Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Sweet Treats

 

Assorted Cookies1

Lots of cooking going on. And look what Santa dropped off early:

Mystery Machine

Just in time to hold the assortment of cookies I made this week. Most of them are going into gift boxes, but I’ll hold enough back for my annual Christmas Eve dinner.

Let’s get right to it. Pictured above:

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, recipe here

Spritz Cookies, recipes and instructions for using a cookie press here.

Not pictured because I still have to make them, Chocolate-Walnut Flourless Cookies, recipe here. I love these because you’d never know they were flourless and they taste like brownie bites.

Looking for side dishes for your holiday dinner? You can click here for a lot of different types. And for the pet lovers, Bixby posted an update here and here is photo evidence of how the cats torment him, try not to laugh, it hurts his feelings.

How about you, what’s on your menu for the holidays? Share your holiday traditions, both edible and otherwise.

Mexican Russian Pecan Cookies

Tonight’s featured recipe had a bit of a serendipitous beginning. I was having lunch with friend LFern and told her I was still working on what type of cookies I was going to make for my gift boxes. LFern mentioned she really liked Russian Tea Cakes. I’d never heard of them, so I googled, figuring I’d surprise her with them in her gift box. Turns out they are also called Mexican Wedding Cookies. Next day I was visiting friends Larilyn and Alton (not that one) and what do they bring out to go with the coffee? Mexican Wedding Cookies. Turns out Al calls them Mom’s Pecan Cookies and he shared his mom’s recipe with me. So no matter what you call them, they are tasty.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts pecans
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Preaheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour, salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the nuts. At this point, I mixed by hand until the dough stuck together and was smooth.

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough, roll into shape and place on baking sheet

Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for just a minute. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack covered with wax paper (keeps the sugar mess to a minimum) to cool.

You have to roll them in powdered sugar while they are still hot, which hurts like hell for the first two, but after that, your fingers are coated in powdered sugar and it acts like a heat shield and you’ll be fine. Look, holiday gift baking isn’t for wussies. It’s an extreme sport.

After they cooled, I coated them with more powdered sugar for a festive look.

That’s it for…this year. We won’t have another recipe exchange until January. But I will be posting the recipes for Christmas Eve dinner between now and Christmas. The menu is: Roasted Cornish Game Hens, Smashed Potatoes, Cranberry Chutney, Spinach Salad, and an Ice Cream Sundae Bar.

Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. Thanks for coming along for the ride – TaMara

Christmas balls

 

Holiday Gifts Ideas: Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. :-) I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.

festive-holiday-wreaths

 

Tidbits

DSC_9577 [1600x1060]Mmm… posole with a few garnishes with quesadillas.  The dish is similar in spirit to the classic tomato soup/grilled cheese combo.  I made a huge batch of posole a few months ago and pressure canned several quarts of it to put back for quick dinners.  I think there are six quarts left.  The quesadillas are beef, cheese, and bean.DSC01284 [1600x1060]Mrs J spotted Miss Bea  down in the yard trying to decide if the deer was a threat.  She decided the answer was no and proceeded to ignore it.  She treats me the exact same way.DSC_9564 [1600x1060]We had chili one day this week,  I used some ground beef and threw in some chorizo meatloaf that didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped and had frozen.  Worked better as chili than as a meatloaf.DSC_9567 (1600x1060)There was enough chili left over to make a few chili dogs.  These are garnished with chopped pickled jalapeno, fresh onions, and shredded cheese.  The dogs are actually smoked sausages that claim to incorporate Vidalia onions in the recipe.  I didn’t notice any particular onion-y taste but the natural casings did have a nice snap to them.DSC01348 [1600x1060]This little pup took a few seconds off from the towel fight to pose for a picture.  All the new arrivals get a flea bath whether they like it or not.DSC_9556 (1600x1060)Hard to beat a nice steak.  I boiled the potatoes first and then squashed them a bit before frying them in duck fat and olive oil.  Tasty little things with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper!  The veggies were stir fried in a little stock with a dab of soy, and a spoon of chili garlic paste.DSC01310 [1600x1060]One more puppeh!  I think he likes her!DSC_9560 (1600x1060)I’ll wind this up with an enchilada platter.  These are beef, bean, and cheese rolled in corn tortillas and are baked with a roasted red pepper sauce.  The corn salad with black beans was pretty good, it has chopped celery, onions, red and green peppers, garlic, and is dressed with a seasoned rice vinegar/garlic oil vinaigrette.

This Is What’s Been Going On At My House

See what I have to put up with

Every. Night.

Unrepentant

And she is unrepentant.

Paw print

Christmas Carols: Nothing But a Child

This is by far my favorite Christmas carol, and still in awe that it was written by Steve Earle. I like this Kathy Mattea version, though the version I have on my CD player is my favorite. Maybe next year I’ll get around to uploading it to youtube.

Braised Turkey Update

Braised turkey prep

 

I stashed away a frozen turkey just before Thanksgiving and when I had fully recovered from the family festivities, I decided I would try the braising method found here. I did not brine it first (I’ve made it no secret I do not understand brining – extra work and messy for not much reward IMHO).

This method is fairly easy to do. You need to have a sharp knife to separate the leg/thighs from the bird and I also removed the backbone and wings before cooking to use for soup stock.

I can’t say that it was any better or worse than the cooking in a bag method, but it did make the best gravy ever. So I might do it again.

====================

Holiday Gift Ideas: Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m busy baking for my annual gift boxes. These won’t be in them, because I”m working on two new cookie recipes I’ve never tried my hand at before. More on that later…

Chocolate Chocolate Cookie

These are pretty and very tasty.  They’re easy and just a touch above regular chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or peanuts), chopped

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Sift together salt, soda, flour and cocoa, then add to butter mixture, blending well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.  Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on cooling rack.

cropped-flower_poinsettia_d2.jpg

Originally posted Nov 2011

Bixby Diaries: I’m 6 Months Old

Bixby 12 15 14 a

I turned 6 months old on Friday. My person says I’m getting to be such a mature puppy. Some days I agree, but some days I just want to run around like a crazy thing. I do try and listen to her cues, which got me lots of praise the other day when a little terrier mix got all up in my business. When I couldn’t make friends, I lay down at my person’s feet and waited until the fuss was over. My person was pleased and that little terrier’s person was impressed.

It really wasn’t his fault, he’d had a rough life to date, but it looks like he has a great person now. I bet next time I meet him on a walk we’ll be best of friends.

On another walk with my person and my best playmate LFern, we met a man who I liked right away. He just had something about him that made me want to meet him. Turns out he works with all kinds of dogs. Trains them to do something called search and rescue. All I know, as he talked to me and watched what I could as we all walked around the park, those dogs must have lots of fun. He told my person I was very smart and had a good nose. Then he gave her a couple of games to play with me. (TaMara’s note: This was a very nice man visiting Colorado to see family. He was really taken with Bixby and watched me work with him and really thought he had a lot of potential. We’ve been having fun with the games)

One of the games my person calls, find. She gets me a treat and puts it under a yogurt container and puts two or three other yogurt containers on the floor and tells me to find the treat. Which is easy, but I have more fun stacking the cups together. Then I eat the treat. (TaMara’s note: It’s hysterical and I’ll try and get video. He stacks them very neatly together and then eats his treat)

Bixby 12 15 14 b

I had a great playdate with Tater again this weekend and later this week I get to meet my new friend, Talos, a big mastiff. He’s had a rough couple of weeks, but he’s safe now with a good person, so I’m very happy for him. (TaMara’s note: I’ll have more on his story and photos by the weekend).

Can I tell you about the cats? I’ve been doing my best to make friends with them (TaMara’s note: well, that’s debatable) but lately they’ve been very mean to me. Two of my favorite people, Larilyn and Alton (not that one) gave me a new bed for my crate. It’s big and fluffy, so big and fluffy I kept falling off of it, onto the floor, the first time I tried to sleep on it. (TaMara’s note: that was funny!) Now every time I want to sleep on it, there a stupid cat on it and I can’t sleep on it because they hiss at me.

Bixby 12 15 14 c

And the other day, Missy and Emma were both swatting and hissing at me and all I was doing was standing next to the table. I don’t know what to do to make them happy. (TaMara’s note: they have been terribly mean to him lately and I’m working on trying to mediate…)

That’s it for it for now. My person says as soon as I hit 100 lbs (I’m 85 lbs now) we’ll celebrate somehow. I’m hoping it’s a picture of the two of us together. I love her  – Bixby

Love you, too, big guy. <3

Paw print

Zat You, Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong

At a young age, I discovered my parents Louis Armstrong collection and was quickly a fan.

Side Dishes: French Onion Casserole

 

final casserole

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I learned that I had missed out on this casserole. My sister-in-law, Tracie, had taken it to the big family get-together the weekend before. There was not a bite leftover by the end, so I am assuming it was a success. It sure sounds good.

I thought it would be nice to post it in time for this month’s various holiday get-togethers.

French Onion Casserole

  • 2-3 tbsp of butter
  • 3 large sweet onions (or 4 medium yellow onions),thinly sliced
  • 8 oz shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (substitute mushroom soup for vegetarian)
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • pepper
  • 8 slices of French bread

skillet, shallow 2 qt casserole or baking dish (glass)

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and add onions. Sauté until onions are translucent, a little caramelization is ok.

IMG_9006

In baking dish, layer onions, 2/3 of the cheese and pepper to taste.

Onions

 

IMG_9012

In skillet, heat milk, soup and soy sauce, stirring to blend well.

IMG_9009

Pour soup mixture over casserole and fold in gently to mix.

IMG_9013

Top with bread slices.

IMG_9015

Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered for 15 minutes, bread should be brown and toasted. If not, turn oven to broil to crisp the bread (watch closely).

almost there

Remove casserole, return oven temperature to 350. Push bread slices into sauce, top with remaining cheese, return to oven and bake an additional 15 -20 minutes until cheese is melted.

IMG_9019

Yum

Final 1

 

I think Tracie should blog here more often. Looks great and love all the photos. – TaMara

Christmas balls

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