Archive for December, 2011

h1

Happy Holidays!

December 29, 2011

First, I would like to apologize.  I’ve not been able to post as often as I would like to lately.  I’ve been off of work all week and I think I may be looking forward to returning next week.  That’s how much activity I’ve been cramming into each day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying all the activity.  Who doesn’t enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially this time of year?  We’ve entertained people three nights this week,and they’re some of the best people I know.  Yesterday, we spent part of the morning scooping up some wonderful sales.  I love kitchen gadgets and a great sale.  Two of my favorite stores have the best after Christmas sales: Crate and Barrel and Sur La Table.  During the month of December, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down little things that I need to replace or find for my kitchen.  A new shaker for my powdered sugar?  Check.  Some new cutting boards?  Check.  Cute holiday cocktail napkins for my bar? Check.

We also hit Trader Joe’s for some yummy Cookie Butter.  Thanks Denise for steering me in that direction!  The possibilities with this product… The cashier told me that this may become a permanent item in the store!

After all this activity, I’m glad that we keep our New Year’s quiet.  It’s all about the fondue in our house.  We’ve never made it to midnight, but that’s okay.  New Year’s morning is all about the panettone french toast.

Okay, let’s talk about some cookies.  I found this recipe in the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  They looked too simple not to try.  The spice from the cookie and the creaminess from the melted white chocolate really compliment each other.

My only complaint was they looked too bland.  They didn’t have that wow factor on the plate.  Do you know what I mean?  When I get my cookie plate together, I want people to struggle with the decision of which cookies to try.  I want them to take more than one.  I don’t want them to pass up a cookie because it doesn’t look amazing.  Maybe it’s because I was always picked near the end in gym class… Anyhow, I added a little drizzle of caramel to the top of the cookie to seal the deal.

Vanilla Allspice Thumbprints

  • 1 1/4 C Flour
  • 1/2 t Allspice
  • 1/4 t Baking Powder
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1/2 C Butter, softened
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1 Egg Yolk, room temperature
  • 3/4 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 C White Chocolate Chips
  • Caramel for garnish (I used the jar kind used on sundaes)

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, allspice, baking powder and salt.  Set aside,  In a large bowl, beat the butter.  Add the sugar and continue to beat for 2 minutes.  Add the egg yolk and beat for another minute.  Add the vanilla extract and beat until mixed.  Slowly add the flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl and making sure the dry ingredients are well incorporated.  Shape the dough into balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Make an indentation in the center of each ball with your thumb or a handle end of a wooden spoon.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven until the cookies are dry and firm to touch.  Rotate the cookies if necessary. Let the cookies cool on wire racks.  While the cookies cool, place the chocolate pieces in a small microwave safe bowl and cook the pieces until melted, 30 to 60 seconds.  Us a small spoon to fill each cookie and let the chocolate set.  Drizzle with caramel.

Makes 2 1/2 – 3 dozen cookies.

h1

My Cookie Exchange

December 20, 2011

I participated in a cookie exchange at work this week.  I love cookie exchanges.  It’s a great way to share a favorite recipe and get a few new ones in return.  One of the recipes I got in the exchange was melomakarona.  They are by far my favorite Greek cookie.  The spice of the cookie, along with the honey is so heavenly.  I’ve never made them, but that is going to change very soon.

I wanted to post at least one new cookie recipe this week.  First, I finished my baking on Sunday.  Second, I’m sharing my baking this week with co-workers, teachers, family and friends.   Because I’m running out of time, I’m also posting a picture of these melomakaronas that isn’t mine.  I hope that’s okay.  When I do make them, I’ll re-post with my own pictures.

Melomakarona

  • 1/2 C Sugar
  • 2 C Vegetable Oil
  • 2 t Cinnamon
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/2 C Orange Juice
  • Zest from one Orange
  • 7 C Flour
  • 2 C Pecans, finely chopped
  • 2 C Honey
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 C Water
  • 1-2 inch Orange rind (optional)
  • Cinnamon for garnish

Mix the sugar, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange juice together.  Add the flour and knead, you may need to add additional flour to make the dough workable.  Mix in the pecans, reserving 1/2 C to sprinkle after dipping in honey.  Take a pinch of the dough, roll into a ball and then make them into long ovals.

On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

While the cookies are baking, mix the honey, water, orange rind and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon and orang rind. Remove the cookies from the oven, let them cool and dip them in the honey mixture for about a minute.  Use a fork and remove them from the honey mixture, and place them on a cooling rack lined with wax paper.  Sprinkle with the reserved nuts and cinnamon.

Makes 4 dozen.

Warning these are very messy, but very worth it.

Other cookies I made this season:

I made a few more that I won’t have time to share with you until after Christmas.

For Meeshie’s teachers I made mini Blueberry Zucchini Bread and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread.

h1

Browned Butter Oatmeal Cookies

December 14, 2011

I don’t know about you, but this time of year really brings out the baker in me.  Not to say that I don’t bake a ton during the year, because I do.  This time of year, however, I really give both of my ovens a work out.  This past Sunday I made five different cookies and some pumpkin bread in mini paper loaf pans.

Even though I’ve made quite a few cookies so far, I’m not done.  I’ll be finishing off my baking this weekend.  I store my treats in the freezer and give them out as gifts.  If I stick them in the freezer, I’m still enjoying all my hard work after the new year.  Not to mention I’m helping myself by not gorging on all the cookies in the pantry.

My husband is a fan of oatmeal cookies and I decided to try something different this year.  Since I’m such a fan of browned butter, I knew I had to give this a try.  This is a recipe I found on the Food Network website.  It’s a perfect twist to an old classic.  The browned butter adds a great flavor to these already wonderful cookies.

Browned Butter Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 C Butter
  • 3/4 C Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1 t Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 C Flour
  • 3/4 C Oats
  • 3/4 t Baking Soda
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1 t Cinnamon
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1 C Raisins (soaked in warm water, for at least 15 minutes)

Brown the butter in a saucepan, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugars and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, add the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.  Add the browned butter to the batter, mix well.  Add the raisins and mix by hand.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

h1

Pefect Finger Food or Main Event

December 8, 2011

I have a recipe for an appetizer that I’ve been making forever.  So long in fact that I don’t remember where I got it, much less what to call it.  It’s also a perfect entrée.  Do you have a recipe like that?  One that you can easily transition from side dish to main dish?

I think the reason that it’s so popular is because it’s a perfect finger food.  I mean that it’s a perfect finger food to serve a room full of hungry men.  Don’t get me wrong, ladies love it too.  And did I mention that it transitions into a great entrée?

This recipe uses Pillsbury crescent rolls and I make one tube of rolls per meat choice when I’m serving it to a crowd as an appetizer.  I’ve scaled it back so you can use it as a meal instead.  When I was first given this recipe, I was putting the sauce inside the crescent roll.  I stopped doing that because the process can become very messy and it’s hard to seal the rolls.  I like serving the sauce on the side much better.

I love that the combination for this is as endless as your imagination or what you have in your fridge.  You can make ham and swiss; chicken and cheddar, roast beef and mozzarella.  I’ve even made this with a combination of cheeses and left out the meat.  Don’t be afraid to try your favorite lunch meat with your favorite cheese.

When I make it for an entrée, I serve it with soup or chili.  Then I’ll give the leftover to Meeshie to enjoy in her lunch.  And that’s another thing I love about these.  They are a hot dish, but the still taste good if they been out of the oven for a while, perfect for a large get together.  Let’s face it, this time of year we are always looking for a dish like that.

Mini Sammies

  • 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 1/2 C of your favorite lunch meat: turkey, ham or roast beef
  • 1/2 C of shredded cheese to accompany the lunch meat: cheddar, swiss, mozzarella
  • 1/4 C Green Onion, diced
  • 1 T Butter, melted
  • Sesame Seed, for garnish
  • Barbecue Sauce, for dipping
  • Mustard, for dipping
  • Ketchup, for dipping

Take the crescent rolls out of the tube, separate them and flatten the triangles on your work surface.  I find that if you flatten the crescents, it will give you a larger area of dough thereby making it easier to stuff.  Place a small amount (about 2 T) of meat, a small amount (1/2 T) of green onion, and a small amount (about 1 T) of cheese in the widest part of the crescent.  (You want enough filling in each to enjoy the sandwich, but not so much that you can’t get the sides together to seal.)  Take the sides and close the crescent, making sure to seal completely.   Place the sandwich on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush the sandwiches with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 375 degrees oven.

Serve with barbecue sauce, mustard and ketchup.  Makes 8 mini sandwiches per roll.

h1

Real or Fake?

December 5, 2011

When I was a girl, the week before Christmas we would always go out and buy our tree.  Then my dad would get into the stand, carry it into our basement where he would put the lights on it before the rest of us trimmed it.  It’s how we always celebrated his birthday.  I have fond memories of my dad muttering under his breath as he attempted to detangle the mess of Christmas lights, with a cigarette dangling in his hand.  He would generally pause long enough to ask me to get him another cup of coffee.

Christmas isn’t the same to me without a real tree.  Somehow, I’m the only one in my family that still has one.  Everyone else has a fake tree.  I’ve been told it’s because of the needles, which is true if you buy your tree from a lot.  Those trees were cut down in August and spray painted green.   I love the smell of a freshly cut tree.

The day after Thanksgiving we go to a farm by the house, the same place we pick blueberries, and chop our tree down.   My husband and I tease each other about the size, we can’t go to high because our ceilings are only eight feet high.  This year we were laughing so hard while we were trying to fasten it to the roof of our car, that we almost lost it.  Twice.

Once we get it home, I’m in charge of the lights.  My mother gave me my dad’s star after he passed for my first married Christmas.  It was the star that was on the tree when he was a boy and there is a light bulb that goes in the center of the star that helps fasten itself to the tree.

Meeshie loves trimming the tree.  Which is good, because once I’ve spent time wrestling with the lights, I’m not that interested in the ornaments.  Now I know why my dad always sat back and watched us do all the work.

Which do your prefer and why?

%d bloggers like this: