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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Oatmeal Florentine Cookies

Can you believe Christmas is just around the corner? I know, it's too early but before I know it I'll be in the midst of the frantic Christmas rush.  A few people in town have their Christmas trees blazing already but I can't do that--that's really too early for me.  How do you dust a Christmas tree, anyhow??

Even though I'm not ready to "deck the halls" my mind is definitely on Christmas-- choir practice for our church Christmas program being the top priority at the moment.  And along with the practicing and singing of Christmas carols comes the baking of Christmas cookies.  

One of the cookies I've been making the last few years are these Oatmeal Florentine Cookies.  They are a bit fussy to make so I like to make them well ahead, before all the Christmas fury begins. Each cookie has to be spread out on the baking sheet by hand and then after they are baked and cooled two cookies are sandwiched together with melted chocolate to make the full cookie.  So you don't want to make these when you are pressed for time.  But, that being said, you will be happy if you find the time to make them.  They are delicious.  So that's why today, six weeks before Christmas, I'm making Oatmeal Florentine Cookies and packing them away in the freezer.  I'm feeling good to have these babies ready to go.

Now, if I could learn that new Christmas song I'm working on and freeze that in my brain... 

Oatmeal Florentine Cookies
⅔ cup butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup sugar
⅔ cup flour
¼ cup corn syrup
¼ cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

Optional ingredients
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in saucepan. Remove pan from heat and stir in oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk or cream, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Add any optional ingredients. (I think the grated orange peel is especially good with the chocolate filling,)  Drop by level teaspoons, about 2 inches apart, onto parchment lined baking sheets. Spread thinly with back of spoon or your fingers. 

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure you watch these as they can burn quickly if you are not careful.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes. Remove from parchment.  

Makes about 100 single cookies.

To Fill: Melt 1¾ cups chocolate chips, semi-sweet, milk chocolate or white (or some of each). Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate onto flat side of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies to make sandwiches.  Or you may drizzle chocolate over the top of single cookies. 

These cookies will last for about 6 weeks in an airtight container.  I have also frozen the chocolate filled cookies very successfully. 

Melt butter and then add the remaining ingredients.

When mixed, drop the dough by level teaspoons.  Flatten out using the back of the spoon or your fingers.  Spread rather thinly.  Dipping your fingers in water will make the spreading much easier.

Bake the cookies to a golden brown.  You will only need 6-8 minutes.  When baked, let cool for a minute or two and then remove to wire cooling rack.

Do not burn the cookies.  One pan of my cookies burned at 7 minutes.  Six minutes was just enough. One extra minute makes all the difference! Watch, watch, watch.

I used both milk and semi-sweet chocolate to sandwich between the cookies.  I melted the chocolate chips over a barely simmering pot of water.

Spread one side of the cookie with melted chocolate and top with a second cookie.

Place the chocolate sandwiched cookies on a tray to set.  The cookies can be stored at room temperature in a covered container but if the room is warm I find it best to store them in the refrigerator.

What a tasty treat.  Milk or semi-sweet chocolate is sandwiched between these lacy, crunchy cookies.

Perfect for any occasion but especially Christmas!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

I get bored eating the same vegetable soup over and over and I'm always on the prowl looking for new or different soups to serve.  My favourite soups are of a creamy or chowder texture and vegetable soups are more to Don's liking. But I'll eat any soup. 

Minestrone Soup is one of the vegetable soups I do really like.  It's Italian in origin, but we Newfoundlanders love it too.  It is, after all, just another vegetable soup but to my mind the garlic, herbs and zucchini is what sets it apart from what I would consider a more traditional vegetable soup that many Newfoundlanders would make.

Much to it's credit, this soup doesn't take very long to put together and can be ready to eat in about two hours.  

Minestrone Soup
⅓ cup vegetable/canola/olive oil
2 onions, peeled and diced small
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 large potato, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans, cut
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 medium clove of garlic, minced 
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon basil
1 bay leaf
5 cups vegetable stock or use vegetarian bouillon cube
2 cups water
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes,cut up 
1 can white beans(northern or cannelini), rinsed and drained
¼ cup small dry pasta such as shells or macaroni, etc, cooked according to package directions

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, zucchini, cabbage and garlic and seasonings.  Stir and sauté until all the vegetables have started to soften, about another 5 minutes.   Add the liquid and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 1-1½  hours.  Before serving add the beans and cooked pasta.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, if desired and a good hunk of crusty garlic bread. 

Makes at least 8 servings.

Many a good soup starts with onions, celery and carrots sautéed in oil and so it is with Minestrone Soup.  Sauté the vegetables until starting to soften.  Add the remaining vegetables and herbs and sauté another few minutes before adding the liquid and tomatoes.  Simmer for about an hour and then add the beans and pasta.

A beautifully colourful soup, full of vegetables and tomatoes.  
The Minestrone Soup tastes as good as it looks.

Minestrone Soup makes a filling meal, especially with a slice or two of garlic bread.

A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese adds a nice touch and flavour to the soup.
 Hot soup on a cold day--now that's amore!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


I was rummaging through one of my baking supply shelves this morning and found several half bags of chocolate chips.  Actually, there was half a bag of semi-sweet chips and half a bag of butterscotch chips.  That was just enough to make half batch each of Ting-a-Lings, that cookie/candy treat that so many people enjoy.  My favourite is the butterscotch but I can be forced to eat even the chocolate Ting-a-Lings, if I must.

Ting-a-Lings can be made with any kind of flaked cereal like cornflakes or with chow mein noodles.  We always have corflakes in the cupboard so that's how I usually make them.  They are really a cross between a cookie and a candy but are so easy to make.  They fall under the category of a no-bake confection.  You do need to melt the chips but, after that, it's just mixing and dropping onto a waxed-paper lined pan or into cupcake liners.

You must be very careful when melting the chips.  Semi-sweet chocolate chips will melt quickly over low heat but chips like butterscotch or milk chocolate need very low heat and a longer melting time.  They will seize if heated too high. 

6 tablespoons peanut butter
1 package baking chips, any other flavour such as butterscotch, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate, or even peanut butter, etc.
3 cups cornflakes
½ cup chopped peanuts or favourite nut

Melt peanut butter and chocolate chips in a large heat-proof bowl over hot water.  You want the bowl large enough to hold the corn flakes as well as the chocolate.  When melted stir in corn flakes and nuts.  Drop by tablespoons into mini cupcake liners or onto waxed or parchment paper.  Let set before removing.  Store in

Makes about 4 dozen.

Here are the two half bags of chips--semi-sweet chocolate chips on the left and butterscotch chips on the right.  They are in bowls sitting in a smaller pot of simmering water.  This is my favourite way to melt any kind of baking chip.  The butterscotch chips need a very low heat and longer melting time.

When the chips and peanut butter have melted together, add the chopped nuts and cornflakes.  Stir everything together coating the flakes with the melted mixture.

I used miniature cupcake liners for most of the Ting-a-Lings as they are easier to store and serve them this way.

As you can see, I did make a few on a cookie sheet.  I made about 4 dozen altogether from the recipe.

Store the Ting-a-Lings in the refrigerator, especially the ones made from chocolate. 

Another picture of that plate of cookies...Or are they candies? 
The butterscotch ones are my favourite.

Can you believe Christmas is just around the corner?  
Ting-a-Lings make a great addition to the Christmas cookie plate.

 Ready for Christmas!

Ting-a-Lings--Quick & Easy