Saturday, December 17, 2011

Russian Tea Cakes

These tasty little powder sugar covered cookies are always on my hubby’s list of Christmas Cookies.  Don’t tell him but I love them too ;)

Russian Tea Cakes

      1       cup butter

      ½    cup sifted powder sugar

1       teaspoons vanilla extract

 cups all-purpose flour

¼    teaspoon salt

¾    cup finely chopped pecans

       Additional powdered sugar


     Cream butter in a large mixing bowl; gradually add ½ cup sugar, beating until light & fluffy.  Stir in vanilla.

     Combine flour, salt & pecans; gradually add to creamed mixture, blending well.  Chill until firm.

     Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Roll in additional powdered sugar while warm.  Cool on wire racks, and roll again in powdered sugar.

 YIELD: About 4 dozen

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

No-Bakes are my all-time favorite nostalgic cookies. My best friend LaDonna's mom used to make them for us. She didn't even use a recipe and they were there best. Caroline and the Moore family treated me like one of their own. I owe them many thanks, and this is my homage to them.

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups rolled oats

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, cocoa, milk and vanilla. Bring to a slow boil, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the peanut butter. Remove from the heat. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of oats. The mixture should be thick. Add the remaining 1/2 cups oat if necessary.

2. Place parchment paper on table, counter, or cookie sheet. Drop the mixture by heaping tablespoonful onto the parchment paper. Allow the cookies to firm up at room temperature, about one hour.

HINT: I use a good quality scoop to drop all my cookies. It makes them uniform and much easier to do.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Grahams

These cookies have been paper clipped to try in one of my favorite cookie books (Christmas Cookies) for years. I decided to make them tonight and now I am kicking myself for not making them sooner. They are quick, easy and tasty.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Grahams

 11 whole graham crackers (4 ½ X 2 ¼ inches), broken into squares

1 cup butter

1 sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup finely chopped pecans

1 (6-ounce) package of semisweet chocolate mini-morsels

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Arrange graham cracker squares in a single layer in a 15 X 10 X 1 inch jellyroll pan. Set aside.

3. Combine butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Bring to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cinnamon and pecans. Pour mixture over graham crackers, spreading evenly to edges of pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with chocolate mini-morsels. Cool 5 minutes; separate cookies, and transfer to waxed paper lined cookie sheets, using a spatula. Refrigerate until chocolate hardens. Store cookies between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container in refrigerator.

YIELD: about 2 dozen

HINTS: This is NOT a recipe for the young ones. Boiling sugar is extremely hot!!!! Use caution.

I would suggest using non-stick pans and washing the saucepan as soon as possible.

Mama Withrow's Super Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok folks, I am going to give you Mama Withrow’s Super Secret Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I have kept this one a secret for many years. I have just altered a standard recipe to make them crispy around the edges but chewy in the center.

Mama Withrow’s Super Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies

 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
 2     teaspoons baking soda
 1     teaspoon salt
 2     cups butter, softened (4 sticks)
 2     cups dark brown sugar, packed
 1     cup sugar
 2     tablespoons vanilla extract
 4     large eggs
 4     cups good quality chocolate chips (pick your favorite milk, semi, bitter or a mix)
 2     cups chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

 In a medium bowl, measure flour, soda, and salt, stir with a wire whisk to blend; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and sugar at medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and beat on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend flour mixture into butter mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts; if desired.

Drop by medium scoop onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light and center is golden and still has a light sheen for chewy cookies or until completely light brown for crunchy cookies. Let cool on cookie sheets for about a minute to let chewy cookies set-up. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool (if you have any left) store in an air-tight container.

Makes about 4 ½ dozen 3 inch cookies.

Secrets and Hints to Baking Great Cookies.

I have baked more cookies than I care to remember, and I have learned a lot of things the hard way. Here are some tips to make your baking experience easier.

Secrets and Hints to Baking Great Cookies.

Below are some purchases you will want to make as you can afford them, they are not a must but will make your baking experience much more pleasant:

·Buy the best quality pans you can afford. Cookie sheets are flat and should not have more than two sides. I personally do not like ”airbake” pans for cookies. Cookies bake best on a single layer pan.

·Invest in a good quality mixer if you are going to be making large or numerous batches. If you can’t afford a stand mixer, try a Kitchen Aid hand held mixer. Mine has been an excellent mixer, I have had it for about 10 years and use it often. I do drag out the stand mixer however if I am going to be batch after batch.

·A thin spatula, mine is metal, but I use regular not non-stick pans.

·Ok, one other must is good quality scoops. They make measuring and shaping a breeze, and all your cookies are the same size they cook evenly and look great. I will admit I make way more cookies than most, but I have to have my scoops.

Here are some things to make the whole experience easier:

·Purchase some really cheap white paper plates. Use them when measuring dry ingredients. Level the excess onto the plate, fold the plate and deposit the excess right back into the container.

·You can also use cheap paper plates as spoon and measuring cup rests and throw away when done.

·If you want chewy cookies take them out of the oven right before you think they are done.

·I like to add a few extra drops of vanilla.

·Make sure your dough and the baking sheets are cool. This keeps the dough from spreading.

·Buy two different sets of measuring cups and spoons in two different colors. Use one color for dry ingredients the other for wet.

·Always gather all your ingredients before you start.

·Completely read the recipe and all tips before starting. This way you can be sure you have the ingredients and utensils you will need.

·Be careful to not put too much dough down the drain. The last thing you want is a clogged drain.

·Be creative when giving your treats away. Go to the dollar store and purchase cute containers. But cellophane wrap, the kind you wrap baskets with to wrap your cookies in and tie with a bow.

·If you only have a couple of cookie sheet line them with parchment paper. You can just remove the cookies, cool the sheets, and re-use without washing.

·If you run out of containers to store the cookies in, buy paper plates that will fit inside a gallon size zip top bag, layer cookies between layers of wax paper, slide in bags and zip up.

·Place wax paper under your cooling racks. Simply roll up crumbs in wax paper and throw away.

·Another great use for wax paper is to wipe counter with a clean damp rag and immediately put down the wax paper. The moisture will hold it in place and when you are finished just roll up the paper and toss. DO NOT let the paper sit over night as it can stick and have to scraped up. Use it and remove it.

·Organize your baking supplies in plastic bins or containers. I keep chips and nuts in one, brown sugar, baking soda, and powdered sugar in another, and vanilla and flavorings in a third.

·When making bar cookies, brownies, and fudge. Turn the baking pan upside down and shape aluminum foil to the bottom of the pan leaving a few inches hang over each end. Turn the pan over and pop the foil into the pan. Follow the instructions as to greasing or not. When your recipe is done you can lift your goodies out, place on a cutting board, and cut into even pieces without scaring your pan.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Food for Thought

Holiday Food for Thought
Yes this is recycled but really worth the read!

I have been thinking much about Christmas and all the hustle and bustle.  Being a mom it seems my job is never done on regular days let alone during the holidays.  So I am going to share some wisdom I have gained over the years.  The last point is the most important so if you don’t do anything else, please read it.

·        It is OK to start new traditions and to let old ones that no longer fit go by the wayside.

·        You don’t have to attend everything, if it doesn’t make you or your family happy it is ok to decline, your true friends will understand.

·        It all doesn’t need to be done by YOU.  Trust me your family will be much happier if you are happy and not ready to lose your mind.  Or worse, you already have and now you feel bad.  Been there done that one time too many.

·        Get your family involved!!!! There is no such thing as perfection.  Just let them do it.  (Once again if you hate doing it, then why are you???? If it is REALLY important to them they will help, and if no one wants to help, maybe it is time for another tradition.)

·        I have found menus that do double duty, can be made ahead of time, and God bless my father-in-law, his rule was if the women cook the men clean.

·        Speaking of cleaning, you don’t have to have Christmas in a museum.  Straighten up, heck store it in the garage for a couple of weeks (not a good idea for bills J),  if February rolls around and it is still there, it just may be a sign that you should get rid of it.

·        Limit decorations, use twinkle lights, candles or flameless ones if little ones will be around.  Candle light can hide a multitude of dust bunnies and you will look stunning, even if you only had five minutes to get ready.

·        Take time for yourself.

·        If someone asks what you would really like for a gift, for the love of God, just tell them! If they care enough to ask, care enough to honestly answer them.  You may just get what you really want for a change.

·        And speaking of gifts, make a list for your family…it works so well for the kids, let it work for you too.  If you really wanted something and didn’t tell anyone, you are the one to blame for you disappointment.  Now I don’t mean you hinted, talked about, thought about, I mean tell them straight out.  Especially the men, I found out that the direct approach made me and my hubby happy.  He doesn’t have to guess and get things I want.  Everybody is happy.

·        One Christmas I was having a break down about too much to do, not enough time, no help, and on and on.  Alex looked at me and said to me with tears in his eyes “Can we just have one holiday where everyone is happy???  We don’t care about all this stuff, we just want you to be happy.”  Well first of all, out of the mouths of babes, second it really took a lot of courage for him to say that to me, and most importantly that was the year my attitude about holidays changed.  Now we do what we really want.  Sometimes that is Christmas Eve dinner in our pajamas.  Free yourself from others expectations. Have a family meeting and let your family tell you what is really important to them, and get rid of the rest!!!!  I will guarantee you it will be the best Christmas ever.

God Bless,

Crystal K Withrow

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bourbon Slushy MIx

This adult libation is super smooth and good any time of year. I am not much of a drinker but this concoction is heavenly.  It would be great as a signature drink for your Christmas Party.  It will help you keep costs down, and wow your guests.  I am stickler for, if you drink, even one, you DO NOT DRIVE.  PLEASE BE A RESPONSIBLE HOST AND CONSUMER. 

Post updated 5-26-14 with pic.

Bourbon Slushy Mix

2-3   cups Bourbon

1      (12-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate

1      (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate

9      cups of water

1 ¾  cups of sugar

2       tablespoons instant tea

Lemon-lime flavored soda

1.  Slightly defrost frozen concentrate mixes.  Mix with water, sugar, and instant tea.  Add Bourbon. Place in a tightly sealed container in freezer until frozen (will not freeze solid because of alcohol).

2.  Using a study spoon scrape the slushy mix and place in fancy glasses; top with a lemon-lime flavored soda.  Serve Immediately.

This recipe was given to me by a great woman, Debbie Cornett.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sugared Cranberries

These awesome little treats are sweet, then tart when they pop in your mouth!  If you kids like sour patch kids or sweet & tart candies of any kind you must try this recipe.  I say make a double batch because they are addictive!  Oh yeah and they make a great Christmas gift if you have any left.

 Sugared Cranberries

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup)


·        2 cups granulated sugar

·        2 cups water

·        2 cups fresh cranberries

·        3/4 cup superfine sugar


1.      Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

2.      Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

3.      Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Cooking Light

·       If you can’t find superfine sugar put regular sugar in a food processor and process for about 1 minute or until fine but not powdered.
·       Put about 1/3 to ½ cup in a cellophane bag and give as gifts.
·       Sometimes if stored in an airtight container the moisture from the berries will make the sugar sticky.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

·        Calories: 118
·        Calories from fat: 0.0%
·        Fat: 0.0g
·        Saturated fat: 0.0g
·        Monounsaturated fat: 0.0g
·        Polyunsaturated fat: 0.0g
·        Protein: 0.1g
·        Carbohydrate: 30.4g
·        Fiber: 0.9g
·        Cholesterol: 0.0mg
·        Iron: 0.1mg
·        Sodium: 0.0mg
·        Calcium: 2mg

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crystal's Cranberry Bourbon Sauce

Forget about those expensive baked hams you have to stand in line forever to get.  Try this sauce just once and you will never stand in line again! 

Finally got around to taking some pics (yeah I know I need photography lessons) so I am updating this file on 6.9.14.

Crystal’s Cranberry Bourbon Sauce

I    can   whole cranberry relish
½  cup   packed dark brown sugar

½         cup   bourbon
1          Tbs   prepared horseradish

Combine all ingredients in a non-stick sauce pan.  Simmer over medium until reduced and thickened.  Stirring occasionally being careful not to scorch as it thickens.  Refrigerate or pour over ham and bake. 
Make a double batch it will keep in the fridge for a week or two. 
It is also good on chicken and pork chops.
My family likes it when I make breakfast the next morning using the ham and drizzling some of the cranberry sauce over their pancakes (don't worry all the alcohol cooks off, so no one is getting tipsy)
If you are gluten intolerant try using rum instead of bourbon.
You can omit the horseradish if desired, but honestly I have fed it to people who swear they hate the stuff and they have no clue ;).


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quick & Easy Chicken Pot Pie by Crystal

Quick & Easy Chicken Pot Pie by Crystal
2 medium potatoes scrubbed, pierced with a fork
I envelope of chicken gravy mix that makes 1 and ½ cups (I used Better Than Gravy)
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ to ¾ bag of frozen peas and carrots
4-6 fresh mushrooms quartered (I used baby portabella’s )
1 – 2 cups left over chicken from a rotisserie chicken
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
Spray the bottom of a 9 x 12 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Place the potatoes in the microwave and cook for 4-5 minutes.  They should not be cooked all the way just enough to make them easy to cut into chunks.
While the potatoes are cooking, in a large skillet prepare gravy according to package directions.  Add soup and I can of water.  Bring to a simmer.  Add peas and carrots along with mushrooms to pan.
Your potatoes should be done by now.  Carefully remove them from the microwave and cut into bite size pieces and add them to the skillet along with the chicken, bring back to a simmer and simmer stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Pour chicken mixture into the prepared pan, top with puff pastry, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Banana Peppers Stuffed with Italian Sausage

I grew up in Clarksburg, WV home of one of the largest Italian Festival in the US, held every year on Labor Day Weekend.  So each year about this time my mind wanders to some of the best Italian food I have ever tasted.  So here is one of my recreations.

Banana Peppers Stuffed with Italian Sausage


12- 14 large banana peppers, as straight as possible (Hot or Sweet) I like hot
2 lbs bulk or approx 6 large Italian Sausage Links (Hot or Sweet) again I like hot
2 tsp of olive oil, divided
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1-2  teaspoons of fennel seeds
1 (15 ounce) can of tomato sauce


·         Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
·         Wash and drain banana peppers
·         Wearing rubber gloves or food service gloves cut the tops off the banana peppers, insert a long thin blade knife, into the pepper, running it around the inside edge (the more seeds and vein you remove the more heat you remove), reach in and carefully remove the seeds & veins.
·         Rinse the inside of the peppers to remove excess seeds.  Stand them pointed tip up in a colander or bowl to let the drain.
·         In a 9 x 13 – inch baking pan spread 1 teaspoon of olive oil to cover the bottom.
·         Remove casing from sausage if using links.  Pinch off small pieces and use them to stuff the tips of the peppers, continuing with larger pieces until the pepper is completely stuffed.  Place it the prepared pan and continue until all peppers are done.
·         Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.
·         While the peppers are baking, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat add 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, fennel, and any remaining sausage.  Stirring frequently break up sausage, and using the back of a spoon crush fennel seed, until sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes being careful not to brown the garlic.
·         Add the tomato sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until it is time to take the sausages out of the oven.
·         After 40 minutes remove stuffed peppers from oven, and very carefully drain as much excess fat and water from the pan as possible.
·         Cover the peppers with the sauce mixture.  Lightly sprinkle with salt if desired. Return to oven and continue to bake an additional 10-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Makes 12-14 servings 


·         These are great as appetizers, served on a bed of pasta with your favorite sauce, or place in a good quality hoagie roll, topped with Italian cheese and baked to bubbly perfection.
·         This is a large recipe because I like to freeze the extras and warm them as needed.