Cranberry Almond White Chocolate Cookies

½ cup shortening
½ cup butter

½ cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

2 eggs

½ tsp. vanilla

½ tsp almond

2 ½ cups flour

2 cups dried cranberries

1 ½ cups white chocolate chips

1 cup candied almonds*

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed, beat shortening and butter for 30 seconds. Add the sugars and baking soda. Beat mixture until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs, vanilla and almond. Beat in flour. Stir in cranberries, chocolate and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375-degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes (until edges are lightly browned). Transfer to wire rack. Makes about 60 cookies.

1 cup almonds
2 T butter

½ cup brown sugar

Combine nuts, butter and sugar in small fry pan. Cook, stirring constantly,
over medium heat, until almonds sugar and butter are melted and nuts are caramelized. Spread on waxed paper. Cool. Break apart.

French Breakfast Muffins

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter the bottoms (only) of 12 standard-size muffin cups and set the pan aside.
Measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl and combine them with a whisk.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk the egg until it's frothy. Blend in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture.
Using a wooden spoon, mix the batter just until it's evenly blended, then spoon it into the muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.
Bake the muffins on the center rack for 15 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack until the muffins are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes, then remove them from the cups.
Before the muffins lose their warmth, prepare the topping. Mix the sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Melt the butter and transfer it to a separate small bowl. Set both bowls next to the muffins.
Working one muffin at a time, quickly dip the tops in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar, rolling each muffin in all directions to cover the entire top. If you'd like more topping, roll them in the cinnamon sugar for a second time while they're still warm. Serve immediately. Makes 12 muffins.

Tortellini Soup

This is one of our favorite soups. I've been making it since we were newlyweds. The original recipe had more exact measurements, but over the years, I've simplified the amounts. It is really flavorful and super easy. You don't add many seasonings, they're all in the Italian tomatoes.

1 T. butter or margarine
1 pkg. sliced mushrooms (about 8 oz.)
1 clove garlic
1 can low sodium vegetable broth
1 (14-oz.) can Italian stewed tomatoes
3 cups fresh or frozen tortellini
10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I actually only use about half the box if I single the recipe—eyeball it)*

Melt margarine. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute for a couple minutes. Add broth, tomatoes (undrained) and 3 cups of water. Bring to boil. Add tortellini. Return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tortellini are cooked (about 5 minutes). Add spinach. Return to a boil. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

*If you can find a loose pack of frozen spinach (instead of a box), prep is even easier. No need to thaw and squeeze dry, just sprinkle in a few handfuls. (I'm sure fresh spinach would work as well.)

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Cinnamon Ripple Muffins

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup diced pecans
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons soft butter

3 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers, or grease it lightly.
Prepare the topping by mixing the ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside.
Prepare the filling by mixing all filling ingredients. Set it aside.
To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just until combined.
Divide half the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Dollop 2 teaspoons cinnamon filling onto each muffin, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with topping, pressing it in lightly.
Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 minutes before transferring them from the pan to a rack to cool. Yield: 12 muffins.

Rosemary Bread

This is a variation of a breadstick recipe I've been making for years. All of the ingredients are pantry staples and it can be made (start to finish) in under an hour. The rosemary and salt combination is probably my favorite, but garlic salt and Parmesan cheese is tasty as well. It can be baked on a regular cookie sheet, but the pizza stone gives it the best texture.

1 T yeast
2 T sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour
melted butter
fresh rosemary (dry would work as well)
kosher salt (or a coarse sea salt)

If using pizza stone, place it in the cold oven and sprinkle liberally with corn meal. Preheat oven to 375.

Mix 1 T of the sugar, the yeast and warm water together in bowl of electric mixer. Let sit for 2-3 minutes or until yeast is dissolved.
Add remaining sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 3 cups flour. Mix on low until flour is incorporated, then knead on high speed for 3 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to wooden pizza paddle or rimless baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal (this will help the dough slide onto the pizza stone).
Let dough rest 10 minutes.
Press your fingertips into the dough at regular intervals to make dimples about 1/4" deep. Spread with melted butter. Press rosemary into dimples. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Black Bean Soup (Quick and Healthy)

3 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
12 oz vegetable broth
1 cup chunky salsa
1 tsp cumin
2 minced garlic cloves
1 small onion, diced
1 T olive oil
sour cream
chopped green onion

In blender or food processor, combine 2 cans of beans, broth, salsa and cumin. Blend until fairly smooth. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add blended bean mixture and third can of beans. Heat over medium heat until hot through. Serve soup garnished with sour cream, green onion, and cheese.
My girls (and the cyclist) loved this. We ate it with quesadillas made on "Rico" tortillas (the best).