Holiday Gifts: Sesame Brittle

Always a fun treat to find on a cookie tray. These sweet, addictive bites are a breeze to make.

Such a simple recipe. No candy thermometer needed. I used to use oiled wax paper, but oiled parchment works better. The heat of the candy on the wax paper melts it in places. Difficult to peel off.

Sesame Brittle

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • salt

saucepan, parchment, and baking sheet Continue reading

Holiday Gifts: Pecan Cookies

These have several names: Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, or just Pecan Cookie Balls. Whatever you call them, they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Pecan Cookies

  • 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

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Continue reading

Holiday Gifts: Instant Pot Dinners for Two

 

Getting my parents Christmas gifts is impossible. They really don’t want more stuff and if I give them cash, they give it back. ❤

This year, since I was traveling home last week, I decided the best thing I could do was cook for them. So that’s what I did. I made twelve meals for two.

This included:

Spinach Tomato Soup (recipe here)

Spinach Lasagna (recipe here)

Chicken Tortilla Soup (recipe here)

Shredded Chicken – I shredded two pounds of chicken that I cooked with garlic, sage, rosemary and basil in the Multi-Pot/Instant Pot. They can then use it for chicken salad or BBQ chicken.

Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 lb chicken, diced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 32 ounces of veggie broth ( I use my vitamix to blend carrots, celery, garlic, onion to make a quick, nutritious vegetable broth)
  • 12-ounce sliced carrots (I use frozen)
  • 12-ounce green beans (I use frozen)
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 onion diced (optional, my parents love onions)
  • 10 oz of small bowtie pasta or egg noodles.

Continue reading

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to go to a funeral and wanted to take something sweet. I find chocolate helps. Lots of chocolate.

I don’t make these very often, because they are super rich and my Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies are usually enough.

They’re easy and just a touch above regular chocolate chip cookies.  This is a full batch, makes about 4 dozen cookies. Great for your holiday cookie boxes.

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 Continue reading

Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Sweet Treats, Something For Everyone

While I’m busy baking away today, here are some previous goodies from 2014:

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.

Pecan Cookies

  • 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

Preheat 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

 

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.

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Originally posted Nov 2011

Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Gifts, Salty-Sweet Edition

Caramel Corn 12-17-11

I love popcorn. So much so, I actually have an electric stirring popcorn popper. It must be a family thing, because my brother, Paul, has all the ingredients to make movie popcorn – and he did serious research on how to get that flavor. I’m good with butter and salt, myself. But my true weakness is caramel corn, so one year when I was trying to think of something fun to give for those neighbor Christmas treat boxes, I decided to try my hand at caramel corn.

And to take it up a notch I decided to make Bacon Caramel Corn. The featured recipe tonight.

But let’s begin with some other salty-sweet ideas for the holiday gift box.

Tex-Mex Popcorn Mix, recipe here.

White Cheddar Popcorn and Chili-Cheese Popcorn, recipes here.

And if popcorn is not your thing, how about some Cajun Spiced Nuts or Indian Spiced Nuts, recipes here.

Finally, the dinner menu this week is all about improving Oven Fried Chicken and amazing Baked Garlic Potatoes, complete menu, recipes, shopping list are here.

What favorite recipes are in your gift box this year? If you give food gifts for the holidays, do you include copies of the recipes? I’m always torn. Either way, go ahead and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments. Next week we’ll tackle sweet treats for gift giving.

Tonight’s featured recipe actually came about because I read this comment at Balloon-Juice, I was intrigued enough to search out a recipe. If bacon isn’t your thing, just omit it from the recipe below to make regular caramel corn, or caramel corn with nuts.

Cashew Bacon Caramel Corn

  • 8 oz maple smoked bacon, cut into eight pieces per strip
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped corn
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups salted cashews (or peanuts, or peanut/cashew mix)
Skillet, saucepan, baking sheets*

In skillet, cook bacon until mostly crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Reduce to 200 degrees after 15 minutes of baking.

Place popcorn onto a well-greased baking sheets.

In saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and baking soda (yes, it will foam up so be prepared). Gently stir nuts and bacon into sugar mixture and pour over popcorn, toss, coating popcorn evenly. Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is a deep golden brown, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours  – mine was done at the 1 hour mark. Cool and break apart.

*most recipes call for a roasting pan, I had better luck on my second batch using baking sheets – the popcorn cooked more evenly and was very crisp.

That’s if for this week. Bixby is 6 months old today which doesn’t seem possible and I may have an update on him later, depending on how work goes today  – TaMara

cropped-christmaslights.jpg