Chewy Molasses Cookies

Last year I noted that my daughter knows me well; she gave me a subscription to Bon Appetit for Christmas.  And she did not disappoint this year either as I received a copy of Martha Stewart’s “Cookies” cookbook from her. Before I got dressed on Christmas morning, I already had a batch of Martha’s Chewy Molasses cookie dough in the fridge.

molasses cookie recipeThe dough must be refrigerated for a bit.  I ended up leaving it in the fridge for a few days and it was fine.

Roll the dough into balls and place them FAR apart on your cookie sheets.  Martha recommends 3″ apart and she is not exaggerating here.  I tried to cram a few too many balls on one sheet and ended up with one rather large molasses cookie.  I learned my lesson by the last cookie sheet and those came out quite well (read – individual).

I ran out of parchment paper during my Christmas baking and forgot to buy more.  I baked these on an ungreased cookie sheet.  They stuck a bit.  I would definitely recommend using parchment paper if you have it, or lightly greasing the cookie sheet if you don’t.

These taste amazing.  I would say,however, that these are more of an “adult” cookie.  They are not too sweet and have a bit of a bite to them.   Great texture too.

You can find the recipe here:

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/chewy-molasses-spice-cookies

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate crinkles are one of my favorite recipes for the holidays.  They are like little tiny brownies covered in snow.  Yum!  These are seriously good with a big glass of milk.

chocolate crinkles cookies

They are pretty for an assorted tray and also fill up a tin quite nicely as well.  This recipe makes multiple dozens (mine made about 4 dozen) and they cool quickly.  Another great thing about these is that they use oil and not butter.  When you’re running low on butter, these are a great cookie to make.

The recipe calls for using parchment paper lined trays.  If you don’t have parchment paper you can cook these on an ungreased cookie sheet.  The parchment paper does make them very easy to remove though and I would recommend using it if you have it on hand.

Chocolate Crinkles

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1 cup cocoa powder ( I love Saco but any nice cocoa will do)

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup oil

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

powdered sugar

This recipe really goes together just like a brownie recipe.  It can all be done by hand if you don’t want to mess with dirtying up your mixer :)

Mix the cocoa, granulated sugar and oil until well mixed.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture until the flour mix is well incorporated.

Wrap dough up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours – can go in overnight.

Roll the dough into balls (about the size of a small walnut – maybe 1″) and roll in powdered sugar.  Place on parchment lined trays, about 2″ apart.

Bake at 350degrees F  for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then allow to cool on a rack.

Eggnog Bread

The kids are home, the guests are in and we are in full-fledged baking mode around here.  Flour is flying and the aprons are on (and being put to good use I might add).

There’s something very comforting about a sweet bread.  Whether it’s for breakfast or for an afternoon snack with hot tea, a nice slice of sweet bread hits the spot.  Sweet breads are easy to make, freeze well and make great gifts.  So when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.

eggnog bread

Here are some things I would like to add to the recipe before you proceed:

The original recipe says that the rum extract is optional.  I disagree.

If you can find an affordable source, fresh nutmeg is FABULOUS!  It grates so easily and you just can’t beat the flavor.

Next time, I will double the glaze recipe.  I would like to have enough for the whole top covered in the glaze.

I did two loaves/recipes in the oven at once.  If you do that, turn the oven down a bit.  By the time mine were cooked in middle they were a bit overdone on the outside.

Eggnog Bread

adapted from recipe found at RecipeGirl.com

Sweet Bread
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup eggnog (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp rum extract

Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
2 to 3 tsp eggnog

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, eggnog, melted butter, vanilla, and rum extract, being careful not to “cook” the eggs with the heat from the melted butter.   Add egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy).

4. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf — it should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.

5. Prepare icing: Stir powdered sugar with a whisk or sift to break up any lumps.  Combine sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg. Stir in enough eggnog to reach drizzling consistency. Drizzle cooled loaf with icing. Grate a little bit of fresh nutmeg over the icing, then let icing set completely before wrapping loaf.

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Here is a recipe combo that I have been making for years, my favorite sugar cookie recipe with a wonderful sugar cookie glaze.  For all those years, I made these cookies but could not seem to find a nice glaze recipe – one that was easy, pretty and dried hard enough to allow the cookies to be stacked.  And then a friend brought some sugar cookies to a Christmas Cookie Exchange and I knew I had found my glaze.  My sugar cookie recipe is here and Jackie’s glaze is below – truly, a winning combination!

My Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe

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1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add dry mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk until it’s all incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out (about 1/8″).  Cut into desired shapes and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350degrees F for about 10 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned.  Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

Sugar Cookie Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

2 Tbsp. water

food coloring

Put powdered sugar in a bowl and run a whisk through it to remove any lumps.  Mix in corn syrup and water.  Add desired amount of food coloring to reach the color you want.  Stir this glaze often to keep the color distributed well.  Sprinkle with decorations while glaze is still wet.  Will dry to a hard finish after a bit.

You will need more than one “batch” of this for the sugar cookie recipe above.  I make one batch of this for each color of glaze that I want.  It usually takes about 3 batches of this glaze to cover my cookies.

Notes:

I use food coloring from a cake decorating supply store.  It is much more concentrated and will produce the beautiful colors of icing that you see on magazine covers at Christmas time.

To ice the cookies, I dip the top of the cookie into the top of the glaze, pull it out and let the glaze run off a bit.  Lay on a cooling rack to allow any additional glaze to run off.

Raspberry Ribbon Cookies

If you’re looking for a cookie recipe that will look gorgeous on a tray and will WOW! your friends (for both beauty and taste), this is your cookie.  I don’t believe I have ever taken these cookies to a party and brought any home.  I particularly love these because they all bake up on one tray in the oven. 

And if you don’t like raspberry preserves, I am sure these would also be wonderful with apricot preserves.

Some tips:

The dough does not spread out much on the tray.  If you use a large cookie sheet you can get all eight of the rolls onto one sheet and be done with it.

I use a wooden spoon handle to make the indentation.  Keep in mind that the indentation will rise a bit in baking.  Don’t be shy.

This does not use much jam at all – maybe 4 oz. at the most.

Raspberry Ribbon Cookies

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1 cup softened butter

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

Raspberry jam, jelly or preserves

Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp. almond extract

3 to 4 Tbsp. milk

In a mixing bowl beat the butter on medium/high for 30 seconds.  Add about 1/2 the flour, along with the sugar, vanilla, egg and salt.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Beat in the remaining flour, mixing until dough forms a ball.  Gather dough into a ball and knead slightly on counter (mine is sometimes crumbly at first – work it with your hands until it forms a nice ball of dough).

Divide the dough into eight equal portions.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 9″ rope, being careful to keep an even thickness throughout (so they’ll bake evenly).  Place the ropes on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2″ apart.

With the side of your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon, press a long groove down the center of your ropes.

Bake at 375degrees F for 10 minutes.  Remove tray from oven and spoon raspberry preserves/jam into the groove.  Bake about 5 minutes more, or until the edges just start to brown.

Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  While they’re cooling, prepare glaze by stirring all ingredients in a bowl.  You want the glaze to run off the spoon.

Using a large spatula, move the cookie logs onto a large cutting board (I use the back of a wooden one).  Drizzle glaze over the HOT cookies.  Cut logs into 1″ pieces.  Transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies | Virtual Cookie Exchange Recipe

This is the recipe for my most favorite Christmas Cookie ever… and it’s also my submission for the Virtual Cookie Exchange that we are sponsoring along with the Susanne from the Hillbilly Housewife site.

And I must say that I am sorry not to have a picture of my favorite cookies.  I made them on a busy day and snapped a few pictures.  If I posted my terrible pics you would never make these cookies as the pictures make them look like chocolate blobs…which they are so very NOT like.  They are delicious in every way and are a colorful addition to a Christmas Cookie tray.

So here is my submission for the Virtual Cookie Exchange…

Chocolate Thumbprints

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Cookie Ingredients

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

Filling Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 to 2 Tbsp. milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2-3 drops red food coloring

1/2 cup crushed peppermint hard candies

For the cookies:

Melt the chocolate and cool.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add vanilla, slat, melted chocolate and egg and mix.  Add flour and mix well.  Cover dough and chill at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375degrees.  Roll chilled dough into 1″ balls.  Using your thumb, press an indentation into the top.  Bake 8-10 minutes, or just until edges are set.  Cool on a rack.

Note: If the indentation comes out during baking, push it back in while cookies are still warm.

For the filling:

Cream butter and sugar.  Add the milk, vanilla and food coloring.  Mix well.  Fill the indentation of each cookie with 1/2 tsp. of filling and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies.

Notes:

If you really want a true red in the icing, stop at the local cake decorator’s supply store and buy the food coloring there.  It is much more concentrated.

The peppermint really makes this cookie.  If you want to make these cookies without messing with the peppermints you could sprinkle on Christmas decorations and flavor your icing with a bit of peppermint extract.

Shortbread Cookies

Is there anything better than shortbread cookies and a cup of hot tea? I think not.

shortbread_cookiesI had a Christmas party to go to last night and wanted to take a treat for one of my fellow book group members.  Each year we have a Christmas Party and exchange books.  Unfortunately, this year one of our members (and friend) has a child in the hospital so we all bought books, DVD’s and audio books to help the family pass the time they spend at the hospital.  I thought that shortbread and hot tea would sound like a sweet relief when you’re used to hospital fare.  And it keeps for a really long time… so that’s what I decided to make.

shortbread_doughballYou need a REALLY big bowl to make this dough in.  And use real butter.  This is not a recipe where you can substitute margarine.    Keep in mind that you’re going to have four sticks of butter and five cups of dry ingredients in the bowl – THINK BIG!

I processed the half the ingredients at a time in my food processor and that worked out just great.  I did knead the dough by hand afterwards.  I actually enjoy kneading dough and this is so easy to work with.

raw_shortbreadPress the dough into an ungreased pan.  The dimples and ridges that your fingers will leave will disappear as it bakes.  Prick the raw dough with a fork several times and then bake.

baked_shortbreadBake the shortbread until it begins to brown.  Be sure to cut it into squares while it’s still warm.

IMG_4321Here’s a terrible picture of the cutest tin I found at Target.  I lined it with waxed paper and filled it with the cookies.  I folded the wax paper down and then placed a few tea bags on top and sealed it up.  Yum!  This would make an awesome teacher’s gift too!

Shortbread

makes about 40 cookies  [print_link]

4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 pound of butter, cold (can use salted or unsalted)

In a food processor, cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  If you don’t have a food processor, let the butter soften slightly and cut it in with a tool you use for making pie crust.  (I do this part in two batches to make the work easier).

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until it’s smooth.

Press the dough into a 15X10 jelly roll pan (ungreased).  Prick the dough with a fork.

Bake at 325° for about 25-30 minutes, just until it starts to brown.

Be sure to cut into pieces while warm.  Remove to a cooling racking.

Cooking for a Crowd | Meals You Can Make Ahead

When it comes to entertaining, are you the kind of person who welcomes it or the kind who panics?  I must admit that I do both.  I love having large get-togethers but often panic during the planning stages.  Will there be enough food?  How do I know how much to make?  Will it be done on time?  All very valid questions and concerns.  My solution – cook as much of it ahead as I can.  Meals you can make ahead can be true lifesavers when it comes to cooking for a crowd.

We ended up having both sides of our family for Thanksgiving – one side on Thursday and the other side on Friday.  My husband and I both come from a large family so we had 20-30 guests for dinner, two days in a row.  Here’s how we accomplished the “feat”.

We had the traditional turkey dinner on Thursday.  My siblings will bring anything I request so I was sure to “farm out” anything that I could not make ahead.  I knew I could do the desserts ahead so I made those (pumpkin pie, pecan pie and a cheesecake).  I have a great make ahead mashed potato recipe that can go into the CrockPot so I did that.  Cranberry sauce (yes, my mother always cut the slices straight from the can so that’s what they all like!) and corn for the kids – easy peasy.   I toasted the bread cubes and chopped the veggies for the stuffing the day before so that was easy to assemble and bake.  I actually found a great recipe for make ahead gravy ( http://www.recipezaar.com/Turkey-Gravy-Make-Ahead-144146) and it turned out to be pretty good. And I did the turkey of course (one baked early, sliced and into fridge and the second done at dinner time).

chicken

And on Friday, I knew we would all have turkey on Thursday so I opted to do baked/roasted chicken pieces instead.  Again, I washed the chicken and seasoned it early.  The only thing I had to do right at dinner time was to peel and slice some apples for “baked” apples, which is actually done in the microwave and is totally hands off after it all goes in (very easy and doesn’t require room on top of the stove or in the oven).  I made a spinach salad ahead of time and the dressing was made early in the day too.  We had leftover pie and dessert from Thursday and my sister-in-law brought more dessert (just in case).  And another sister-in-law brought mac and cheese.  The chicken baked all afternoon and was easy to serve right out of the oven.

Planning ahead and cooking ahead is the only thing that saved me… well, that and family members who also supply food!  I am always on the lookout for recipes that I can make ahead.  We had two fabulously good home-cooked meals and we all kept our sanity in check.

Easy Appetizer Recipe

Here’s a cheeseball recipe that I thought I’d pass along.  It has some unusual combinations – namely strawberry preserves.  But we’re going to give it a try soon(see edit below).  Let me know if you make it and what you think!

cheeseball_appetizer

Edited later – I made this for a party last night and it is sooo good!  Be sure to use the strawberry preserves as that really makes this appetizer over the top!

What will really encourage me to make this appetizer again (other than the fact that it’s really good) is it looks so darned perfect in this cute little plate I found at an auction.  The plate’s been in my stash for years and I have never used it.  But I think you’ll agree that this little plate was MADE for this appetizer!

By the way, I made half the appetizer/cheeseball recipe and that amount is what is shown in my picture.

Easiest and Tastiest Cheese ball EVER!! (from http://beautyandbedlam.com/)

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(We are not huge mayo fans, but this mixture is so good it will become one of your favorites as well.

  • 1 Pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 small onion grated
  • Dash salt
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Strawberry preserves
  • Combine and refrigerate. May need to add more mayonnaise based on preference. One hour prior to serving form into a ring.

    Place strawberry preserves in middle. This is a MUST! For two years, I was served this cheese ball and refused to dip my cracker into  the strawberry preserves. I had never tried that mix of flavors up North, but wow,  I was missing it. It is an absolute favorite and even has passed the “kid” test. I drizzle the strawberry jam right on the cheeseball for my own family, but serve it separately in the middle for guests. And this photo is strategically up close since the other half of the ring has been devoured

    Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie

    Wondering what to do with that leftover turkey?  There’s nothing better than a homemade chicken (or turkey) pot pie. Especially when you have leftover turkey that is already cooked!

    finished pot pie

    The kids were home from college for the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend and this is one dish that my oldest always requests.  You can add whatever vegetables your family likes… or whatever you might have.  In our case, I had a bag of frozen peas and carrots so that’s what I used.  I usually  use a bag of mixed vegetables but peas and carrots sounded much better than a drive to the grocery store.

    It starts off with making a very simple “gravy” type sauce, into which you eventually add some frozen veggies.  The sauce goes together quite easily and I have never had any problems with it.  Should I dare to say it’s fool proof???

    chicken pot pieInto a casserole dish it goes.   Top with a homemade crust, a store bought pie crust, Bisquick or even a can of biscuits.  I just made up a Crisco pie dough (recipe for double crust).

    crust shot

    There’s truly no better way to eat leftover turkey!

    Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie

    (based on recipe from Better Homes and Gardens “New Cook Book”, 1988?) [print_link]

    10 oz. frozen vegetables peas and carrots or any mixture you like)

    1/2 cup chopped onion

    1/2 cup fresh mushrooms

    1/4 cup butter or margarine (I use butter)

    1/3 cup flour

    1/2 tsp. salt

    1/4 tsp. dried sage

    1/8 tsp. pepper

    2 cups water

    3/4 cup milk

    1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon granules

    3 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey

    pastry for top (your favorite double crust recipe)

    Cook frozen veggies according to package directions and drain.  In a saucepan, melt butter and saute onion and mushroom until tender.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Add water, milk and chicken bouillon granules all at once.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Add drained veggies and chicken/turkey to pot.  Turn mixture out into a large casserole dish (or individual casseroles).

    Roll pastry dough into a rectangle to fit your pan (recipe calls for 13X9).  Place over top of casserole and cut slits to allow steam to escape.

    Bake at 450° for about 10-15 minutes, or until crust is browning and mixture is bubbly.