Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Treats: Gingerbread Men, Christmas Kisses Thumbprint cookies, Magic Bars, Peppermint Bark, No-Bake Chocolate Bon-Bons

What's in your Christmas cookie tin?  In previous years, I usually just do gingerbread mean, but this year I was really in the holiday spirit and baked gingerbread cookies, Christmas Kisses thumbprint cookies, magic bars, peppermint bark, and no-bake chocolate bon-bons.  I gifted these to the techs, receptions, and vets at my work and my family.  Each of these recipes are relatively easy and simple, and I even used a mix to cut down on work for the thumbprint cookies.  The peppermint bark especially, was very tasty to test-try.  The peppermint bark rivals the famous William-Sonoma ones. The gingerbread men are my favorite recipe for producing perfectly crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside gingerbread men.   The no-bake 5 ingredient bon-bons are great because they use almond butter instead of peanut butter which means my peanut-allergic-self can make them without fear that my fingers will swell up!

Gingerbread man recipe from Food Network Kitchen, Christmas Kisses Thrumbprint Cookie inspired from a Betty Crocker commercial, magic bars recipe that I've been making for a while, peppermint bark recipe from fellow AFBA blogger Serena Lissy, no-bake chocolate bon-bons from Food52

Perfect Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3&1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbs. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. all spice
  • 6 tbs. butter, melted
  • 1 tbs. vegetable shortening, melted
  • 2/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. molasses
  • 1 egg
  • royal icing (I buy pre-made, but you can see the original recipe for how to make your own)


  1. Sift together flour, slat, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice in a bowl.
  2. In a separate, large bowl, mix butter, shortening, brown sugar, molasses and beat in egg.
  3. Mix in flour in two additions.
  4. Divide dough in half, shape into discs, and refrigerate in plastic wrap for at least 2 hours.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out 1 disc of dough to 1/4", leaving the second disc in the refrigerator.  Cut out shapes using cookie cutter.  Collect scraps and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before re-rolling.  Do the same with second disc of dough.
  6. Bake on parchment lined cookies sheet at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on wire rack, then decorate with royal icing

Christmas Kisses Thumbprint cookies

  • 1 package Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • butter and egg according to package directions
  • green and red sugar sprinkles
  • Hershey's Kisses and Hugs (or Candy Cane Mint flavor), wrapper removed

  1. Mix Betty Crocker sugar cookies according to package directions.  Roll into 1" dough balls.  Roll each ball into red, green, or combo sugar sprinkles.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  2. Before cookies have cooled, push one Kiss or Hug into center of cookie.  Cool completely on a wire rack
Magic Bars

  • 2 sleeves of graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1 14 oz. can of condensed milk
  • 8 oz (or about half bag) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 oz (or about half bag) of butterscotch chips
  • half a bag of coconut flakes
  • 1 c. sliced almonds

  1. Line 13x9" brownie pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in bowl.  Spread evenly on bottom of pan, pressing down. 
  3. Evenly layer semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes.  Pour over condensed milk.  Top with sliced almonds.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes.  Cool completely before removing foil and slicing into bars.
Peppermint Bark

  • 1 16 oz. bag of white chocolate chips
  • 1 16 oz. bag of dark chocolate chips (~64%)
  • 1/2 bag of crushed peppermints (or crush your own)
  • 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract, divided

  1. Place waxed paper on a baking sheet.  
  2. In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate chips; mix in 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract. 
  3. Spread dark chocolate in center of wax paper, in a rectangle about 12x9"
  4. Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  5. Melt white chocolate chips and mix in 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract in double boiler and spread on top of dark chocolate.  Sprinkle crushed peppermints over white chocolate and gently push down with the back of a fork.
  6. Refrigerate for 25 minutes.  Break up bark into pieces.
No-Bake Chocolate Bon-Bons

  • 6 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 1/2 c. smooth almond butter
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. In a bowl, melt almond butter and butter in the microwave for 1 minute, stirring once at 30 seconds.
  2. Add powdered sugar and graham crackers.  Form into 1" balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate or freeze until hardened 
  3. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Dunk balls into melted chocolate and place back on cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until hardened.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2 Step Homemade Dog Biscuits

As a veterinarian, I was really concerned about the tainted jerky treats that were coming from China a few years ago (although some deaths still being reported today).  There were a lot of dogs that got really sick, some going into kidney failure and dying, from chicken jerky products coming from China.  Since this has happened, PetCo and PetSmart have been trying to only stock American sourced treats, so it makes me sleep a little easier.  Of course most of the general public aren't reading the back of the treat backs to see where the sources come from, like me, so if you want to be extra careful, make your own treats!

I've seen loads of homemade dog treat recipes and yes, they are cute! But who has time to really make your dog biscuits from scratch? I can hardly convince most dog owners to brush their dog's teeth because most of them don't even have time to brush their own teeth!  You can also buy really cute, gourmet treats from boutique dog stores (like Woof Gang Bakery here in Austin), but those cute treats are mostly for our enjoyment.  A dog's going to eat a treat if it looks like a cute little bone or fire hydrant or if it looks like a lump of something unidentifiable.  Let's face it, they're not creatures to snub poor presentation.  Jake was jealous of all my Christmas cookie baking, so I made him some of his own.

So here's a dog treat process that I read about on a faded paper that was taped up on some wall at my vet school (Texas A&M Veterinary Hospital).  The original recipe said you could just microwave it, but I found that just made things soggy with the can of food I tried.  These are also easily customizable if your dog is on a special diet.  A lot of dogs have food allergies or food intolerances, so you can use whatever canned version of the diet your dog is on, as long as it is a pâté type, not the kind with the 'real chunks of food'/gravy.  Warning, this will make your kitchen smell like dog food! Use tools you can run through the dishwasher ;)  The treats come out a little softer than store-bought treats.

2 Step Homemade Dog Biscuits


  • 1 can dog food, pâté style


  1. Cut out the log of dog food from the can.  Cut into 1/4" slices.
  2. Bake in oven at 200*F for 40-60 minutes or until dried out, flipping once halfway through.

Mommy, when are you going to bake some treats for me?

homemade dog treats!
Jake sitting pretty for some treats.  Yes, I think there's some drool coming from his mouth

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Uncle Brent's Award Winning Chili

A while back, I posted my turkey quinoa "chili" and though it is absolutely delicious, and I've had several people tell me they make it all the time, the reason I couldn't call it chili without the quotations is because of this chili recipe.  Like I'd mention before, Reid is a chili purist.  There should not be beans in chili, or TURKEY, and especially not quinoa!  And that's because Reid had this chili growing up.

His uncle Brent and his father perfected this recipe years ago and used to enter it into (and win) chili competitions.  So, yea.  It's pretty stinkin' good.  Reid's version uses the fattiest meat (ground beef or cubed) that you can find, but I try to 'healthify' it up by using 1.5#'s ground sirloin (95% lean) and 1.5#'s ground beef for chili.  I found the ground beef for chili at HEB and it's a thicker grind and appears pretty fatty.  I've also made a few other tweaks to the recipe by decreasing the onions.  The original recipe calls for 3 onions, but I'm pretty sure there has been a difference in onion size since this recipe was made because 3 would be an insane amount now-a-days.  I've also added a chipotle in adobe (that I had leftover from making chipotle twice-baked sweet potatoes) the last time I made it, and it was really tasty.  I always make a box of Jiffy cornbread in a small cast iron skillet to serve with the chili.  It's so good for a cold, rainy day!

Uncle Brent's Award Winning Chili

  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. chili meat (see my above note)
  • 1-3 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 4 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 2 tbs. paprika
  • 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 chipotle from canned in adobe sauce, finely chopped

  1.  In a large pot over medium heat with 1 tbs. olive oil, cook chili meat until no longer pink, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, sugar, salt, paprika, tomato sauce, cayenne pepper, and chipotles and stir well.  Simmer until meat is tender and filled with flavor, about 2-4 hours.
  3. Optional: Serve with green onions, cheddar cheese, and cornbread!

Skillet Cornbread
Jake and Julius competing for window time

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fully Loaded Nachos

What kind of cheese doesn't belong to you? Nacho cheese!  Heehee, I love really bad jokes.  
Nachos, synonymous with football games and fairs, these guys have gotten a bad rap.  Those stale tortilla chips and processed cheese toppings from the concession stands are kinda gross.  But homemade nachos are delicious!  Nachos for dinner are one of Reids favorite dinners.  There are a few variations I've made, but the following is a more classic one.  Homemade nachos are also wayyyyy healthier than processed-cheese-squirted-out-of-a-squirt-bottle-nachos.  I also use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream which also cuts back on the calories a lot.  I also like to add a little taco seasoning to the Greek yogurt to add some additional flavor.  I got the taco seasoning substitute recipe from AllRecipes.  This is a really quick and easy weeknight meal, and I'm sure it would be a hit with kids (because my husband is basically I giant kid ;) )

Fully Loaded Nachos

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1.5 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder*
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder*
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder*
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes*
  • 1/8 tsp. dried oregano*
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika*
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin*
  • 1/4 tsp. salt*
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper*
  • Optional toppings: Greek yogurt, pickled jalepenos, and sliced green onions

*Can substitute 1 packet taco seasoning

  1. Preheat oven to 350*C.  Brown ground beef or turkey in large, oiled skillet over medium heat until cooked and no longer pick, about 3-5 minutes.  Drain fat.
  2. Add chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper OR taco seasoning mix and stir.  Add 1/2 c. water, stir, cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. On a baking sheet, layer nachoes, cheese, ground beef or turkey meat mixture, and black beans.  Bake for 5-10 minutes or until cheese melted.  Top with sliced jalapenos, green onions, and sour cream.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

BBQ Ramen

Nothing is better in the cold than a piping hot bowl of ramen!  There are a few really excellent places in town (Ramen Tatsu-ya, Daruma, Kome at lunch) and one of the places we frequent is called Michi Ramen.  There, they have a 'Texas' style ramen, which is served with Texas toast and has brisket in it.  Yesterday I made pulled pork sandwiches (2 lbs pork butt, salt and pepper, 1/2 sliced onion and 1 c. chicken broth in slow cooker on high for 4 hrs, then shredded with a fork and mixed with bbq sauce), had some left over pork and pork broth so I made this copy-cat ramen.  The bbq sauce in the pulled pork gave the ramen lots of flavor.

Homemade ramen is soooo much better than store bought.  It tastes better and it doesn't have all that awful sodium and MSG most of the packaged stuff has. That stuff is bad for you!  I remember when I was younger, my mom, sister and I would go to France to visit our grandparents.  My dad stayed back to keep his pharmacy open and he basically survived on packaged ramen noodles.  When we came back, his hair had started falling out! So yea, don't use those 'seasoning' packs that come with packaged ramen...or at least don't live on packaged ramen for a month. Hah!

One of my favorite things in ramen is ajitama, the soft boiled, sometimes marinated egg.  It's so delicious!  So, I finally figured out how to make it.  First, soft boil an egg.  I have a handy Egg-Perfect egg timers, which makes soft boiling an egg so much easier than guessing. You put it in the pot of water with your eggs, and it changes color to the done-ness of an egg.  My vet school roommate, Allegra, had one, and it was so handy I bought one when I moved out.  Really handy for when you're making deviled eggs.  No one wants to guess-boil a dozen eggs!

Anyway, to make ajitama, first soft boil your eggs.  Then marinate for 1-2 hours in a mixture of soy sauce and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine).  Ta-dah! Ajitama!  Word of advice, don't let it marinate too long, otherwise the egg will taste rubbery.

Hope you enjoy! Sorry the pictures are so awful! We were hungry that night!

BBQ Ramen
  • 1 package Ramen noodles
  • 4 c. pork or chicken broth (I used a combo of both)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbs. lemongrass
  • 1 tbs. minced ginger
  • 1/4 lbs. pulled pork
  • 2 links Andouille sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 small bag of frozen peas
  • smoked salt and pepper or salt and pepper
  • optional garnishes: ajitama egg (see above), 3 tbs. chopped green onion, sliced radishes, Korean seaweed
  1. Add 1 tbs. olive oil to large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Saute onion, garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute or until onion softened.  Add lemongrass.
  2. Combine pulled pork and sausage to pot until browned, about 3-5 minutes.  
  3. Pour in broth and allow to simmer for 2-4 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, cook noodles in broth for 4 minutes.  Add frozen peas and cook for additional minute.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in bowls and add optional garnishes.