Dec 292012
 

By the time the last meal of the Christmas holiday was served, we were all a little tuckered out.  Thankfully, we had prepared this recipe for Creamed Parsnips and Spinach a couple of days ahead, and just had to reheat it in the oven.  Served with a beef roast and baked potatoes, it was a very rich meal but didn’t require a lot of effort.

 

 

Even though the recipe includes two great vegetables, it can’t exactly be classified as healthy since it contains generous amounts of both butter and cream.  When you’re used to skim milk, cream seems so thick!  But this is still a very festive holiday side.

The recipe was not universally liked around the table, but it was enjoyed by a majority of the crowd.  I think the parnsips were the sticking point; you may want to substitute another vegetable or perhaps potatoes depending on your guests.  At the very least, I thought this was delicious, and my Mom really appreciated a recipe that didn’t require last minute preparations in the kitchen.  I am still calling it a holiday win.

Dec 272012
 

I totally didn’t mean to leave for the holiday without even saying “Merry Christmas”!  It’s been an odd year, and I even skipped the Christmas cookie swap.  Then my family realized that this meant there were no cookies to serve for our family gatherings.  My sister thought it would be fun to make some gingerbread men with my nephews, and a new holiday tradition was born.

 

 

She made the dough using this recipe and brought over some cookie cutters.  We had to let the dough warm up for quite a bit before we could roll it out, but after that, it was all hands on deck.  We rolled, we cut, and we scooped the cookies onto the baking sheets.  Then we pulled up the scraps and rolled some more.  We decorated the cookies with raisins and chocolate chips before baking, and this may have been my older nephew’s favorite part!

 

 

After the cookies were out of the oven, we let them cool, and then decorated them with icing.  The recipe above includes icing directions, but we used store-bought icing tubes which were a good time saver.  Santa still had a lot of things to do!  Even my younger nephew got to play with some cookies and icing.

 

 

This was a fun project, and the cookies tasted really good!  The thin cookies got nice and crispy, and the thicker cookies were a bit softer.  Unless you roll the dough more consistently than we did, you’ll have a variety.  It may be too late for you to make gingerbread men this holiday season, but we’ll come back to this project again next year.

Dec 202011
 

No matter how busy you might be this week, you can probably find the time to make these incredibly easy Almond Raspberry Cookies.  With just 5 (yes, five!) ingredients, you can have these cookies ready for Santa, or anyone else who might enjoy them.  They not only look like they came from a bakery, but they taste great too.

 

 

My friend Paula is a long time swapper, who won a prize 2 years ago for these Cherry Chocolate Pecan cookies.  But this year, she showed us how to keep things simple and still make homemade cookies.

 

Dec 192011
 

It was another fun cookie swap, although it went by way too fast.  There was a tie for 1st place and 2nd place, so we had 4 winners overall this year, but all of the cookies (and bon bons, and chocolate covered pretzels….) were great.

This Mint Chocolate Delight was made by first time swapper Page.  They start out like a classic Tollhouse cookie, and then take a fun turn.  The crushed candy canes make them look festive, and the cookies have a great fudge-like texture.  You can’t go wrong with the combination of chocolate and mint.

 

 

Mint Chocolate Delights

2 c. flour
2/3 c. cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 c. semisweet chocolate morsels
10 candy canes, crushed

Preheat oven to 325F.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter.  Add the sugars and vanilla and beat until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Gradually beat in the flour mixture.  Stir in the morsels and the dust from the candy canes into the batter, reserving the larger pieces of candy cane.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.  Press the candy cane chunks onto the cookies.  Bake the cookies for 6 minutes; allow them to cool on the parchment paper before removing them to cooling racks.

-Adapted from the Nestle Tollhouse Mint Chocolate Delight recipe

Nov 302011
 

While many people have Black Friday traditions that involve shopping and decorating, I prefer our tradition of a fairly lazy day, followed by a big family party in the evening.  We were asked to bring a dessert, and settled on these Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies from Smitten Kitchen.  (Yes, that’s two Smitten recipes within the span of 3 days.)

The dough was easy to put together, but must be refrigerated for at least 2 hours prior to baking.  You place the dough in a gallon size Ziploc bag, and then press it flat which eliminates the need for a rolling pin.  This was a neat trick!  And, it’s amazing how the texture of the dough changes in the refrigerator, making it easy to slice with a knife.  I don’t generally use a ruler for baking projects, but we had some confusion as to the correct dimensions for the shortbread squares.  Then there was confusion over whether the lines I cut were crooked.  You can decide.

 

 

As it turns out, the cookies that were irregularly shaped were just as good as the perfect squares.  I really liked this shortbread, and the small pieces were perfect to bring to a party.  The espresso flavor was fairly subtle, so I might try using stronger coffee next time.  The original recipe also suggests substituting toffee chips for the bittersweet chocolate.  Now that we know the tricks to making shortbread, I’ll have to try another version soon.