Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Days of Christmas... Sorta...

Shortbread 12 Ways

You know how crazy this time of year is.  I know you do.  Because you are in the middle of buying gifts, decorating, running around between events, and trying to please everyone in every way to make this dang holiday jolly even if it kills you.  I know you are because I am and if you aren't then my whole "vive la Pinterest" thing is a bad life decision.  I don't have time to make bad life decisions.  I'm too busy.  In lieu of the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies this year, I thought I'd try something a little different.  This year, it's one cookie 12 ways!  I have taken the humble shortbread, very simple and delicious on its own, and jazzed it up with lots of yummy, Christmas-time flavors!  Each portion will make 10-12 cookies, so when you're done, you'll end up with nearly 12 dozen cookies to share or hoard however you see fit.

Start with a basic shortbread recipe:
3 C butter
1 1/2 C sugar
7 C flour
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly.  Add flour gradually, 1 C at a time.  Mix until well blended; do not over mix.  Then, separate into sandwich bags, putting a heaping 2/3 C of dough into each one. Add desired ingredients and press to combine. Roll into one-inch balls, or desired shape, and place on un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes.  Note that some have special baking or ingredient instructions.

Shortbread 12 Ways: Orange Spice Cookies 
1 tsp orange zest, 1/16 tsp ground cloves, dash ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 Cookie Recipe 12 Ways: Vanilla Mint Cookies 
Vanilla Mint: 1/8 tsp peppermint extract, 1/8 tsp vanilla beans or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Peanutbutter Chocolate Chip Shortbread One Recipe 12 Ways 
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: 1/2 oz chocolate chips (I used chopped semi-sweet baking chocolate), 1 tsp peanut butter, 1/16 tsp salt

Gingerbread Shortbread Cookies: One Cookie Recipe 12 Ways 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/16 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp molasses

One cookie recipe 12 ways: Maple Pecan Cookies 
1 heaping Tbs pecans, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon. When cookies come out of the oven, drizzle tops with maple syrup.

One cookie recipe 12 ways: lemon shortbread cookies 
1 tsp lemon zest

Mini Cheesecakes with a shortbread crust 
Makes 12 cups, Roll dough into balls, then press into a mini cupcake tin, using a spoon or your fingers to make the cup shape.  Bake 15 min, run knife around each cup immediately and pop out before they cool. Filling: 1/2 C cream cheese, 1 tsp sour cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 Tbs powdered sugar, 2 tsp lemon juice, place in a plastic bag, and cut the corner out, fill the cups with the mixture and serve, no additional baking required.

Figgy Pudding Jam Thumbprint Cookies: One Cookie 12 Ways 
1/4 tsp jam, Recipe found at The Kitchn

Oh Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies: One cookie recipe 12 Ways 
1 tsp dried juniper berries, crushed, 1/16 smoked tea, crushed (Notes: These actually taste like a Christmas tree smells!  I love them.  Try them with a goodish hunk of mild goat cheese.  I used Wuyi Smoked Pine tea from Shen Zen Tea.  If you can't find something comparable in your area, you can omit it. I found the juniper berries in the bulk spices section at a local grocery store.)

Candy Bliss Cookies: One Recipe 12 Ways 
Roll into balls, then press 1/2 Seattle Chocolates HotButter Rum candies, or other favorite chocolate candy into the top

Christmas Cheer Shortbreads 
1 Tbs sprinkles, 1 tsp vanilla extract

Eggnog Shortbreads: One Christmas Cookie 12 Ways 
1 tsp vanilla, when cookies are done baking, sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg

If you want to make a larger batch of one cookie, you can double the ingredients, but for larger batches than that, for the cookies where fluid is added, I would just add enough to make the cookie pliable, you don't want it to get too wet and gooey.

Wishing each and every one of you a very happy low-stress holiday season!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014...

Simple Animal Crackers Recipe

Last year I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I loved it.  The boys loved getting surprise cookies in the mail, heck, I loved getting surprise cookies in the mail.  Who wouldn't love surprise cookies?  So of course I signed up again this year!

This year I got cookies from:

and I sent these darling little Animal Crackers to:
Ann Marie from Let's Give Peas a Chance
Hannah from Fleur-de-Licious

 Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen with be co-hosting the round-up at the end of the week so you can see all the delicious cookies the fantastic bloggers who participated this year shared with each other!

And so, without further ado...

Animal Crackers

1 ½ Cups plus 2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
½ C oat flour
¼ C packed light brown sugar
¼ C granulated sugar
2 tsp finely grated organic lemon zest, plus 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
4 Tbs chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ C buttermilk
2 tsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor or a large bowl, pulse or whisk the all-purpose flour, oat flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add the butter and pulse or use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. 15 pulses with a food processor.

In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla and stir until the honey has dissolved. Add to the flour mixture and pulse or sir with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. Remove the dough from the processor or bowl and knead gently on a lightly floured surface until smooth, 10 strokes. Flatten the dough into two equal-size disks, cover in plastic wrap, and chill them for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Place one piece of the dough on a well-floured surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick lifting the dough and rotating to make sure it's not sticking to the work surface and adding all-purpose flour as necessary.

Animal Crackers Recipe 
Use lightly floured cookie cutters to cut out animal shapes. Using a lightly floured bench scraper or offset spatula, transfer the cut-outs to one of the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the scraps once and cut them out in the same way. Bake the animal crackers until light golden brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once from back to front while baking. Cool the crackers on the sheet until they firm up, 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool. While the first batch of crackers is cooling, repeat the rolling, cutting, and baking process with the remaining dough and scraps.

Animal Crackers Recipe

Ms. Manning has an icing recipe in her book if you'd like these to be even more festive!  Happy Holidays to all my fellow bloggers!  Keep your eyes peeled for another batch of CotC cookie recipes coming soon!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Another year, another cake...

     The ol' blog is celebrating its 4th year today!  I can't believe how quickly it's gone by. 

The boys had a Minecraft party this past weekend, and I will be posting pictures and recipes, but for now, I thought I'd post this little cupcake to celebrate another year of food, friends, and fun.

Chocolate Joe Joe's Vanilla Cupcakes:
Modified from America's Test Kitchen Classic Yellow Sheet Cake from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

2 3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 C sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C whole milk, room temp
1 /3 box Joe Joe's cookies with chocolate centers, crushed

Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.  Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.  Alternate adding flour and milk, starting and ending with flour.  Stir in the cookies.  Portion the batter into the prepared cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then set onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Frost when completely cool.

Modified from America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Frosting from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

10 oz chocolate chips
1 C heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 C confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

Place chocolate into a food processor.  Bring the cream and salt to a boil in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and process until smooth.  Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to process until combined.  With the machine running, add the butter one piece at a time.  Continue to process until smooth.  Transfer the frosting to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until thick and spreadable (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Enjoy, everybody! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Winner!!

Congratulations to Nicollette Dailey!  You have won a copy of this fabulous book of your very own!  Please e-mail me your address and I will get your book in the mail right away!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fork & Beans Give Away!!

 Gluten-free vegan cornbread

     My friend, Cara Reed, at Fork & Beans is well known to my regular readers as the genius who converts my Christmas cookies every year for those who can't have gluten.  I am so happy to announce that her first cookbook Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking is out and rocking!  Besides all her fantastic recipes, this book contains lots of tips for egg substitutions, two gluten-free flour recipes, lots of sauce and toppings, too!  Oh.  And gluten-free and vegan Girl Scout Cookie replicas.  You heard me.  Lucky, lucky you!  She has allowed me to share one of the recipes from her book and give one of you a free copy!  Since we're getting into soup season around here, I thought I'd share a cornbread perfect for pairing with soup, chili, or just a tall glass of (dairy free) milk.  Gluten-free Thanksgiving stuffing, anyone?  Cara also suggests adding jalapeƱos, canned chilies, or vegan cheese to mix it up a bit.

Gluten-free vegan cornbread

Stone-Ground Cornbread

Makes 8 slices

1 c/165 g Cara’sAll-Purpose Blend (page 166)
1¼ c/153 g stone-ground yellow cornmeal
½ c/100 g granulated sugar
3 tsp/11 g baking powder
½ tsp salt

3 tsp/9.5 g Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 6 Tbsp/90 ml water, whisk until frothy (I used Cara's chia seed substitution on p. 172)
1 c/120 ml nondairy milk
4 Tbsp/56 g vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread that I melted in the microwave.)

Preheat oven to 400°F/ 200°C and grease an 8–inch/20-cm round pan.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just combined. Pour batter into the greased pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

Drown in nondairy butter.


My whole family liked this!  Even my youngest who doesn't like cornbread.  It's sweeter than what we normally make, being Southern and all, but the flavor and texture are nice and my husband said, "It doesn't taste gluten-free at all!"  My eldest said, "It's sweeter and butterier than normal."   Considering there's no butter in it, I'd say that was a pretty good endorsement!

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious Gluten-, Egg-, and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets Give Away
Who wants to win this?!  I know it's you.  Whether you're making the switch to gluten-free, cooking for gluten-free friends or relatives, or maybe you want to give this as a Christmas gift.  Now's your chance to win!  Just leave me a comment below or on facebook and you will be entered.  Last day for entries is November 20th by 5pm PST and the winner will be announced November 21.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Very Happy Halloween to You...

1950's Halloween Party

     Our Halloween party was this weekend.  It was a whirlwind of ladybugs, robots, spiders, and werewolves all wrapped up in a tidy 1950's-era package.  It was also pouring down rain and pitch dark so I don't have a lot of pictures of our scavenger hunt in progress, I'm afraid.  I have lots of shots like this:


So I'll tell you what we did and show you pictures of what it looked like sans kids...  We held a 1950's style Halloween party including some reproduction decorations.

1950's inspired Halloween party

1950's style Halloween Party

1950's Halloween party decorations

We carried the theme into the menu by trying to replicate a TV dinner in a more desirable way.  We served homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and steamed peas and carrots mixed with mint.  There was also a jell-o salad style dish because 50's and a 7-Up Cake.  Our starter for the kids was Vienna Sausage size organic hot dog chunks.  We also had meatballs, gluten-free cookies, and the vegetarian main was beans and franks.  We washed it all down with punch and martinis!

1950's 7-Up cake

50's Housewife Halloween Party
This was an agar agar Jell-o salad stand in.  It was interesting.  I especially liked the salad dressing.

Minted Peas and Carrots
1 lb bag carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bag frozen peas
2 Tbs mint
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the carrots until almost done.  Add the peas and continue steaming until warmed through.  Toss with salt, pepper, and mint.  Serve immediately.

50's punch no HFCS!
1 Bottle Sparkling Apple cider
1/2 Gallon orange juice
1/2 Gallon Earthwise Wild Berry Guava Lemonade
12 scoops Raspberry Sorbet

Add all drinks to a large punch bowl and top with sorbet.  It doesn't look like much, but it tastes great and there are no HFCS or artificial flavors!  It also happens to taste great with vodka, so if you happen to make your martini a little too strong, dollop a little punch in there and you'll be a happy haunter!

One of our lovely hostesses, Danika.

 Our cowboy, David, who handed out the scavenger hunt sheets, sock hopping it up with a robot and a ladybug.  You just don't see that kind of thing every day.  For music, I found several, mostly 50's era songs including: Wooly Bully, Lil' Red Riding Hood, The Twilight Zone theme song, Bo Meets the Monster, Halloween Spooks (featuring Lambert, Hendricks and Ross), I Put a Spell on You, Witch Doctor, Punky Punkin, Morgus the Magnificent, The Purple People Eater, and of course, Monster Mash all downloadable on Amazon from about $.90 to $1.50.  Some of these songs are crazy weird.  Just sayin'.

 Our homage to 1950's cowboy flicks, the kids had to break out of jail by sliding down the slide.  The sheriff gave them a handy map to the rest of the scavenger hunt.  Apparently he was in on the whole thing...

First stop, Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Halloween apple game
 Next up, apples on strings.  At every station, the kids got stickers to prove they completed the mission.

 Because it was raining and I was busy appleing out in it, I don't have one picture of our witch, Lauren, who many kids said was their very favorite part of the hunt, and was also one of our hosts.  She had a bubbling cauldron full of dry ice and a bowl full of "eyeballs" for the kids to scrounge through to help her find her jewels (skull rings which the kids got to keep).  So here's a picture of her hut, which you may remember as the troll house from our fairy party a few years ago.

50's inspired Halloween party Hula hoop
 Can't really have a 1950's party without a hula hoop, can you?  No.  No you can't.

 50's inspired halloween party frisbee toss
A classic game with a 1950's twist.  Tossing mini Frisbees into the pumpkin's mouth turns a bean bag toss into game using an iconic vintage toy.

Note to self: Yellow Frisbees are hard to find in a leaf pile...

Spooky ghosts in the rain...

 Fortunately revealed in the daylight to be balloons with flashing lights inside zip-tied to dowels.

 Our fortune teller (and co-host), Tori, before she braved the weather to read our guest's fortunes.

  It was wet business...

 EEK!  A GHOST!  Matt was the scariest ghost in a sheet the world has ever seen.  Three-year-olds the world over were terrified.  The kids were rewarded with Trader Joe's candies when they returned with their scavenger hunt sheets filled out.

1950's housewives Halloween costumes and party ideas
 Twin housewives, Bekah and myself.  At the end of the party.  With fallen hair and rubbed-off make-up.  Drinking.  I also discovered something about my costume.  All it takes is a hair change to turn perky, perfect wife-lady into:

The Lunch Lady.

Hoagies and grinders, baby.

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