Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dirty Snowballs

Dirty Snowballs


If you've been reading this blog, you know that I've been playing along with GoodLife Eats and My Baking Addiction's Holiday Recipe Exchange. This week there were two chances to play with two different themes. The first theme, Comfort Food, I blogged about my macaroni and cheese recipe. The second theme this week is a repeat of a previous theme...BUTTER!  

Now, those of you who know me personally know we do not keep margarine in our home. We ONLY use butter, and yes, we keep BOTH kinds (salted and unsalted) on hand. The only time I really use salted butter though is for eating straight up, like for bread and butter, or for using on things like grilled cheese sandwiches, waffles, etc. The rest of the time I use unsalted. In my way of thinking, I can always add salt to a recipe, but I can't take it out :) 

So for this round of the BUTTER theme, I decided to go with a dessert since that is my favorite thing to cook :) Last BUTTER round you may recall, I shared my recipe for Buttery Potato Rolls. This time I'm sharing a brand new recipe, fresh from my kitchen, which combines the best of two of my favorite kinds of holiday cookies...meltaways and Mexican Wedding Cookies (sometimes called Russian Tea Cakes). This recipe has the tender, flakiness of the meltaway with the nutty goodness of the wedding cookie. Add to that the yummy taste of a hot butter rum and you've got a winner! In thinking of a name for these cookies, I came up with Dirty Snowballs.  They reminded me of when I was a kid and you'd get some sand in your snowball when the snow wasn't real deep... thus, Dirty Snowballs.  They turned out better than I had hoped and I certainly hope some of you will give them a try.  

Now, if you're a dough-eater like me, please don't be disappointed when you taste the dough... It is NOT a sweet dough and it DOES have a strong rum/alcohol taste when raw, but when the dough is baked off and rolled in powdered sugar, these cookies are light, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, balls of goodness! So give them a shot! You won't be disappointed!

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Kerrygold.

Dirty Snowballs
Recipe By     : Christi Brogan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans -- or use pecan meal
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter -- (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup confectioners' sugar -- divided
1/4 cup spiced rum -- like Captain Morgan
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Using a food processor, chop the pecans until very fine, almost a pecan meal consistency.

Consistency of pecans after chopping

Combine flour, pecans, cornstarch and spices in a bowl. Place 1/3 cup of the confectioners sugar and the butter in the workbowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture. Add the rum and vanilla and beat to throughly combine.

Chill dough in freezer for 30 minutes to re-harden the butter.

Dough ready for the freezer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make balls of the dough approximately 1 tbsp in size and  place each 1" apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until just golden, about 15 minutes.

Lightly golden in color

Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool 10 minutes. Gently toss warm cookies with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cookies can be refrigerated in airtight containers up to 2 weeks.

A Dirty Snowball
Crumbly, sweet and flaky - YUM!
  "2 1/2 dozen"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comfort Food Extreme: Homemade 5-cheese Mac n Cheese

Homemade Five Cheese Mac 'n Cheese

 So here we are with the SIXTH entry in GoodLife Eats and My Baking Addiction's Holiday Recipe Exchange... And this week the theme is comfort foodCome join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Le Creuset.

In my world, nothing says comfort food like a hot bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese, with a nice crunchy top crust and noodles that aren't overcooked nor undercooked but JUST right. There are lots of recipes out there for macaroni and cheese and lots of ways to dress up the basic mac, but in my opinion, nothing says comfort like the traditional mac and cheese that I love to make for my family. My little girl absolutely gobbles it down. In fact, it's her most requested meal. I use five different types of cheese in my mac n cheese, the fifth one only appearing in the topping. You can use the five types I've listed here, which are my basic go-to cheese choices, or you can change out any of them for cheeses of your choice. I oft-times find myself short on one or more of these and use what I have on hand. I only have two pieces of advice when it comes to swapping out cheeses. First, make sure they melt! Don't choose a cheese like feta or queso fresco which don't melt well. And second, if choosing a stronger flavored cheese like a blue, use half the amount of that cheese and up the amounts of the other cheeses to keep it from overpowering the dish. Other than that, swap away!  Here's the basic recipe:

Christi's Homemade Baked Five-Cheese Mac 'n Cheese

1 1/2 pounds elbow macaroni -- cooked to al dente
1/2 large sweet onion -- diced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon Hungarian paprika -- sweet
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder -- Coleman's brand preferred
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk -- can use 1-2% but whole makes it richer
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese -- grated
4 ounces medium cheddar cheese -- grated
4 ounces Swiss cheese -- grated
4 ounces Velveeta -- diced
1/4 cup bread crumbs -- for topping
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan -- for topping

If your pasta is not cooked, start your water boiling now and your pasta and sauce will be ready at about the same time. Cook your pasta for 1 minute less than you normally do as it will bake and soften a bit more in the cheese sauce in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grate the cheddar and swiss cheeses on the large side of your box grater. Cut the velveeta into 1" cubes. 

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute until starting to turn golden. Mix flour with spices. Add flour mix, whisking to form a roux.  Will be clumpy/thick.  Cook for 2-3 minutes or until it smooths out and starts to smell a little nutty. Add milk, 1 cup at a time, whisking to incorporate throughly before adding more. 


Let this come just to a boil, then turn heat down to medium low and add cheeses slowly making sure to melt each addition before adding more. Add velveeta last to help smooth it all out. Combine cheese sauce mix with cooked macaroni noodles. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray (helps clean up later!) then dump in mac n cheese. Top with bread crumbs and shredded parmesan cheese. 


Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly throughout.  

This makes a large batch, perfect for freezing. I serve some for dinner, then package remainder in "meal sized" portions in the freezer for later use. Or you can also be really bad and try out Alton Brown's Next Day Mac and Cheese "Toast"...  To reheat thawed mac n cheese, bake at 350 until heated through.