Southern Cheese Straws

Sunday, December 17, 2017

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As a little girl growing up, these were a common sight at my nana's house. She made cheese straws all the time because she knew everyone loved them. She did that often. She spent hours in her kitchen, humming songs under her breath that I am sure she learned by listening to her mother and grandmother hum those same notes so many years ago. Along with lemon bundt cake and homemade chex mix, these cheese straws were on a constant rotation on her kitchen counter. I can still see the old, rectangular Tupperware container in my mind. She layered the straws in wax paper ( wrinkly and thin from the last time she made a batch. She was an avid recycler long before it was the cool thing to do ;) ) and you could see the deep orange straws through the container and we all knew what she had done all afternoon. She knew it made us all happy and she  baked these with love every time . In the later years of her life, she still made them. Only my papa would step in and help her. He would pipe them onto a cookie sheet while she watched. The visual in my mind of the two of them together, working their old, tired hands in the dough, will forever be a part of me.  When I grew up  , married and moved away, they both knew that my kids had developed a love for them as well, and they would trek to their home town an hour or so away and they would pick up  a half block of aged cheddar cheese from the country store that has supplied my family with nourishment for decades. From cheese to sausage to old fashioned candy, the store holds as many cherished memories as the food itself. I still remember climbing in their big old Cadillac , all the grandkids in the back seat, and taking a road trip to that old homestead and the old store on the way back home. So when they got word we were on our way, they would go on a cheese run. And my kids learned quickly what that old Tupperware container held and they appreciated it and looked forward to them each and every time we would venture home. I havent had any cheese straws in many months. My nana passed away  a few years ago. Needless to say, that is also when my heart shattered into a million pieces. I haven't made a batch of cheese straws since she left us. So today I woke up and made a batch of her cheese straws. I didn't have her cheese. I don't have the same container to put them in. But they are made. They are waiting on the counter for my babies to enjoy when they walk in the door. And I know when they see them, they will smile. And their bellies will be full. Not just food full, but soul full. And for that I am thankful. So here is her recipe. With a twist. I hope she is looking down today and smiling.

Cheddar Cheese Straws

1 lb (16oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3 c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 330 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a mixing  bowl, add the cheese and butter. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix until smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, add the flour, salt, cayenne and paprika. Mix well and gradually add the flour to the cheese mixture, beating well after each addition. Your batter should be a slightly sticky and smooth. If it separates and looks dry, you have added too much flour. Just add a tsp or so of milk and soften it up again. I never use the whole 3 cups of flour, there is always about 1/4 cup left.
When you get a smooth dough, press a bit of dough into a cookie press fitted with the star shaped disk. Pipe the dough into straight lines on the cookie sheets.
Repeat until all of the dough is used.
Bake until lightly browned, @ 12 to 14 minutes ( depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them) Let them cool on the pans. Carefully remove off the pans and store in an airtight container.

** If you  do not have a cookie press you can roll aout the dough and cut strips with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Or you can make small cookies. Just flatten slightly and adjust the cook time.

Norwegian Cookies

Saturday, December 16, 2017

These cookies are awesome! My nana made these every year for Christmas. They were always on her cookie table. She would make so many batches of them and she would stack them between wax paper in a Tupperware  container. She called them Norwegian cookies. I have no idea why she called them that, I am thinking maybe she got the recipe from someone else throughout the years that had given them the name. They are the same as snowball cookies or Mexican wedding cookies. Simple ingredients , easy to make and great for gift giving. I made these this year for the first time since she passed away and they are just as good now as they were in my childhood.

Norwegian Cookies

2 sticks ( 1 c) unsalted butter
1 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 c pecans, finely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Using a mixer, cream the butter and the sugar. Add in the vanilla and salt and mix well. Slowly add in the flour, about half a cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the pecans and mix well. 
3. Make balls using @ 1 T of dough. Place on baking sheet about 1" apart. 
4. Bake @ 15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly browned.
5. Cool for 5 minutes and roll the cookies in the powdered sugar and set on a sheet of wax paper. When the cookies are fully cooled, roll the cookies once more in the powdered sugar.
6. Store in an airtight container.

Candied Pecans

These candied pecans are a must have  for the holiday season. I end up making these about three or four times over November and December  because they get eaten before they make it into cookie trays for gifts. They are super easy to make. You can make them with half a cup of granulated sugar and half a cup of brown sugar as well . 

Candied Pecans

4 c (1 lb)  pecan halves
1 large egg white
1 T water
1 c white granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Place the pecans in a mixing bowl and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix the egg white and water. Pour the egg mixture over the pecans and stir until all of the pecans are coated well.
3. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Pour the mixture over the pecans and mix well, until the sugar is all incorporated into the pecans.
4.Spread the pecans onto the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes , stirring every 10 minutes or so. 
5. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely. 

Italian Ricotta Cookies

Thursday, December 14, 2017

     Over the years, I have added and subtracted cookies and other baked yumminess in my annual Christmas Cookie trays for friends and neighbors. I stick to three of the same every year and build off of those. Candied pecans, cheese straws and these ricotta cookies. Living in Pittsburgh , I learned real quick that every respectable hostess offers an array of cookies for every get together known to man, from cookouts to birthdays to weddings. And y'all, I am talking tables of cookies at some parties. Days of preparation . It is just the way they do it. These cookies are on every cookie table I have ever seen. And for good reason. They are subtle, with the sweetness of the icing and the sprinkles to take it over the top. Don't let the ricotta cheese in the recipe fool you, these do not taste cheesy at all. It is a good , soft , mellow cookie that will have you coming back for seconds. I suppose you can use any sprinkles you have on hand, but I have only seen them done with the small round sprinkles. You can find them in the bakery aisle at your local grocery store with the icings and colored sugars.
     Make sure you check back in the next few days, as I am going to post other goodies for your Christmas trays.

Ricotta Cookies

2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 container (15oz) ricotta cheese
2 T good quality vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

5 T milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, ricotta cheese  and vanilla. Mix well.
3.In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder. 
4. Add the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture and mix well. 
5. Roll the batter into 1 tsp sized balls and place  on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart.
6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes  or until just lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes  on the baking sheet, then transfer  to  a cooling rack to cool completely.

Beat the milk, extract and powdered sugar until smooth.
Place the sprinkles in a shallow bowl, for easier dipping.
Dip the tops of the cooled cookies into the glaze and them right into the sprinkles and place on wire rack for a few minutes to let the icing set.


Eggnog Pound Cake

Saturday, December 9, 2017

I love the holidays. One of the best parts is all of the baking I do. This year I  decided to concentrate less on cookies and more on cakes. I found this pound cake recipe in an email  and immediately knew that I had to make it. So glad I did. This pound cake is perfect! Soft, spongy and egg nog tasty! is easy! When I went to pick up egg nog at the store, there were different flavors of egg nog on the shelf, like pumpkin egg nog and red velvet egg nog. I think I might pick up a pumpkin one  and make this using that to see if it changes up the flavor a bit.  This recipe is a keeper for parties and to give as gifts. 

Egg Nog Pound Cake

recipe from Southern Living Magazine

 1 box pound cake mix

1 1/4 cups eggnog

2 eggs

 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixture on medium speed, mix all of the ingredients together until

incorporated, about 2 minutes. Pour into the bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the cake is

 cooked through. Let cool and release from pan.
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Weeknight Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Monday, November 27, 2017

This chicken spaghetti recipe is one that I have been making since my babies were small. It is full of flavor and is filling, especially when you add a side salad and a loaf of italian garlic bread. I usually reserve this meal for those busy weeknights when everyone has sports, meetings or are working a bit late. You can prep it in the morning, or even the night before and refrigerate it until it is ready to bake off. The cream of mushroom soup and the dry packet of Mccormicks spaghetti sauce mix makes it a breeze to mix together and get into the oven. You can find the dry spaghetti mix next to the chili seasoning packets at the grocery store. And if you have leftovers,  you can make a chicken spaghetti fritatta for breakfast the next day ;) Happy Eating!

Baked Chicken Spaghetti

4 chicken breasts *
1 lb spaghetti , cooked al dente and drained
1 T canola oil
1/3 c green peppers,chopped
1/2 c onion,chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (10oz) can mild Rotel tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 packet McCormicks Spaghetti Sauce mix
1tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Boil or bake the chicken breasts. Dice into bite size pieces and set aside.
3. Break spaghetti noodles into thirds and cook to al dente. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
4. In a medium skillet on medium heat, heat the oil. Add the chopped green pepper and onion and cook until soft.
5. Add the green pepper and onion to the bowl with the pasta. Add all other ingredients except the chedddar cheese. Mix well.
6. Transfer the spaghetti to a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top.
7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Serve hot.

* you can use rotisserie chicken to make this recipe even easier. 

Cranberry Crumble

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I am trying to find easy recipes for Thanksgiving. My husband has a sweet tooth and after a big dinner, he is always looking for something sweet. I tried this cranberry crumble using fresh cranberries on a whim, and he said it was one of the best desserts I have ever made. So... it is going on the turkey day menu.This is so easy to put together. Just mix, throw into a pie pan and bake. Tart cranberries in a sugary, cakey crumble. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Happy husband :)

Cranberry Crumble 

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter , melted ( 1 stick)
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 c chopped pecans
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp almond extract

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" pie plate and set aside.
2.In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Stir in the cranberries and the pecans and toss to coat. Stir in the butter, the eggs and the almond extract. Spread the batter into the pie pan.
3.Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the center is cooked through. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.