Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Cheer Sangria

Here’s a holiday recipe to enjoy with friends and family. Merry Christmas, from our family to yours! May this holiday be filled with Christ’s love, peace and joy in your hearts and memories that will last for years to come. See you in the New Year!

Holiday Cheer SangriaServes 10-12 people

  • 2 bottles of red wine. Pinot, rioja, tempranillo, shiraz or zinfandel all work well. Just use something you like drinking on its own but that doesn’t have too distinct of a flavor. I’d steer clear of say a cabernet. Also, you don’t want to spend too much money since you’re basically making a classy fruit punch with it.
  • 3 oz (two shots) of either brandy or rum (or both if you like). I prefer brandy.
  • Assorted fruit. I used 2 green apples, one large red apple, one lime and two seedless oranges. Sweet, fresh pit fruits like cherries and peaches are yummy too. Of course they’re also out of season right now. I’ve used Maraschino cherries in the past with okay results too. Depends on what you like.
  • 2 liters of seltzer or 2 liters of lemon-lime soda like Sprite if you like your sangria a little sweeter.
 1.) Wash your fruit and core and chop it into a variety of shapes that will look pretty and fit into a wine glass later. Make sure you take out any seeds. Place the fruit in a 1/2 gallon pitcher. Isn’t that pretty?
2.) Pour the two bottles of red wine over the fruit and refrigerate overnight.

3.) Add the rum and/or brandy just before serving, stirring with a spoon to combine.
4.) To serve the sangria, place 1-2 ice cubes in a glass along with a few colorful pieces of fruit. Pour the wine over top and add seltzer water or soda to taste. For a strong drink, add less soda. Avoid adding the soda to the whole pitcher as it goes flat quickly and leaves you with watered down wine by the end of the night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies and Tuxedo Peppermint Bark

A little more than a week until Christmas! If you’re looking for a way to use candy canes, here are two traditional recipes. One is easy (the bark); the other takes a little more finesse (the cookies). But both are festive and yummy.

Peppermint Bark
1 bag bittersweet or dark chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
1 bag white chocolate chips
12 mini candy canes, semi-crushed (1/3 cup or so)

1.) In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips in two separate bowls on 50% power.
2.) Line a 9”x13” cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2.) Spread the dark chocolate chips on the paper. Dollop and drizzle white chocolate on top and swirl with a knife to get the marbled effect.
3.) Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies. Press the candy lightly into the chocolate with the back of a clean spoon.
4.) Refrigerate for 30 minutes to harden. Break apart into pieces. Store at room temp or refrigerate.

Candy Cane Cookies
Adapted from Christine’s Cuisine blog post.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
Wilton’s No Taste Red food coloring gel

1.) Blend butter, sugar, eggs and almond flavoring.
2.) In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
3.) Add the dry mix to the wet mix in batches until combined.
4.) Remove half of the dough from the bowl. Color the remaining dough with the red food coloring and flavor with peppermint extract.
5.) Place each half of dough in separate containers in the fridge. I form the dough into two balls and wrap in Saran Wrap. Let chill overnight if possible. The longer they chill, the easier the dough is to handle. You can also spoon the dough out in small teaspoons on two separate plates and cover with Saran Wrap so they’re ready to go the next day. This might also help the dough chill more quickly if you want to bake the cookies the same day.
6.) Using confectioner’s sugar to coat your work space, roll out a tsp-size white dough ball and one red into 4-inch snakes. (You’ll be surprised at how little dough it takes to get a 4-inch snake.) Pinch the ends together and roll the dough so that the two colors twist like a candy-cane pattern. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
7.) Unwrap and crush enough candy canes to equal about 1/2 cup. You want the candy pretty fine, almost like a sugar consistency with some slightly larger chunks for color. I used about two dozen mini candy canes to achieve the 1/2 cup. The boys had fun crushing them with a rolling pin in a quart-sized freezer bag. Set candy aside.
8.) Bake in a 375’ oven for six to eight minutes.
9.) Immediately remove the cookies from the oven and sprinkle with crushed candy. The candy will melt slightly and adhere to the cookie. Let cool before moving from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will be tender with a little candy crunch.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Tree Cookies

I never learn. Several years ago I made the mistake of scheduling my annual physical in January. Stepping on that scale was a big wake up call. Holy cookies and crumb-cakes Bat Man! But this year I’ve done one worse. We have a Caribbean vacation planned for January. As in bikinis and beaches and lots and lots and lots of candid photo opportunities. Yeah

I’d like to say that this has motivated me to find healthier ways to bake, but I’m just too stuck in my ways. Instead, I’m making less of the good stuff. Like these Christmas cookies. We all love these little guys. We love frosting them. We love decorating them. But most of all we love eating them. (Any May I Please Have a Cookie? fans out there?). I’m happy to share the recipe with you though. Does that cut calories?
Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies4-5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter
3 sticks butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp almond flavoring
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1.) Cream butter, sugar and eggs.
2.) In separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients in batches.
3.) Cover and chill overnight if you can.
4.) Roll out dough to 1/4” thick and cut in tree shapes. Helps to flour the cookie cutter.
5.) Bake 400’ for 6-8 minutes. Let cool completely and brush away any crumbs before frosting.

In the past I’ve made royal icing, but I’ve returned to good, old-fashioned shortening-based decorator frosting. We just prefer the taste. The frosting sets up overnight, and you can stack them in a container the next day. The hot dots candies help cushion the trees too.

Shortening Decorator Frosting
4 cups confectioner sugar
1/2 cup shortening
5 Tb milk (plus more until right consistency)
1 tsp vanilla
1.) Cream all ingredients together. Add more milk until desired consistency.
2.) For the cookies above I used Wilton’s leaf green food gel.
3.) We love rainbow sprinkles and hot dots for decorating but you can always get fancy too.
4.) Freeze any leftover frosting and re-use it at a later date. You’ll never know the difference.

Just a word about timing. I confess that when I do these cookies every year I usually take a few days. I make the dough one night. Put it away. I bake the cookies off the next day and let them cool. The day after that I make the frosting and we decorate. The next day we eat them all. You get the idea.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Double Chocolate Orange Biscotti

I’ve been cooking and baking like a mad woman lately, which also means I’ve been eating, unfortunately, which means more time at the gym and less time to blog. All excuses aside here’s a little recipe adapted from the brilliant Dave Lebovitz’ “Living the sweet life in Paris” blog. Look here for the original recipe. I came across this recipe on pinterest, a cool little Web page that makes my computer emit a loud time-sucking sound whenever I turn it on. But at least it’s useful. So pin this on your recipe board and bake these biscotti. In that order.
Double Chocolate Orange Biscotti
2 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tb orange juice concentrate thawed
2 tsp dried orange peel
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cups dark chocolate chips
1.) Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
2.) In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, o.j. concentrate and orange peel.
3.) Add the flour mix to the wet mix in batches.
4.) When combined, mix the almonds and chocolate chips in by hand.
5.) Drop the dough in spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in two long rows. With floured fingers, shape the two rows of dough into narrow, squared off logs. Dust with extra flour for that rustic look or glaze with cream for a more finished look.
6.) Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
7.) Using a butcher knife and pressing evenly so the biscotti doesn’t crumble, slice the log into 36 pieces.
8.) Arrange the pieces, flat-side down on two baking sheets. Place in the oven and bake for another 8 minutes each side. Let cool before storing.
9.) You can also melt good chocolate and dip the biscotti in the chocolate. The chocolate will harden as it cools. But these were so rich any more chocolate in my mind was overkill.
10.) These will generally keep for a week or two. They don’t usually last longer than that at our house because they get eaten pretty quickly. They’re great with ice cream, a hot cup of coffee or cocoa and especially as a decadent breakfast.
During my most recent trip to Penzey's I stocked up on some yummy items for baking. Highly recommend especially the natural cocoa and the Vietnamese Cinnamon. Hugely superior to most of what you find in the stores and well worth the little higher price.
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