Countdown to Christmas: Holiday Cookies & Cocktails

Countdown to Christmas: Holiday Cookies & Cocktails

 

The holidays are here, and cookies and cocktails are the name of the game as we countdown to Christmas Day!  Check out my favorite recipes with a healthy dose of Yuletide cheer.

Our cookies give new meaning to “tree trimming”, and sparkle with Fancy Sprinkles.  Read On

I came up with a holiday punch idea for my next party: a coconut margarita punch that had me saying Mele Kalikimaka! Read On

These cookies are perfect when you’re looking for just a little something, as Doreen would say.  Pair with a spiked hot chocolate, vodka martini, or a big red wine like a spicy zin.  Read On

Moscow Mules aren’t just for summertime!  Try cranberries and rosemary for a holiday twist.  Read On

These ginger cookies are perfect to stack and pack and safely share.  Read On

Once you make these lovelies, just about any candy or specialty chips work in a batch!  Read On

A Trick for Your Treats: Pumpkin Spiced Melt-a-Ways

A Trick for Your Treats: Pumpkin Spiced Melt-a-Ways

Whether you’re socially distanced, staying at home, or just driving around the neighborhood, make the best of this Halloween weekend. And enjoy the treats of the seasons!

Click to skip to the recipe

 

If you are choosing a Halloween costume and moving on from your sweats and pj’s you may have turned a corner during this crazy 2020. Bawdy parades and close-quarter parties of the past may not be in vogue this year, but, hey masks are all the rage… right.

I’ve seen all sorts of socially distanced candy transfers and in-car Halloween parade plans. Some neighborhoods are allowing door-to-door tricking while others are suggesting at-home treats. 

I for one, feel the young moms out there need some sort of normalcy in the first holiday of this upcoming season. I hope you get it.

Whether you’re socially distanced, staying at home, or just driving around the neighborhood, I do have an easy, delicious treat for you and the kiddos

These simple cookies are easy to make, FUN to decorate, and easily packable for handing out. 

I use my favorite sources for these cookies. Fancy Sprinkles for the colors of the season and The Spice and Tea Exchange for flavored sugars

Make the best of this Halloween weekend. And enjoy the treats of the seasons!

 

Pumpkin Spiced Melt-a-Ways

These cookies are so much fun to make that you will want to make them for any and all occasions. Just vary the spices in the dough, the flavor of the sugar and the color of the sprinkles to make them your holiday go-to!

Ingredients

4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups cornstarch

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cloves

3 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature (that’s a whopping 12 sticks!)

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Sanding sugar (I used Apple Pie Spiced)

Fancy Halloween Sprinkles

Makes: 4 dozen 3-inch cookies

Time:   30-Minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a 2-inch ice cream scoop to portion out balls of dough. Place the balls onto the parchment paper about 3-inches apart. Use the tines of a fork to flatten the balls into circles. Sprinkle each cookie first with sugar and then with sprinkles. 

Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch and just beginning to turn golden on the bottom about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Put the Lime in the Coconut: Lazy Summer Biscotti

Put the Lime in the Coconut: Lazy Summer Biscotti

Take a tried and true biscotti recipe and switch things around to create a tantalizing summer treat, perfect for lazy Summer days that call for lemonade and lounging.  Click to skip to the recipe

Lime Coconut Biscotti

 

Do you remember that song by Harry Nilsson?

 

“Brother bought a coconut, he bought it for a dime

His sister had another one she paid it for the lime

She put the lime in the coconut, she drank ‘em bot’ up….”

 

Well, in these lazy days of summer, that song started whirling around in my head and hello….. a cookie was born. Now, you might think this a bit strange, but if you’ve been around me long enough, you’ll know that strange is the inspiration for much of my food!

I love biscotti as a mid-afternoon snack. I make myself a latte and dip the cookie right in the cup. But, on a warm summer day, sometimes a latte can be a bit much. So, I settle for an ice coffee or lemonade.

These drinks do not lend themselves to appropriate dipping.

So, I decided to summer-up my traditional biscotti.

I added a bit of cornmeal to the flour to give it an earthier flavor. Fresh lime juice, zest, and thyme bring in the Italian flavors that I associate with summer.

And then….Well, coconut is so tropical that I just had to throw some into the mix. Toasted pine nuts complement all the other flavors while adding richness and voila…a crisp, fully-flavored biscotti was born.

This is just another example of how you can take a tried and true recipe and switch things around to fit your mood. Give these biscotti a try and let’s see what you think.

“Put the lime in the coconut and call me in the morning…. woo….”

Lime Coconut Biscotti

These biscuit-like cookies are crisp, crunchy, and full of Italian flavors. They are the perfect afternoon snack with a glass of chilled lemonade or even better…. how about as a late-night snack with a flute of limoncello!

Ingredients

For cookies:

3 ounces pine nuts, about ½ cup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Zest of 2 limes, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 stick

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Juice of 2 limes, about 3 tablespoons, divided


For glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

Yields:   3 dozen biscuit cookies

Time:   60-minute cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Toast the pine nuts in a shallow skillet over medium heat until just golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Keep your eye on the pine nuts as once they are fragrant, they go from perfect to burnt in a nanosecond.

Place the granulated sugar, coconut flakes, lime zest, and thyme into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter with the flavored sugar. Mix in the eggs, vanilla, and two tablespoons of the lime juice. Stir in the flour. Add the pine nuts. Divide the dough into two halves, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Form each portion of dough into a log about 3-inches wide and 10 to 12-inches long. Place these onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until the logs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the dough from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°. When cooled, use a serrated knife to cut each log into ½-inch slices and lay cut-side-up on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet back into the oven and bake until the cookies are dry and just crisp, about another 30 minutes.

Whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, half-and-half, and vanilla until smooth. When the cookies have cooled, drizzle each one with the glaze.

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries (and Murder Hornets)

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries (and Murder Hornets)

From the pandemic to “Tiger King”, 2020 has been crazy.  I invite you to turn off the news and turn on your oven to make my BEST very berry cherry pie recipe and get back to the simple pleasures this summer.   Click to skip to the recipe

Bowl of cherries

 

Think about all of the crazy things that have happened in the first six months of 2020.

In a Super Bowl commercial, Mr. Peanut (Planters Nut’s mascot for, oh, maybe forever….) died. Prince Harry and his bride decided not to be royalty anymore while Hollywood royals, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson contracted COVID-19 and were quarantined in Australia. The rest of the world decided to lockdown as well and the audience for Netflix’s “Tiger King” was born. The Boy Scouts went broke. Murder Hornets swarmed Washington state. The Pentagon released UFO photographs, and no one even batted an eye.

Life is just a bowl of cherries….Right?

Well, it is if you are a fruit pie lover. That is, if you are a cherry and berry fruit pie lover.

Everyone needs a little break once in a while and mine came this week when I discovered a huge bag of dark red cherries in the produce section of the grocery store. I brought them home and pondered their delivery.

Will it be cherry ice cream, cherry chutney, cherry jam, cherry cobbler, or, hey, what about cherry pie?!

I did cheat by using one of the several refrigerated pie crusts that I had in the fridge. I’ve always had a bit of a problem getting the crust to hold the filling. Sometimes it’s just too soggy on the bottom. So, I thought I’d use a prepared crust and concentrate on the filling. Most recipes call for frozen cherries. These exude a lot of liquid when you simmer them, mostly from being frozen.

In order to use fresh cherries, I had to add liquid. Normally just a bit of water would do. But I happened to have a bit of berry sauce leftover and thought, well, why the heck not! I’m sure the murder hornets won’t mind.

Then I added a touch of vanilla. Something about cherry coke and vanilla coke just kind of enter my brain, and, well….BEST CHERRY PIE FILLING EVER!

The berry puree is easy and it’s the perfect thing to do with fruit that is getting a bit too ripe. This step is not as time-consuming as you might think and is definitely worth the effort.

In place of turning on the evening news this week, why not turn on your oven instead and make this yummy dessert? 

After all, life is just a bowl of cherries!

Very Berry Cherry Pie

Remember having a Vanilla Coke on a warm summer’s day? Well, take that memory and turn it into a summer fruit pie. Yes.…I did just that!

Ingredients

8 cups fresh pitted cherries

½ cup berry puree (see note)

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling

¼ cup corn starch

1 teaspoon vanilla

Refrigerated pie crust for two-crust pie

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons half and half

Serves:   6-8 people

Time:   20-minute cuisine plus baking

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the cherries into a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cherries begin to exude their juices, about five minutes. Stir in the berry puree and continue cooking until the cherries begin to breakdown, about 5 minutes more.

Mix together the sugar and the cornstarch. Stir this into the cherries. Stir in the vanilla. Stir and continue to cook until the cherries are sticky and slurpy, about 5 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Roll out one crust and fit into the bottom of a pie plate. Pour the cooled cherry filling into the pie crust. Dot with butter. Roll out the top crust and fit over the filling. Crimp together the edges and cut slits in the top. Brush the top crust with half and half and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until the pie is golden brown, and cherry filling peaks through the top crust, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Make-Ahead Berry Puree:

Place 4 cups berries and ½ cup granulated sugar into a deep saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat. Cook the berries until they break down and are soft and mushy. Cool to room temperature. Place a colander or fine sieve into a larger bowl. Push the berries through the colander, using a wooden spoon or potato masher. You want most of the pulp and seeds to stay in the colander. Transfer the puree in the bowl to a small pitcher.

When the Shelves Are Bare…We Bakers Turn Private Eye!

When the Shelves Are Bare…We Bakers Turn Private Eye!

 

After the Lysol, tp and hand sanitizers evaporated, certain food staples started to get sparse. I can understand milk and eggs vanishing, but I was somewhat surprised when bags of flour disappeared.

Then, the lightbulb went off. Flour makes bread. Baking bread is all about saving your sanity.

There is something about mixing, kneading, shaping and baking that says, “you’re home, you’re safe, life goes on.”

People who don’t even eat bread, are baking bread. So, bye, bye all-purpose flour! Just as I was thinking about converting to almond or coconut flour for my baking needs, an email from Carolina Ground popped into my mailbox, letting me know they are open and ready to ship!

Carolina Ground, in the Asheville, NC area is a mill that links the farmer, miller and baker. They use a cold stone milling method to grind locally grown grains into several varieties of flour. I ordered (you can too!). The flour shipped, and cookies were my first task.

And then…. as I was deep diving into my pantry, I found half a bag of King Arthur black cocoa. In the new normal and with so much time on my hands, I decided to experiment with my good-old chocolate chip cookie recipe, and modify it into a mucho decadent chocolatey, chocolate chip cookie. Boy did I knock it outta the (virtual) park.

Here’s the magic ingredient that makes ‘em so good: black cocoa and brewed coffee! Together, they bring out the dark chocolatiness of these cookies.

I used Carolina Ground’s Trinity Blend, which is a combination of hard wheat, soft wheat and wrens Abruzzi rye for the flour component. Yes, there’s a hint of orange in these cookies. Which also brings the chocolate flavor forward. It’s a mish-mosh of ingredients that just works!

You can substitute regular cocoa for dark cocoa powder if you like, but again, when you have the time on your hands to fill with baking, why not splurge a little and support our local farmers (and treat yourself) by purchasing from Carolina Ground?

BUT HERE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT “BITE” OF INFORMATION

Take half of the cookies and share them with someone that might not have the time to bake; someone spending their time protecting you and me!

Ridiculously Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

30 minute cuisine

2 cups flour (un-bleached all-purpose is fine)

½ cup black cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried orange zest

2 cups shortening (don’t judge!)

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

¼ cup brewed coffee

1 teaspoon orange flavoring

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 (12-ounce package) dark chocolate morsels, about 2 cups

Preheat the oven to 375°. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the shortening with the sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs, coffee and orange flavoring. Mix in the flour in three additions. Mix in the oats and then the chocolate chips.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a medium (about 2-inch) ice cream scoop to measure batter onto the sheet. Use your immaculately clean fingers to flatten the cookie dough balls into disks. Bake until the top of the cookies spring back when touched, about 12 to 14 minutes.

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons….. Make Lemon Curd!

When Life Gives You Lemons….. Make Lemon Curd!

If there is a Facebook Quiz that analyzes your personality traits and tells you what color you are, I would be YELLOW. It’s my favorite color. I love all things yellow; yellow blouses, yellow tulips, yellow dishes, yellow gift wrap, yellow lemons…… yellow everything! Yellow is so not brown. Yellow is not red hot. Yellow is not calmingly green. Yellow is not a sad shade of blue. Yellow is perky and optimistic and bright and personable and…. well… me!

So, while others were hording toilet tissue, I was hording sunflowers (for my kitchen vase), eggs (sunny side up of course), semolina flour (that’s for my brand new pizza oven) and lemons. Lots and lots of lemons. Sure, lemons are sour, which is why God gave us sugar!

The combination of egg yolks with the zest and juice of lemons, produces a custard with a consistency between pudding and jam. You can spread lemon curd on your English muffin, swirl it in the center of a pound cake, whip it into a mousse, transform it into ice cream or make lemon curd parfaits for a light, airy and bright spring dessert.

And that’s what I did here. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd Parfaits

with Strawberries and Mascarpone Cream

makes 6

30 minute cuisine, plus 20 minutes for biscuits

For lemon curd

3 large lemons, about 2 tablespoons zest and ½ cup juice

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ pound butter, room temperature, 1 stick

5 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon kosher salt

For berries

1 pint strawberries, stemmed and cut in half

For mascarpone cream

1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cream

¼ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

For biscuits

¾ cup buttermilk

1 egg

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup shortening

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Zest the lemons and place into a bowl with the sugar. Use a fork to combine. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the lemon-sugar, which you will need later when you assemble the parfaits. Pour the remaining lemon-sugar blend into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter and mix until creamy. Add the egg yolks, the juice from the lemons and the salt.

Heat water to a simmer in a pan (some bubbling, but not a mad boil). Place a heat proof bowl over the simmering water. You can use a double boiler for this. Pour the mixture into the bowl. Stir and simmer until the curd thickens, about 10 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, you can make sure your curd is plenty thick when it reaches 170°. Cool the curd and then transfer it to a jar or plastic container. You can refrigerate the curd for up to 2 weeks.

Place the strawberries into a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the reserved lemon-sugar. Stir and set aside. You can chill the berries for up to several days.

Place the mascarpone cheese, sour cream and vanilla into a small bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture together until smooth and creamy.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and ½ cup sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once or twice to mix together. Take off the lid of the machine. Pinch the shortening into small pieces on top of the flour mixture. Return the top to the machine. Pulse until the flour turns into coarse crumbs and begins to climb up the side of the bowl. With the machine running, slowly pour in the buttermilk/eggs. The dough will clump together and begin to wrap around the blade.

Dump the dough onto your floured work surface. It will be soft and sticky! Dust the top of the dough with additional flour. Use your hands to pat the dough down to about ½-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round biscuit cutter (or top of a glass) to cut 12 circles from the dough, reusing the scraps. Place the dough circles onto the baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits begin to rise and turn golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved lemon-sugar into the melted butter. Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush with the sugared butter. Cool to room temperature.

To assemble the parfaits, cut one biscuit in half. Break a biscuit half into pieces and place into the bottom of a glass (or container of your choice). Spoon some of the strawberries over the biscuit. Add a spoonful of mascarpone cream and a large spoonful of lemon curd. Repeat with the other half of the biscuit, strawberries, cream and curd. You can drizzle some of the sugared berry juice on the top. Place the remaining 6 biscuits into a resealable plastic bag. You can keep these in the fridge or freezer.