Dec 012004

tammyNotes from Tammy

Hi cooks! Hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday! My daughter went to the Family Fun website in last month’s News and picked some crafts for us to do. We still have our “Thankful leaves” on a door in the kitchen … a great reminder of all we have to be thankful for!

December seems especially busy this year! Both of my boys have birthdays this month, and my hubby is in Germany this week on business. I’m sure wishing I had followed FlyLady’s holiday plan about now! *sigh* Maybe next year!!

If you need gift ideas, be sure to check out our website!

This issue of “Chewin’ the News” brings you two new dessert recipes, as well as the three sample recipes from my ebook, Freezer Desserts to Die For! Read more about it below, in the Bonus Recipes section.

Bonus Recipes

What could be a better holiday gift than something homemade from your kitchen? With everyone being so busy these days, a homemade treat will be appreciated all the more! Not sure what desserts are freezer friendly? Then check out my ebook, Freezer Desserts to Die For! where you’ll find 25 new recipes, plus lots of helpful hints, tips and freezing information. Below are the three sample recipes from the ebook, as well as two NEW recipes for you for the holidays!

Enjoy the bonus recipes!

Cherry Delight

This tasty dessert is so quick and easy to make! And it’s such a pretty pink! You can easily freeze it in individual servings or a single container.

Click here to view/print this recipe!

Cheater’s Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

This has got to be one of my all-time favorite recipes! So easy to make, and everyone will want the recipe!

Click here to view/print this recipe!

Brownie Pie

This is a rich fudgey dessert. Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup and your guests will think they’re at a restaurant!

Click here to view/print this recipe!

Pretzel-turtlesPretzel Turtles
I was at a Christmas Cookie/Candy exchange over the weekend, and I heard one of the women say “I made Pretzel Turtles.” I said “Oh, I made those last week! They’re great!” She said “Yeah, but they took forever… seemed like I spent all day making them!” I said “Mine used Rolo candy… did yours?” She hesitantly said “No…. I grated some pecans into foil muffin cups and put a pretzel on top of it. Then I melted the caramel mixture together and put it on the pretzel. I had to wait for that to set up before I could melt the chocolate and put it on top of the caramel. Then I pressed a pecan half on the chocolate.” You should have seen her face when I told her about my recipe and how quick and easy it was. She said forget her recipe… she was making mine next time!!

I saw this recipe years ago in some ladies magazine. But just now got around to trying it. What a great candy this makes for the holidays! I personally like the salty-sweet combination from the pretzels and chocolate.

Click here to view/print this recipe!

butterWhite Chocolate Macadamia cookies

The first time I tried White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies (WCCMNC, for short) was at Subway, the sandwich shop chain. I was hooked! When my kids sold frozen cookie dough as a fund-raiser for school or sports teams, the WCCMNC dough was always the most popular. My friend Lesa said “If your kids sell WCCMNC dough again, let me know… I’ll buy some!”

In spite of the fact that everyone seems to like them, I don’t know anyone who makes homemade WCCMNC. There are all kinds of cookie recipes floating around, but none for WCCMNC. I don’t know why that is? Maybe because they can be expensive to make and people don’t want to take a chance on messing them up? So I determined to come up with an awesome recipe. And I’m happy to say I did!

I did my research on the internet, looking for recipes and reading the comments people made about them. What ingredients worked, what didn’t, and why. Armed with all those opinions, ideas and recipes, I put the best of all of them together for my recipe. Then it was on to the kitchen to test the recipe with a few ingredient variables. My expectation was that I wasn’t going to find much of a difference, but boy, was I wrong!

The first variable was real butter vs. a margarine/shortening mix. I have very few recipes I actually use real butter in because I haven’t found a big difference in the taste, and margarine is much cheaper. Most of the recipes I found in my research used softened butter. But a lot of people commented that the cookies spread all over the cookie sheet, and they would use a mix of margarine and butter-flavored shortening the next time they made the cookies, because they would keep their shape better with those ingredients. So I wanted to try both options to compare taste and size.

The picture above shows the cookie made with margarine/shortening on the left, and butter on the right. I made my cookies using the large cookie scoop from Pampered Chef, so all the cookies got the same amount of dough. You can see that the cookie with butter is bigger, so it did spread more. To prevent the “mess” others got when using butter, I didn’t soften my butter first… I used it straight from the ‘fridge. A little hard on the mixer maybe, but the cookies held their shape great!

I was also very surprised at the taste and texture differences between the two cookies. The cookie made with butter was definitely better! I thought I must be imagining it, so I tasted again, making sure I just got cookie… no chocolate or nuts. The butter cookie was obviously better! It was thinner, chewy and crisp. Don’t get me wrong, the margarine cookie was good, and if I didn’t have butter, I’d still make the cookies. But using butter made a superior cookie!

The second variable was using white chocolate chips vs. melting chocolate. Melting chocolate is used in candy making, is frequently called Almond Bark, and is cheaper than chocolate chips. Most of the recipes I researched said to use the melting chocolate, not chocolate chips. People who used chips seemed to think it would be better with the melting chocolate.

I couldn’t believe there would be that much of a difference between the two, especially if you used a quality chip. In my experience, Nestle and store brand white chocolate chips are waxy and don’t taste much like white chocolate. Hershey’s is my brand of choice for white chocolate chips. I couldn’t find them in two different grocery stores, so I had to “settle” for Ghirardelli chips. Given their reputation, I figured they were a safe bet to be a quality white chocolate chip. And they were very good! But it ended up not mattering, because the almond bark was SO much better in the cookies! It was almost like you couldn’t even taste the chips… they just blended in to the cookie. The almond bark was very creamy, even after the cookies cooled. When you bit into a piece of almond bark, you could definitely taste it… it was almost like a burst of creamy white chocolate! Mmmmmmmm!

The melting chocolate came in a 1-1/2 pound slab, for $1.50 from my Wal-Mart SuperCenter. The Ghiradelli chips were on sale for about $3.50 for a 12 ounce bag, at another local grocery store. I made two batches of the cookies using the almond bark, and still have almost a pound left. In case you’re thinking that you’d never use the rest of the slab of almond bark, I’ve got a recipe for you….Oreo Truffles. You can also follow the directions on the wrapper to dip pretzels, dried fruit, nuts and crushed candy canes in the melted chocolate… which could also turn into much-appreciated gifts for the chocolate lover on your list!

The macadamia nuts will be the most expensive ingredient… I paid $4.98 at Wal-Mart for an 8.5 ounce can of dry roasted macadamias. I couldn’t find “plain” macadamias, if there is such a thing. But the dry roasted worked fine… I like the sweet cookie/salty nut combination! I tried chopping the macadamias with my food chopper, but that didn’t give me uniform size pieces. It worked best to cut each nut into 3 or 4 pieces with a sharp knife. I got just under 2 C. of chopped nuts that way, so you should be able to get a double batch of cookies from a can like I bought.

Another important consideration was how long to bake the cookies. The cookies are still soft when you take them out of the oven, which can lead to a mess when you try to take them off the cookie sheet, let alone put them on the wire cooling rack! So I needed to figure out the baking/cooling options for the best results.

I bake cookies using both racks in my oven… one rack goes in the second position from the bottom, and the other goes in the fourth position. If a recipe says to bake cookies for 10 minutes, they go in the oven on the lower shelf for 8 minutes, then I move them to the top shelf for 2 minutes, to finish baking and browning, without burning. When they go to the top shelf, another pan goes in the oven on the lower shelf. So I usually have 2 pans with 2 timers going at once. That method works perfect with these cookies! Once they come out of the oven, they need to sit on the cookie sheet for one to two minutes to finish baking and firm up. Then they are easily moved to the cooling rack.

So, based on what I’ve learned in my research and testing, I’m proud to share my recipe for White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies with you. It’s definitely “to die for!”

Click here to view/print this recipe!

Website News from Nanci

Happy Holidays to all of our loyal cooks! I trust that you are stopping to smell the proverbial roses (or sugar cookies) during this busy but wonderful season of the year. It’s hard to keep the main thing the main thing, isn’t it?
I have a whole new group of people to cook for this Christmas -my students! So far they are not very picky and are extremely appreciative when I bring in treats. Many act like they have never seen homemade baked goods before. I suppose maybe they haven’t!

Get a thrill this season out of making (and freezing) treats for those you love. Don’t stop at the sweets. I’m sure that there are lots of people in your life who would love a frozen casserole more than anything. Grandparents – new parents – neighbors – and yes, even TEACHERS!

We’re cutting it close for Christmas but hey – there’s always New Year’s gifts right? For the whole month of December, choose Standard (Media) Mail shipping and I will give you a free upgrade to Priority. All orders over $50 will receive free Priority shipping.
Freezer Cooking Manuals!
Advantage Cooking Software! 

Click here to order now!

Message Board Updates

The message boards continue to be popular!

The “Where is everyone from?” post continues to be a favorite! Please introduce yourself if you haven’t… we’d love to meet you!

It’s hunting season in my area… does anyone have tried-and-true freezer recipes for venison?

Do you use the jar sealer with your food saver? If so, some cooks would like some tips from you about using it successfully.

Check out the rest of the message boards when you get a chance… they are a great source of ideas, recipes, tips, and encouragement! If you have any questions about the message boards, please email me!


Recipe of the Month Contest Winner

Recipe of the Month… Toffee Pecan Bars

Our winner this month is Rhea from Bakersfield, CA with her recipe for Toffee Pecan Bars. Perfect for guests, as well as gift-giving!

I was surprised at how quick this recipe went together… 10 or 15 minutes, plus baking time. You can’t say that for most desserts! Rhea’s directions said to let it cool overnight before cutting. Of course I was too impatient to wait that long! I waited till it was cool, but not overnight. However, we decided we liked the flavor better the next day. We also liked it better chilled than at room temperature.

Rhea also said she preferred to use only half of the bag of toffee chips, because it was too sweet for her otherwise. I used the whole bag when I tried the recipe, and it wasn’t too sweet for us. So you’ll have to use your personal preference there!

For a nice touch, cut the bars into triangles or diamonds instead of squares or rectangles. Cut wide squares in half corner-to-corner for triangles. For diamonds, cut the bars straight the length of the pan. Then instead of cutting straight across the width, cut diagonally from top corner to bottom corner. Make diagonal cuts out from there, 1-1/2″ to 2″ wide. You will have a few odd shaped pieces leftover if you cut diamonds, but not with triangles.

Hi, I’m Rhea from Bakersfield, CA. I start my Christmas baking in mid September or so and simply make a double batch of whatever I’m baking and freeze the rest. Pre-freezer days, I spent two full days baking at the start of my daughter’s Christmas vacation and was really too beat to enjoy the results. Believe me, freezing is the way to go!!

Christmas baking always means cookies to me but then most any food occasion translates as “cookies” to me. I can pass up cake, pie, ice cream, anything but cookies and I’ve never had a bad cookie. I bake cookies most every weekend and always freeze half the batch or they would all be gone before Monday morning and the second half seldom makes it past mid-week! I made these bars for the first time a few years ago and brought them to work. I then forgot about the recipe until one of my co-workers asked why I never made them anymore. I unearthed the recipe and it has become one of my favorites. Buttery, rich, gooey, nuts, toffee pieces – what more could a girl ask for in a cookie? Another co-worker recently retired after 35 years with the department and I made over 20 dozen cookies for her reception. The Toffee Pecan Bars were the first to go (even before my Lemon Bars!) and I ended up making a list of those who wanted the recipe – there were simply too many requests to remember! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Click here to view/print the December Recipe of the Month.

You too can get in on the winning! Just post your favorite freeze-able recipe on the message boards. Congratulations, Rhea!

Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner

Our winner this month is Kelli, with a great idea for giving the gift of 30 Day Gourmet! The perfect idea for that hard-to-buy for ________ (insert your favorites here… parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends) who have everything. And you still have time to put a gift-certificate/menu together before the holidays!

Kelli says:

I have an idea I would like to share with people for the holidays. Last year, I made menus on my computer with different sections for soups & salads, breakfast foods, casseroles, desserts, etc. My parents and both sets of grandparents received the menus for Christmas. Did I mention that my mom now hates to cook for just her and my dad? My grandmother is a widow, and my other sets of grandparents….well, I don’t think she’s cooked since her 5 kids moved out over 40 years ago. Anyway, they got to pick 30 items from the menu. They could mix and match or get 30 of one thing if they wanted. In January, I did the cooking and delivered the meals. They said it was the best gift ever! They were even willing to pay me to make more meals this past summer. Guess what they are getting again this Christmas? The only difference is I am cooking before Christmas this year. I know what everyone likes, so they will actually receive their meals on Christmas day. I tell you, this reduced so much of my stress! I never know what to get for them. They have everything they need. 30 Day Gourmet was the perfect gift, and it was made with love!

So, how do you make 30 Day Gourmet work for you? How do you use it to help you deal with a challenge in your life? Do you have a funny story about your cooking day? How do you use it to help others? Click here to send me an email. Congratulation, Kelli!! Thanks for sharing your great idea with us! Our families thank you too!


Update to our November 2004 Freezer Cook of the Month winner:

After the Nov News went out, I received emails from a couple of people advising me that the USDA recommends you don’t cook a whole chicken from frozen in a slow cooker, because it doesn’t reach a ‘safe’ temperature quick enough, so there’s a concern for food poisoning. We obviously don’t want that! Read what they have to say about it, and decide for yourself if and/or how you want to use this method to cook chicken.

USDA Slow Cooker Safety

Gourmet Q&A from Tammy

Q. Ok, I updated my Yahoo preferences to get “daily” emails instead of “digest” so your links will work. But that didn’t help. What else can I do? Thanks! Josey

A. Hi Josey! When I answered the question last month about links not working in the Yahoo digest version of our News, I needed to include more information. If you already get the daily emails from Yahoo, and our links are still not working, there is one more setting to change. Sign in to Yahoo, and choose “Edit My Membership”. The last option says:

Message Format
__Convert to HTML. Convert plain-text messages sent to me to HTML.
__Do not convert to HTML. Don’t change the format of messages sent to me.
Note: The HTML format allows you to see colors and graphics in your messages.

You need to choose the first option, “Convert to HTML”. Choosing the HTML option allows all the pictures and links to work in the email. If you do not choose to get your emails HTML, you get a text version, with no pictures and links. So, if you set your account to receive individual emails instead of the digest, and also set it to receive HTML emails, not text, you should be good to go! Hope that helps! And sorry for the incomplete answer last month!

Final Thoughts

Well, that about sums it up for this month! Hope you enjoyed this gift-idea packed issue. Time for me to go finish my holiday baking and also make gift jars for the kids’ teachers! And finish up that Christmas shopping!

Click here to send me an email with any questions, ideas, suggestions or problems. I enjoy hearing from you all!

Best wishes for you and your family to have a beautiful holiday together! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!


Carol Santee

Carol is the co-author of the Big Book of Freezer Cooking and the author of 30 Day Gourmet’s Slow Cooker Freezer Favorites, Freezer Lunches To Go and Healthy Freezer Cooking eBooks. She is a computer information specialist and works for a computer software company.

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