Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies

Sprinkles and colorful drizzle dress up any regular cookie and make it spectacular. These cute trees are fun to decorate and even more fun to eat. The buttery taste melts in your mouth like the best Southern cooking you've ever had. They're also triangle instead of a circle so it makes them a little unique. The recipe calls for candy melts as the drizzle, but white chocolate is a great substitute.

Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup green candy melts (See Kelly's Notes)
1 Tablespoon
vegetable oil
Assorted sprinkles

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 300ºF and grease two round 9-inch cake pans with butter. (If the pans are not non-stick, line them with greased parchment paper).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing just until combined.

Divide the dough evenly between the two greased pans and press it into an even layer. Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the shortbread is pale golden in the center and slightly darker around the edges.

Remove the shortbread from the oven and immediately invert the pans onto a cutting board. (If the shortbread won't release from the pan, use a sharp knife to cut around the edges.) Using a sharp knife, immediately cut each shortbread round into 8 wedges. It is important to cut the shortbread while it's still warm, otherwise it will crumble if you try to cut it after it has cooled.

Transfer the shortbread wedges to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Melt the candy melts with the vegetable oil in a microwave or double-boiler, stirring until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag or plastic bag, snip off the tip of the bag and then drizzle it onto the cookies. Immediately top the cookies with sprinkles and serve.

(Get the step-by-step tutorial at Just A Taste.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Main Dish Veggie Casserole #Vegan

This was supposed to be a lasagna, but I decided to make it with eggplant instead of noodles. No reason, I JUST DID, OKAY?

Humph.

SO ANYWAY, this recipe started out to be Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna with a Creamy Bechamel Sauce, from SPORK-FED, a cookbook by Emily and Zooey Deschanel.

And they are dirty, rotten liars, because the Bechamel Sauce was NOT creamy, it was watery and thin, even after I added more flour. But it tasted good, so I forgive them.

It was WAY more of a production than I EVER make. I don't know what I was thinkin'. Got the Christmas Crazies, I guess.

I peeled and sliced the eggplant, soaked it salted water for 30 minutes, drained it, laid it out on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and baked it at 350F for about 30 minutes. Some of it was still soft and some of it was scorchy. Baking it in the casserole softened it up, so, if I ever did this again (ha, ha, I fancy I see myself, meaning I WON'T), I would slice it into rounds rather than strips. The crunchy bits a broke off and nibbled before putting them into the casserole were quite nice, though.

Yeah, also cut the butternut squash and roasted that at 375F for an hour and THEN took out the seeds, which I am totally always going to do.
I also didn't think their filling was vegetably enough, since all they had was baby spinach. And I was doing baby spinach in something else, so I used kale instead, and a package of frozen roasted zucchini/carrot/onion mix.

The Squash Part
1 large butternut squash, roasted
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
6-to-8 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar (which I thought I had, but I didn't, so I used real maple syrup)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mash it all up.

The Non-Squash Veg Part
1 package frozen roasted veg
olive oil
chopped green onions
chopped kale

Cook it in a saucepan until the frozen veg are hot and the kale is wilted.

The Bechamel That Wouldn't Thicken
1/3 cup vegan margarine
1/3 cup flour
4 cups unflavored unsweetened almond or soymilk (I used almond)
1teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
dash freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Melt margarine. Stir in flour. Add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about three days, cursing steadily, then try adding five pounds more flour. Give up and use it anyway, even though it's runny.

Put It All Together
Spread a layer of runny bechamel on the bottom of a lasagna dish. This will be easy to do BECAUSE IT'S RUNNY. Add a layer of cooked lasagna noodles or, if you're me, a layer of baked eggplant. Add a layer of butternut squash, noodles, bechamel sauce. Add a layer of the veg mixture, noodles, bechamel, then -- oh, you get it: LAYER ALL THE THINGS, ending with "a thick layer of bechamel sauce," and good luck with that.
But it was DELICIOUS. Worth the trouble? Oh, HELL, no. But delicious, all the same.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 23, 2016

No Bake Holiday Cookie Ornaments

Start with a plain vanilla wafer and end with an edible, colorful ornament. These cookie ornaments are great for cookie swaps and crafting parties. Fruit Roll-Ups add a hint of fun. String licorice makes the loop for the ornament so you get all kinds of sweets packed in one festive cookie. Did we mention they are no bake because that could be the best thing about these cookies! They only take a few minutes to decorate and then can be right in your tummy.

No Bake Holiday Cookie Ornaments

Ingredients

20 vanilla wafer cookies
1 box Betty Crocker™ Fruit Roll-Ups® Blastin' Berry Hot Colors® chewy fruit flavored snacks 
20 (3-inch) pieces string licorice
Coarse sugar, if desired

Directions

1) Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or cooking parchment paper. Unroll and remove paper from Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups. Cut each in fourths.
2) Making a loop for ornament using string licorice, and attach to back side of cookie, securing under fruit snack as you wrap fruit snack around cookie. Decorate with sugar, or cut pieces from remaining fruit snack to decorate. Place on cookie sheet.

For expert tips and nutritional information, please look at the recipe on Betty Crocker's site by clicking on the link above.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Springerle Redux

Every year, I make springerle. Springerle is a German cookie flavored with anise. Now, normally, I detest anise, but I love these cookies! I also prefer soft, gooey cookies, and these are the polar opposite of soft and gooey, but I still love them!

Here's a link to the post on my blog whereon I detail how to make springerle. Part of the recipe involves covering the raw cookies loosely and letting them sit out to get stale before baking. That should give you some idea of how tooth-cracking they are when they're done.

WikiPedia image

But delicious!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 16, 2016

Peppermint Meringues

Peppermint meringues are great for celebrations because of their festive colors. A Southern cooking tradition, meringues are light and airy to follow a heavy meal. Crushed peppermint sprinkles the top of these cookies. These are also a great selection for a cookie swap for a healthier option.

Peppermint Meringues


Ingredients

2 egg whites 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar 
1/2 cup white sugar
2 peppermint candy canes, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line 2 cookie sheets with foil.
In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the cookies.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours in preheated oven. Meringues should be completely dry on the inside. Do not allow them to brown. Turn off oven. Keep oven door ajar, and let meringues sit in the oven until completely cool. Loosen from foil with metal spatula. Store loosely covered in cool dry place for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fiesta Bowl. Or Something. #Vegetarian

Every so often, Charlie says, "Let's have rice and black beans." So we do.

OF COURSE I can't leave it at that. So this happened.
Rice, black beans (seasoned with cumin), fiesta corn (corn with red and green peppers in), shredded cheese, salsa. We et it with corn chips, o' course. And muy tasty it was, too.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fruitcake Cookies

Christmas isn't complete without a fruitcake so these cookies are great! Pineapples and cherries give these cookies their unique flavor combined with a hint of brandy for that punch only a fruitcake can provide. A yummy drizzle covers these sweet treats so they taste nothing like your grandmother's hard fruitcake.

Fruitcake Cookies

Ingredients

1 3/4 c. cake flour, spooned and leveled, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 c. chopped toasted pecans
1/2 c. chopped pistachios
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided
1 c. finely chopped Maraschino cherries, well drained
1/4 c. finely chopped candied pineapple
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. brandy
1 to 2 tsp. milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together 1 ¼ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Toss pecans and pistachios with remaining ½ cup flour in a separate bowl.

Beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, beating until incorporated. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, beating just until incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in nuts (and any flour remaining in bowl), cherries, and pineapple until evenly incorporated. Scoop dough (about ½ tablespoon each), 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown around edges, 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on baking sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to the racks to cool completely.

Whisk together confectioners' sugar, brandy, remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon milk (add an additional teaspoon of milk if glaze is too thick). Drizzle over cooled cookies. Let sit, at room temperature, until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Little TOO Healthy, But Still Yum!

Long ago, I got hooked on crispy pea snacks. So, when I found these Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps at Seeds and Greens in New Albany, I grabbed a couple of bags.
Alas! "Lightly salted" is truth in advertising! These are just the way my husband likes them: baked, only minimally oily, and light on the salt. I like mine salty and oily. I like my snacks to be a minimum of fiber, basically a delivery system for salt and grease.

Nevertheless, these are pretty darned good. (I tried dipping them directly in vegan margarine, but that didn't do the trick.)

Recommended with the reservation that salt-and-grease fiends may be disappointed.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 2, 2016

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread is a traditional, fun cookie perfect for parties and family celebrations. These cookies can be decorated with any colors and in any style. The best part is all ages can participate in decorating the sweet confections. Dark molasses is the secret ingredient to perfect this cookie. String the cookies on wire for decoration around your home if you can resist the urge not to take a bite of each one.

Gingerbread People Holiday Cookie Projects: White Snowflakes, Dreidel Trios and Ornaments

Ingredients

Gingerbread:

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Royal Icing:

2 cups or more confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon egg white*
Decorating:
Raisins, as needed
White chocolate chips, as needed
Various food coloring
Various colors of sanding sugar

Equipment: Pastry bag fitted with small, round tip; cookie cutters in the shape of gingerbread men and women, dreidels, Christmas tree ornaments, and snowflakes; wire, string or yarn for stringing

Directions

Make the Gingerbread: In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and mix. Add the eggs and mix. Add the molasses and vanilla and mix.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together. Working in batches and mixing after each addition until just combined, add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture. Shape the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease 1 or 2 cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out 1/4-inch thick and cut out with desired cookie cutters.

To make the Royal Icing: In a mixer, blend the confectioners' sugar, milk, and egg white together. Add more sugar to get a pipe-able consistency.

To make Gingerbread Men and Women: Use gingerbread man and woman cookie cutters and cut out the cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. Decorate them with raisins and white chocolate chips for eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons down the front. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan.

Meanwhile, add some festive colors to your icing with food coloring and lay out colored sugars in small glass bowls with spoons. Using a pastry bag fitted with the smallest plain tip, pipe a few colorful borders or white borders and coat with sanding sugar. When set, add more lines of icing in white.

To make snowflakes: Use a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. If you plan to hang the cookies, use a toothpick to make holes in the cookies about 1/8-inch wide, keeping in mind that the holes will shrink as the cookies bake and puff up a bit. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan. Using only white icing and a pastry bag fitted with the smallest plain tip, pipe thin lines from the center of the cookie out to the points, like spokes of a wheel. Connect the spokes with thin lines between them, making a spiderweb effect to give it the look of a snowflake. Let the icing harden before threading the cookies onto wire, string, or yarn for hanging.

To make ornaments: Use any holiday-themed cookie cutter to cut out the cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. If you plan to hang the cookies, use a toothpick to make holes in the cookies about 1/8-inch wide, keeping in mind that the holes will shrink as the cookies bake and puff up a bit. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan. Meanwhile, color some of your icing in festive colors with food coloring, or use colored sugars. Using a pastry bag fitted with the smallest plain tip, pipe a few colorful borders and decorations on the cookies. When set, add more lines of icing in white. Let the icing harden before threading the cookies onto wire, string, or yarn for hanging.

To make dreidel trios: Use a dreidel cookie cutter and cut out 3 cookies. Lay 1 on a greased sheet pan. Fanning out at an angle, with the handles overlapping at the top, lay 2 more dreidels next to the first one (it will look like a paper-doll effect). The handle is now 3 layers thick; press on it gently to thin it slightly and make it larger. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps as needed.
If you plan to hang the cookies, use a toothpick to make a hole in the cookies about 1/8-inch wide, keeping in mind that the hole will shrink as the cookies bake and puff up a bit. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan. Color some of your icing blue with food coloring, or use blue colored sugar and white icing together. Using a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip, pipe Hebrew letters or stars of David on the cookies' faces. Let the icing harden before threading the cookies onto wire, string, or yarn for hanging.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gingerbread-holiday-cookie-white-snowflakes-dreidel-trios-ornaments-recipe.html#!?oc=linkback