BELOW).

Burnt Caramel
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until sugar turns light brown, about 15–20 minutes. Remove from heat. (If caramel begins to harden in the pan before you are done, place pan over low heat until re-melted)

To Assemble Croquembouche:

Prepare cream puffs and desired filling (whipped cream, pudding, custard, mousse). Place filling in a pastry bag with a long filling tip. Pierce the cream puffs (do not cut cream puffs in half) with the pastry tip until tip is about 1 cm into the cream puff. Squeeze pastry bag to fill cream puff.

Place one layer of cream puffs in a circle on a serving plate. Drizzle the tops of the cream puffs with a small amount of the burnt  caramel. Immediately place a smaller circle of cream puffs on top of the hot caramel (work quickly before the caramel hardens). Repeat with increasingly smaller layers of cream puffs topped with caramel. Once your tower is assembled, use a spoon or fork to drizzle hot caramel in strands around the outside of the tower. Serve same day as assembling.

Cream Puffs

Croquembouche 3

½ cup butter
1 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
Filling: Pudding, whipped cream, custard, or mousse
Optional glaze: melted chocolate to drizzle over top

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart, onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut cream puffs in half. Scoop out and discard any soft dough inside. Spoon in desired filling and replace top. Optional: drizzle tops of cream puffs with melted chocolate. Serve immediately after filling.


To make Eclairs: Prepare batter as above. Spoon into a pastry tube fitted with a Number 10 or larger tip. Slowly pipe strips of batter onto a greased baking sheet, making each strip about 4” long. Bake as above. Fill and frost with chocolate glaze.

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Homemade Fortune Cookies and thoughts on Japanese Gaman

Fortune Cookies 1

As we approach Chinese New Year which begins on  February 10,  I want to share a recipe for homemade fortune cookies and also my favorite fortune (from a cookie) ever.

A few years ago  I was serving in a responsibility at church that most of the time filled me with love and gratitude, but also involved a heavy time commitment and occasionally left me feeling heart-sick about things that I could not fix.

After one such day, Brian and I went to dinner with some good friends. After the meal, the traditional fortune cookies were served. I received the most timely fortune. It is the only one that I have actually held onto and occasionally reread.

Fortune 2

I know this doesn’t sound like an especially cheery sentiment, but it described exactly how I was feeling at the time. It was also a wonderful nostalgic reminder of the time we spent living in Japan. My Japanese is extremely limited, but one of the concepts that fascinated me there was the concept of uncomplaining endurance or perseverance, regardless of circumstance. From a religious perspective, we might call this “enduring to the end.” The Japanese have not just one word for this, but a vocabulary that covers an entire spectrum of levels of endurance and different situations which might require endurance.

The word “ganbatte”, on the low end of the spectrum might be called out to someone who has just one lap to go in a race or is about to take a hard test. It implies both an encouragement to keep going or work hard and also an admonition to do your best. It implies as well an unspoken wish of good luck in your endeavor.

At the other end of the spectrum you have “gaman”, which implies a self-sacrificing patience, endurance and perseverance through extremely difficult and often prolonged circumstances. It is a charge to endure with grace and dignity. “Work on in despair” is not meant to be a negative concept, but a positive character trait to develop that will bless both you and society at large.

So, as you make these cookies and the edges burn OR you wait too long to fold them and they harden, OR you make 600 of them for a Chinese New Year party and while you are changing your kids break open every single one to read the funny fortunes, all I can say is:


Fortune Cookies 2

Making Fortune Cookies:

Fortune cookies are made from a thin egg white based batter. You will need to line your baking sheets with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Spread batter in 3-4” circles on your baking sheets. I can get 6 on my baking sheet. The cookies will harden quickly after removing them from the oven. Start with just a couple of cookies on your baking sheet until you get the hang of folding them quickly.

Fortune Cookies 5

The cookies are done when the dough is dry, but not brown. Don’t be discouraged if you ruin a cookie or two trying to get the exact time right (no two ovens are exactly the same).

Fortune Cookies 3

To fold: While the cookies are still hot from the oven, flip a cookie over and place a fortune in the center of the cookie. Gently fold cookie in half (do not flatten center crease; just make the edges meet). Using a mug or drinking glass, fold the cookie in half again over the edge of the mug. Transfer to a muffin tin to keep cookie from unfolding while it completely cools.

Fortune Cookies 4

Cookies should be eaten the same day, or stored in an airtight container. They will quickly become soft in a humid climate. Making them in the winter here in dry western PA, they will keep for several days without becoming soft.

You can write your own fortunes, or here are some links for pre-written fortunes:

Traditional Fortunes:

Funny Fortunes:

For Kids:


Homemade Fortune Cookies

Fortune Cookies 1

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp salt
4 egg whites
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbs water
1 ½ tsp orange or almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fortunes cut into strips about 3 ½” long by ½” wide

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

Use a whisk to mix flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, use the whisk to lightly beat the egg whites, oil, water, vanilla, and orange or almond extract until frothy.

Stir the flour into the egg white mixture and mix until you have a smooth batter. The batter will be thin, with the consistency of a sticky pancake batter and not stiff like a normal cookie dough.

Place one tablespoon of batter onto the cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, spread batter in a circular motion to make a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.  Place 4-6 cookies on a baking sheet (start with fewer cookies until you get the hang of folding quickly). The batter should be very thin on the baking sheet. If it’s too thick the cookies won’t fold without breaking.

Bake for 11-14 minutes, or until the outer edge of each cookie barely begins to brown.

TO FOLD: Immediately after  removing baking sheet from the oven, working very quickly, remove a cookie with a thin metal spatula and flip it over onto a clean plate or mat. Place a fortune in the middle of the cookie (let one end slightly extend beyond edge of cookie, if desired). Fold the cookie in half, but do not flatten center crease; just make the edges meet gently. Fold cookie in half again by gently pulling the edges downward over the rim of a mug or glass. Place the finished cookie in the cup of a muffin tin so that it keeps its shape while it cools. Continue with the rest of the cookies.

Let cookies sit, uncovered, for 1-2 hours (so that they harden completely). Cookies are best eaten the same day, especially if weather is humid. In drier climates, cookies will keep well for several days.

Yield: 36-40 cookies



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Stained Glass Valentine Cookies

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies 1

Here is a fun Valentine treat to make with kids and is easier than your traditional frosted sugar cookies. All you need is a good sugar cookie recipe, a package of Jolly Rancher hard candies and two different sized heart cookie cutters.

To begin, you will need to line your baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper. Non-stick foil might work as well, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Prepare your dough and cut out large hearts. I usually like to make nice thick sugar cookies, but these need to be about 1/8” thick, or the center “window” will be too thin compared to the cookie. Place cookies on baking sheet and then cut out the smaller heart in the center of each cookie. Cutting out the smaller heart after the cookie is on the baking sheet helps the cookie dough retain its shape. It is harder to move cookie dough with the center cut out. You can bake the little hearts along with the big ones, or reroll them with your dough scraps.

Place one Jolly Rancher candy (whole) in the center of each cookie. If your openings are smaller than the candies, you can crush the candies first, but I found that there are fewer bubbles in your windows if you leave the candies whole. And it is so much easier than crushing hard candy!

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies 3

While the cookies bake, the candies will melt and fill in the centers.

After baking, let the cookies completely cool and the candy window centers harden before removing from baking sheet.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies 2

You could also make these into cookie pops by inserting lollypop sticks into the bottoms of each heart before baking.

It would also be fun to make some for other holidays using different cookie cutters, or a linzer cookie cutter (crush candies first if using a small linzer cutter). Or a gingerbread man with a tiny cut-out heart.


Stained Glass Valentine Cookies

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies 1

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 package Jolly Rancher candies
2 heart cookie cutters (one large and one small)

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, sour cream and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.  Mix in baking soda, salt and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough (Start with 7 cups and add more if needed).

Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour, if necessary, for easier handling. Roll out dough to about 1/8” and cut with large heart cookie cutter. Cut out a smaller heart inside of each cookie. You can bake these plain smaller hearts, or re-roll them with the dough scraps.

Place hearts on a baking sheet lined with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Place one whole Jolly Rancher candy in the center of each heart.

Bake at 375°F for 9 -10 minutes, or until candies have melted; cookies should not be browned on the edges.  They should look white when done. Cool completely on the baking sheet. When candy centers are completely cool and hardened, remove cookies to a sheet of parchment paper.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

Makes 5-6 dozen, depending on the size of the cookie cutter


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Baked Raspberry Custard Cups (Sugar Free)

Raspberry Custard Cups 2

These innocent little dessert cups created a fair amount of contention in our home recently.

I have two of these  Crème Brulee Ramekin Sets:

Creme Brulee Ramekins

While this is definitely not a necessary kitchen item (it was a gift), I do enjoy using it. I like that the rack keeps the bottom of the ramekins from touching the bottom of the pan when using a water bath. And it is really easy to remove the ramekins from the water bath with the rack. However. With 8 little cups and 6 people in our house right now, this creates conflict regarding the two “extras”.

Raspberry Custard Cups 1

Brian eats very little sugar, so every now and again I try to make a dessert that he will eat. Custards are an easy dessert to substitute out sugar without compromising the texture of the dessert. I make these using a combination of stevia and Splenda, but you could certainly make them with sugar as well.

So when I made these sugar-free custards, Brian assumed that I had made them for him and promptly ate a second one later that night and a third for breakfast the next morning. From the sad, droopy faces I got when kids came home from school asking about the “extras”, you would think that summer vacation had been cancelled.

Luckily, these are super easy to make, so I threw another batch in the oven before dinner. I wish I could say that everyone was happy that they got a second dessert, but unfortunately, it just created the same conflict two days in a row with who was going to get the “extras”.

Next time I’ll just hide the two extras, announce that there are only six, and eat the extras myself while everyone is at school. No more conflict.


Baked Raspberry Custard Cups

Raspberry Custard Cups 2

3 cups half-and-half ( or 1 ½ cups milk + 1 ½ cups cream)
3 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
½ cup sugar (or 1/3 cup Splenda + 10 drops vanilla stevia)
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
Pinch of salt
Raspberries (about 2 cups), fresh or frozen (do not thaw)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a pan for a water bath: place eight 6-oz ramekins in a larger baking pan. Heat enough water to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

Heat half-and-half in a saucepan over medium heat until very hot, but not quite boiling.

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until well combined.

While whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk in a steady stream into the mixing bowl with the eggs and sugar. Do this very, very slowly at first, or you will curdle the eggs. (I transfer the hot milk from the saucepan to a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup so that it is easy to pour)

If necessary, strain custard through a mesh sieve to remove lumps. If you have no lumps, then just skim the foam from the top of the bowl using a mesh skimmer.

Place 5-6 raspberries (if using frozen raspberries, do not thaw first) in the bottom of each ramekin. Pour custard over raspberries. Fill bottom of larger pan with enough hot, almost boiling, water to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set completely at the edges, and only slightly jiggly in the center. NOTE: If you are using frozen raspberries, bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in waterbath. Remove ramekins from waterbath and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving.


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