Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Years

Doing a few links that might come in handy for New Years Eve and New Years Day...

Martha Stewart's Printable Checklist on How to Stock a Bar (if for some reason it loads to the first slide - it is slide 3 that has the how to to stock a bar check list)

Martha Stewart Holiday Dips and Spreads - most of them look fairly easy to me. Some that I would like to try: Cheese Ball 3 Ways, Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread and Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut

Martha Stewart Quick Appetizer Recipes - just too many to name that I would like to try or that I think are super easy. Some that look very pretty for being would look pretty on a tray for a party.

Food and Wine's Party Dips
- It is a slideshow that goes as soon as you open it. I paused it and went through it at my speed. Quite a few I would love to try and bring to a party...just a few favorites to share...Guacamole with Charred JalapeƱo and Scallions, Deviled Egg Spread, Potato Crisps with Chive–Sour Cream Dip and Warm Piquillo and Crab Dip

Food and Wine's Value Champagne

Epicurious has a How to Plan a Cocktail Party - I am linking to the part on setting up the bar. Has an equipment list and just a how to set it up that makes sense for a party.

Martha Stewart's New Years Party Crafts

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables

With produce being out of season and prices skyrocketing, it's important that I buy it right the first time- and store it properly.

I still consider myself a kitchen "n00b", and it's not unusual to find myself standing in the midst of the produce section at the grocery store, utterly confused by the bins and bins of similiar items.

There's nothing worse than having spent hours preparing a meal only to find that that particular type of potato was too mealy for that casserole. Or that apple was too tart for applesauce, and you've had to add more sugar than apples.

The Cook's Thesaurus is my savior. Especially the sections on apples and potatoes.

This website is packed with a variety of produce information.

This site gives terrific hints on how to tell if produce is fresh. Here's another with fresh produce buying and storing tips.

This site has a table, about mid-page, on what not to store together, and what will spoil the fastest.

20 frugal tips for buying produce.

Now that we have all those fruits and vegetables, what do we do with them?

This recipe has become a family favorite. I double it to fill my 6 quart slow cooker and I rarely have leftovers. Plus, it's so good on a chilly winter evening. It definitely fits the bill for "comfort food".

I got this one from Mandy, a contributer here. :)

Hamburger Heaven

16-oz. Ground beef.
2 cups diced raw potatoes
1 ½ cups sliced carrots
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1 10-oz can tomato soup
½ cup water
1 tsp parsley

Brown meat and onions. In a slow cooker sprayed with Pam, combine meat mixture, potatoes, carrots, celery, peas and corn. Stir in tomato soup and water and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. I add in a generous sprinkle of garlic powder, and serve it with cheddar-garlic biscuits.

(If you use lean meat and Healthy Request tomato soup, this recipe is 1 point per serving for Weight Watchers.)

Finish with a fruit salad like this one for dessert, and we've had a healthy meal and used up lots of produce.

Over the Rainbow Fresh Fruit Salad

3 cups mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
2 cups seedless grapes (red or green)
2 crisp sweet apples
3 peaches, nectarines or 6 apricots
2 bananas, sliced thin
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 Valencia oranges)
Nutmeg (optional)

Chop fruit and mix gently in large bowl. Pour fresh orange juice over fruit, stir and refrigerate. Serve with dash of nutmeg.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After the Holidays....Storage Tips

* Store display items together - Such you have a holiday village you put out? Pack them all together so that you aren't going through 5 different boxes just to get that village scene out and up next year. All garland, ornaments and lights for the tree should be stored together. All the decorations that go to a specific room or area packed together such as all the guest bathroom decorations are packed together.

* Save boxes - I am one of those people that can't stand to save boxes normally. But for holiday items it can come in handy. Do you have a nativity scene with small pieces? Having a box that they fit in perfectly with the other pieces help keep them safe as well as together. Some ornaments are similar - just fit really well into their original box.

* Label everything - There is a piece of garland I hang in our dining room that just fits. I put that in one of those big big ziplocks and labeled it. Label plastic tubs that have tree decorations or the decorations for the kitchen and so on.

* Holiday Lights - Use a piece of cardboard, a paper towel or gift wrap tubing (cut down) or the original box to wind the lights around. I wind the lights around the whole box and then tuck the ends into the inside of the box. (pictures will come in a few days as a tip on it's own)

* Tool Kit - I have floral wire that I only use for my holiday wreath, thin ribbon that I use to attach Christmas tree ornaments, ornament hooks, spare lights and fuses - all in a little plastic pencil box that gets labeled and also stored with holiday items.

* Storage and Planning for next year - Right now everything fits perfectly into the tubs I have - there can't be one more thing bought. So I need to start thinking of how I will need to store things differently next year as I am sure I will have more holiday decorations. Are there things I can get rid of now? Donate? Repurpose for another holiday? Maybe I want to use the new wreath I bought so the old one can be maybe recycled/recreated for another holiday.

* Time to Save on purchases for next year - After-holiday sales are a great way to save on greeting cards, wrapping paper, decorations, ornaments, lights and storage solutions. Check what you might need a few days before Christmas and make a list of things want to purchase.

* Create a holiday planning book - write down recipes, menus, treats made, decorating things that worked and didn't work, guest and gift lists, what you would like to do next year, measurements that are important - such as you might need a new table cloth next year so write down the size you need while looking for after-holiday sales or any other useful information. Did a certain brand of cranberries work better in your cranberry salad this year? Did you run short on cider? What was a hit on the menu? Did the table centerpiece looks better this year then it ever has? Make a notes and include pictures or anything else that might be helpful. Such as I used Yukon gold potatoes last year so included the tag from the potatoes so I know which brand I used.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Muffins

We are going to be out of town for Christmas this year or otherwise I would be making these muffins on Christmas morning. Last year I made them on the 24th because I wasn't sure how they would turn out but they were a hit! They smelled so good baking and tasted even better!

Gingerbread Muffins
Makes 8 Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all-spice
1/4 tsp ginger
3 tbsp cooking oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line with paper baking cups or spray with cooking oil eight muffin cups. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together oil and brown sugar. When blended add molasses, milk, egg and vanilla. Mix until blended. Add flour mixture and mix until blended. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center. If desired sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm or cool.

Monday, December 21, 2009

This and That

I have had a few people write and ask what almond bark is so I took a picture of the kind I use...

I know each store carries it's a different brand. But look for Vanilla Flavored Coating or Vanilla Flavored Candy Coating. Ask clerks in the store too - this time of year they usually know exactly where it is or if they have any left. Our Safeway usually has a special baking display right as you walk in and they almost always have some of it there. But usually I find it in Wal-Mart by chocolate chips and Baker's Baking Chocolate.


I got a notice in my inbox Amazon is doing $5.00 Magazine Subscriptions again - only of course on select ones but it would be a great last minute gift or stocking stuffer.

Finally a few links for creating your holiday table....

BHG - Set a Stylish Tables

Martha Stewart Christmas Table

Martha Stewart Centerpieces and More (had some cute place setting card ideas)

Real Simple 35 Easy Elegant Recipes for Christmas Dinner

Holiday Tipping Check List

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Getting Grease Stains Out

surrenderedsoul shares a tip that comes in handy during Hanukkah and the holidays. Thank you!!

If your family is anything like mine, then when frying anything a mess is made! I have found over the years the following to hold true in order to get grease stains out of clothing or off of the ceiling. (splatter is a horrible thing!)

To get grease stains out of clothing:

Step 1: Use a papertowel and dab the area to remove as much grease as possible, for freshly stained items. Dab the material on both sides of the garment.

Step 2: Choose a cleaning product. There are two cleaning products which remove grease stains. They are Ivory bar soap or any kind of dishwashing liquid that is made for grease, such as Dawn. If you are using the bar of soap take the soap and wet it slightly. Take the soap and rub it across the stained area and allow it to sit for about five minutes. If you are using the dishwashing liquid, squirt some onto the stain and lightly work the liquid into the stain using your fingertip.
Step 3:Place the item into warm water after using the cleaning product. Allow it to soak about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the stain. After soaking, place the garment into the washer and wash as normal.

Step 4:After washing check the garment for the stain. If the stain is still present repeat steps 2 and 3. If the stain is gone dry normally

To get grease stains off of the ceiling: Magic Eraser works wonders! I cannot say enough good things about this product. OxiClean also works, but I have found sometimes that OxiClean will alter the color of the paint, so unless you are using a true white paint on the walls, I would suggest the Magic Eraser instead.

Hope your Latkes & Jelly Donuts turn out well! Happy Frying.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Favorites

Alton Brown's Hot Cocoa Mix
I don't know about anyone else, but a monthlong streak of rainy, chilly weather has me craving some warm drinks by the fire. Alton's recipe is super rich and super comforting- and the cayenne pepper is just the right touch!

This also makes great last minute gifts for other cocoa lovers. If you gift it, be sure to add...

Smitten Kitchen's Homemade Marshmallows
I'm not even a marshmallow person but this recipe may convert me! Although part of me just wants to make a batch, not let it set, and just make Rice Krispie Treats.

Make your own mulling spices
Because I don't always want to spend $10-15 on mulling spices from the local foodie store. Whether you mull wine, or cider... the house smells A-Mazing when you have something mulling on the stove. This recipe is simple, the site offers gifting ideas (including printable premade tags with instructions!) and best of all: it has a Mulling Spice Calculation Worksheet in case you need to make a smaller amount.

Almond Biscotti
Another recipe I've been craving since my hot beverage intake is on the rise. It also looks like it would make an excellent gift for a friend of mine, presented with a bag of dark rich coffee beans or exotic tea.

Epicurious Guide to Entertaining (featuring Clinton Kelly)
Granted... I'm a little biased here. One of my fantasies entails a week of shopping, lunches and fabulous parties with Tim Gunn and Clinton Kelly. So that alone would make this link worthwhile (for me). But I know not everyone crushes on fabulous stylish 'lifestyle gurus'... but the videos themselves are pretty good. In the "cocktail party/home bar" video, he talks about different ways to offer beverages for small or large parties, including using recipe cards for guests to make their own drinks, or serving a signature cocktail so it's easy to have made ahead in batches, and how to calculate how much to plan (ice, booze) per guest. Pretty fun, fast paced videos to watch, and some handy little hors d'oeuvres recipes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cookies-n-Cream Bark

I have made a lot of candy (to many to name) and popcorn (butterscotch, chocolate peanut and zesty parmesan)the last 2 days.

The easiest candy recipe I have made is Cookies-n-Cream Bark. It looks pretty in jar as a gift too. Which is what is happening to most of the bark I made - even though I believe someone in this house would like it to stay of course some of it will for him.

1 pkg. (6 squares) White Chocolate, melted (not almond bark or white chips - white chocolate - I use Baker's White Chocolate)
10 Oreo Cookies, crumbled, divided 5 for the semi-sweet chocolate and 5 for the white chocolate (generic brand of sandwich cookies that are like Oreos work fine too)
1 pkg. (8 squares) Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted (I use Baker's)

Stir 1/2 the crumbled cookies into the melted white chocolate and the other half into the melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate mixtures onto waxed paper-covered baking sheet, alternating colors of chocolates. Spread and swirl with knife.

Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces and it is ready to munch on!

I melt the chocolate in the microwave. I start at about 40 seconds and then stir and do another 30 to 40 seconds and stir again. And then usually it only takes one more time and it is melted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homemade Jelly Dougnuts

surrenderedsoul reflects on the meaning of Hanukkah, her own family's celebration, and a recipe for Jelly Doughnuts that sound very yummy! Thank you!!

One of the beautiful things about the celebration of Hanukkah (or Chanukah if you prefer) being 8 days and nights long, is it allows you time to focus on family and family activities. Or if you are without a family of your own it allows you to take the time out of every day life to do something different.

Many of those that I know who celebrate this holiday enjoy taking time to make homemade jelly donuts. A tried and true recipe that I have used over the years (as have others that I know) is below:

Jelly Doughnuts

Prep Time:3 hrs
Cook Time: approximately 1 hr
Serves: 12 servings.

4 to 4 1/2 cup white bread flour, plus more for dusting (you can use wheat flour but I have found it makes the donuts VERY heavy)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 ounce (.6 ounce) cake fresh yeast or 1 envelope dry active yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup lukewarm milk (room temperature milk works fine as well)
2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (it is important for the melted butter to be cooled before using)
1/2 cup preserves of choice (our family favorite is raspberry preserves, but any flavor you like will work)
Vegetable oil, for frying
Cinnamon and sugar, for rolling doughnuts

In the bowl of a mixer, combine 4 cups flour and salt. Add the yeast. In a small bowl, combine the milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add with the remaining milk to the flour. (If using dry yeast, mix the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the milk and 2 tablespoons sugar and let sit until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes and add to the flour.)

Add the eggs and butter to the flour mixture. Begin to mix the ingredients into a soft, but not sticky, dough.

Add a little extra milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Work in extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (You can do this in a mixer fitted with a dough hook.) Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Punch down the risen dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few seconds. With a lightly floured rolling pin, gradually roll out the dough to about 1/2-inch thick. When rolling dough, let it rest periodically to relax. Cut out into 3 to 4-inch rounds with a lightly floured biscuit cutter. Re-roll the scraps to make more rounds. Place the doughnuts on lightly floured baking sheets, spacing them apart, and cover lightly with a dry towel. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the risen doughnuts to a heavy pot filled 3-inches high with vegetable oil at 350 degrees F. Fry the
doughnuts, a few at a time, until golden and puffed, turning frequently, 5 to 7 minutes.

Lift the doughnuts from the oil using a slotted spoon and roll on a plate lined with granulated sugar and
cinnamon mixed together. Let cool slightly.

fill a pastry bag, fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip with jelly preserves. Insert the tip into the end of each doughnut and pipe approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons preserves into them and serve.

** side note ** it is of course easier to buy bakery fresh jelly donuts, but making them homemade at this holiday has a few benefits. The first is the joy of sharing this baking time with your loved ones. It's fun for kids to help out (well not with the frying part). It also serves as a remembrance of the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days & nights when there was only enough oil for 1 day & night. and it makes the whole house smell yummy.

Kitchen Essentials

Build your own Smitten Kitchen: A Practical Gift Guide
An outstanding list of essential kitchen items Deb's compiled, that make your life easier, everyday. Excellent list to consider for gifts this year.

In her words: "My interest is in items that are practical, well-constructed, clever enough to multitask, pretty enough to move from kitchen to table, and — look, this is just my personal schtick as I fear things that melt close to temperatures I routinely use when cooking — involve as little plastic and silicone as possible."

And while you're there, check out her gift worthy section of amazing recipes.

I originally had my eye on the Coffee Toffee, but now I'm drooling over the salted chocolate caramels...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Clothes Pin Magnets

Want a quick, fun, easy stocking stuffer? Clothes Pin Magnets. I made these last year and stuck them in almost every stocking and package last year.

I bought a package of clothes pins at the dollar store (36 in a package). I painted them with a foam bush using the cheapest acrylic paint. They did dry very quickly because I didn't put the pain on thick - just almost a thin wash of it on the clothes pin. Once dry I took rubber stamps to stamp them with images. It didn't matter if the image fit or not...them running off the edge worked still. And then I attached a magnet to the back.

They would be cute too if you stamped names on them or to-do, urgent, read and so on them for an office or teacher. Michael's sells tiny alphabet stamps for $1 that work well on them.

Out of Control

Well I am up at 3am because there are not enough hours in the day for me right now. I think we all go through those times where things just aren't going smoothly. And you have so much on your plate you don't know where to start.

That is where I am at right now. Last year I was ahead in all my holiday prep....this year a string of events happened that cause me to get so behind that I have to basically make up 3 weeks of work in one. We haven't even got our tree up yet which is unusual.

Just posting this to let you know I may love all things domestic but I fall behind and don't do a good job at always juggling all my priorities. And so sometimes I have to do things like stay up until 3am.

What do you do when you have too much to do? How do you stay organized to get it all done?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cardamom Cut-Out Cookies

This recipe is orginally from Epicurious. But I made a few changes. This cookie not only looks good, it smells good and tastes just amazing with the espresso, bittersweet chocolate and cardamom. When people see this cookie - even before tasting it - they are asking for the recipe. It is by far my most requested recipe.

For cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For espresso and chocolate icings
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted

Make cookies:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Form dough into 2 balls each on its own sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap and chill the dough until slightly firm, about 1 hour. After chilling, I remove the first ball of dough. Roll out and cut out with holiday cookie cutters.

Put oven racks in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

Arranged about 1 inch apart (chill remaining dough, wrapped in plastic wrap).

Bake cookies, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes total. Cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.

Ice cookies:
Whisk together espresso powder, vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk until espresso powder is dissolved, then add confectioners sugar and enough additional milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Drizzle the espresso glaze over the cookies.

Melt chocolate and then drizzle over cookies.

Let cookies stand on racks until icing sets, about 2 hours.

• Dough can be chilled 5 days or frozen, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until ready to roll out).
• Cookies (with or without icing) keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

Makes about 6 dozen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Traditions of Hanukkah (latke recipe)

surrenderedsoul reflects on the meaning of Hanukkah, her own family's celebration, and a recipe for a traditional favorite: potato latkes. Thank you!!

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah lasts for 8 days and 8 nights. This year it starts at sundown on Friday December 11th and ends at sundown on Sunday December 19th. For each night of Hanukkah (can also be spelled Chanukah), we light one candle on the menorah to symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted in the temple for 8 days when there was only enough oil to last for one day.

In the United States, Hanukkah has become a very large gift giving holiday. Through out most of the rest of the world, Hanukkah is not a gift giving holiday, but a smaller celebration of the remembrance of the miracle of the oil and the destruction and subsequent clean up of the temple many many years ago.

In the United States, many families enjoy Hanukkah gatherings that include traditional foods such as latkes and jelly donuts. Jelly donuts are one of the symbolic foods because they use the oil to fry the donut, and also symbolize a sweet holiday season. Also many families exchange gifts, usually one for each night of the holiday.

In my family growing up, we always had a very large Hanukkah party on the last night of Hanukkah. We would celebrate nightly with our immediate family and my mom would always make foods like latkes, kugels, jelly donuts, brisket, and other assorted yummy items. then on the last night we would gather with all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends, and have a large feast and exchange even more presents.

But a favorite thing to do on Hanukkah was play the dreidel game and sing songs. It was just a festive time to be happy and enjoy the company of family & friends.

Below is a recipe for potato latkes. I hope you enjoy them.

  • 12 medium potatoes, peeled & washed.
  • 2 medium onions (I prefer Vidalia onions)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup matzah meal (you can use flour instead if you wish)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil (for frying)

Shred the potatoes and onion into a large bowl. Press out all excess liquid.(if using a food processor, use the chopping blade for 2 or 3 seconds after pressing out liquid to avoid stringy fly-aways). Add eggs and mix well. Add matzah meal gradually while mixing until the batter is doughy, not too dry. (you may not need the whole amount, depending on how well you drained the veggies). Add the baking powder, salt and pepper and mix well. (don't taste the batter -- it's really gross!). Don't worry if the batter turns a little orange; that will go away when it fries.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil to medium-high heat. Form the batter into thin patties about the size of your palm. Fry batter in oil. Be patient: this takes time, and too much flipping will burn the outside without cooking the inside. Flip when the bottom is golden brown.

Place finished latkes on paper towels to drain. Eat hot with sour cream or applesauce.

Sanna's Gingerbread

Wouldn't you know that as soon as I mention that my oven is broken, one of my evil friends taunts me with a recipe.

Though I haven't tried it (yet), I'm sharing it here because it's perfect for the holidays. Also because I'm going to need help with it and all of you Domestic Goddesses can do that!

First she warns: They're not healthy. No way. They're yummy, fatty, time consuming and comfortfood - did I mention yummy? (Those are my favorite recipes, dontchaknow.)


Here is Sanna's Gingerbread:

2½ sticks of butter, assuming they're 4oz each. (Use REAL butter, real dairy butter, no less than 75% fat!)
1 cup of dairy cream, 40% fat
10oz white sugar
4oz brown sugar
5oz sugar beet molasses (there's usually white, light and dark - look for the light or dark one)
2 tbs ground ginger
2 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs ground cloves
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tbs baking soda (bicarb)
2.5-3 lbs all purpose flour, unbleached

Add the spices, minus bicarb, to a pot (if one likes gingerbread to be a bit stronger, 3tbs of spice is prolly better). Heat the pot for about two minutes. Add butter, so that it melts. Add molasses straight to pot.
Mix the sugars in a big bowl of some sort. Whip the cream smooth in another bowl. Take a third (YES!) bowl and add 2 lbs of flour and the bicarb.

Pour the melted butter-spices-molasses mix in the bowl with sugar. Add about half of the flour. Add the whipped cream. Add the rest of the flour.
Now add more flour if needed. The dough shouldn't stick to your fingers, be soft but still firm enough to knead.

Cut in four pieces. Curse over the grease getting everywhere. Wrap pieces in plastic, put two in the fridge and two in the freezer. The freezer ones are
so that you won't need to make more dough once you run out of cookies. Let it rest for several hours or even days. The dough in the fridge will keep at least 14 days. Bake out when you've got the time.

Take HALF of one wrapped piece of dough and wrap the rest again. Put it back in the fridge. Quickly do your thing with the cookie cutters and stuff, before the dough melts on you. Add more flour if needed. They should be about 1cm (uuuh... just under ½ inch) thick before going into the oven. Add cookies onto a bakingplate on bakingplate paper.

Bake in the middle of the oven at about 300F, for 7-10 minutes depending on how you like them. Get them off the paper and set to dry on a rack. Store in large tins. Protect them from children, who will devour them before supper.

The recipe should give you about 200-300 cookies, btw. ;) Enjoy!

Merry Christmas


She and I then discussed the "sugar beet molasses", which is something I'd never heard of. I've found that sometimes trying to share recipes with people who live in other countries, the language barrier can be a stickler.

Though she did a terrific job changing the measurements for me. I'm only slightly confuddled having to calculate oz and lbs to cups. ;-)

Anyway, here's what she said about the molasses: I checked it on Wikipedia, and I was wrong about it being molasses. I'm quite sure you can use your regular gingerbread molasses, but the stuff I'm using is called Golden Syrup in the US. It may be hard to find in the US outside of Louisiana, apparently. Do your best, otherwise turn to molasses and adjust the recipe accordingly.

Now, I've never heard of gingerbread molasses either. In fact, I've never cooked with or used molasses ever. Do we have any molasses experts reading along? Can anyone shed some light upon what that ingredient would be in the states?

Another question would be to verify if the "40% fat dairy cream" is heavy whipping cream? Or is it milk? I'm assuming it's heavy cream but again with that language barrier. I want to be sure.

And lastly-- 200 to 300 cookies! Holy Cookie Abundance! Any ideas on if the recipe would work just as well being halved?

I can't wait to try this!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Favorites

With Chanukah now upon us (December 11-19, 2009), surrenderedsoul is sharing her Friday favorites. Thank you!!
This site is great for historical information on Chanukah, as well as fun things like songs, recipes etc. It showcases some videos as well. But it isn't just a great site for Chanukah but for all things Jewish. It breaks all the holidays down into different sections and is a wealth of information.

This site is a bit more religious in it's design and information but is a good source of knowledge for Chanukah facts, Jewish Law, and over all discussions about this holiday and all things Jewish. it even has a section where you can ask a Rabbi any questions you might have that have gone unanswered.
If you are looking for a website to send religious gifts pertaining to Chanukah or other Jewish holidays, this site is helpful. They have some keepsake items for sale, as well as practical items such as kiddush cups, Challah Boards, and Mezuzahs. A little on the pricey side, but their quality is good and customer service is excellent when needing to return an item.
If you are in need of a website to explain Chanukah to children and a place where they can learn while having fun playing games about Chanukah, then this is the site for you. Even my 23 month old daughter enjoys going to this site because the characters are cute. It would also be great for children ages 3 to 10 who can work more independently.

My Jewish
This site is nice in that if you provide them your email address they will email you a new recipe weekly for your favorite Jewish recipes. As it gets closer to each Jewish holiday the recipes pertain to that holiday. Over the years I have gotten some really great recipes from this site. But what I like most about it is that you just sign up and they do the rest. I don't have to search for anything or try and think up a new dish to make. It is provided for me via email and I just have to open, read, shop, and cook.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies

I guess Nieman Marcus has a Christmas cookie that has peppermint bark in them. I have never had them but heard about them so thought why can't I make my favorite Chocolate Chip cookie recipe and add my own homemade peppermint bark. And here they are....

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peppermint bark - broken up into fairly small pieces (homemade recipe below but store bought is fine too)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In one bowl, whisk flour and baking soda and set aside. In a larger bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Blend in the pudding mix until smooth, then the vanilla and eggs. Slowly work the flour mixture in. Finally, add chocolate chips and peppermint bark.

Make them into little balls and drop them onto your cookie sheet (or just spoon drop on to cookie sheet). You can flatten them a little, because these don't spread very much. But I really like puffy cookies so I don't flatten many of them. Even flattening them though they still make pretty rounded cookies. They keep their size and shape really well. Bake for 12-14 minute

Peppermint Bark
2 lbs. white almond bark (1 package - I think that is 2 lbs)
1 1/2 c. crushed peppermint candy

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper (I use a jelly roll pan). Break and cut bark into smaller pieces and place in 2 quart bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir and then microwave 2 to 1 minute(s). Stir every 1 to 2 minutes and repeat process until pieces are completely melted. Crush either peppermint candy canes or peppermint hard candy in blender until in very small pieces or close to a powder. Mix hard crushed candy with melted white almond bark. Spread on lined cookie sheet. Let it harden and break into pieces. I break some in small pieces for the cookies and the rest in larger pieces to serve as candy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gift Idea - Handmade Calendar

One year I made a calendar for some friends. This took a while but it could have been simplified by doing just a single image - such as stenciling a trio of leaves on a piece of tweed fabric, cutting them out and gluing them down on the card stock for November. Really this idea could be implemented in so many different ways - using photos, paints, rubber stamps, fabric, quotes, scrapbook supplies, the computer (such as photoshop) or whatever you have around your house. I used card stock as the base and then just let my imagination go. After I was done, I just used a binder clip to hold them together and it also can be hung on the wall by that.


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