Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy 2011, everyone!

I'll be back in a day or two to show you how my King Cake turned out for New Year's Eve. Here's to a happy, healthy, and delicious 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eggnog Cream Cups

This recipe came from a friend, who doesn't remember where she got it from. If you like eggnog as a drink, you will definitely like it as a cookie!

Eggnog Cups

Ingredients for “cookie cups”:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Ingredients for filling:
¾ cup cold whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons egg substitute
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon rum extract

Lightly grease 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray.

Combine flour, ½ cup sugar, salt and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg in large bowl. Add butter and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Scoop and roll dough into 1-inch balls. Press into bottoms of muffin cups (I used a shot glass for this). Then press up the sides of the muffin cups. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake cups 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes before removing to wire racks.

For the filling, beat cream and 3 tablespoons sugar in another large bowl with electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.

Add egg substitute, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and rum extract. Beat until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

When you’re ready to serve, pipe or spoon the filling into each cup. Sprinkle with extra nutmeg.Yields: 24 cookies

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mom's Rum Balls

Everyone who celebrates Christmas probably has a cookie that makes them feel like the season has really arrived. For me, my mom's rum balls are one of those cookies (I actually have several cookies that scream, "Christmas!" to me).

Warning: these cookies will make your hands very messy. I remember the first time I helped my mom make them. I couldn't believe how icky my hands got as I rolled the balls. "You mean, this is how they're made?!?" I'm surprised I ever ate them again after that. :)

Mom’s Rum Balls

1 cup pecan chips*
1 package of vanilla wafers
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
sifted powdered sugar for rolling balls

*If you can’t find pecan chips in your store, buy any other type of pecans (e.g. halves) and chop them until you have 1 to 1-1/2 cups finely chopped pecans.

Break the vanilla wafers into smaller pieces and drop them into a blender—about eight cookies at a time. Chop them in the blender until they are very fine, like graham crackers crushed for a graham cracker crust.

Continue crushing vanilla wafers until you have 1 ¾ cups crumbs. You’ll use a little more than half the package of wafers. Turn the cookie crumbs into a bowl with the pecan chips.

Add powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt. Mix well with pastry blender.

Add syrup, rum, and vanilla. Mix well. Put bowl in freezer for 5-10 minutes to make rolling easier.

Roll the balls using a tablespoon or a small cookie scooper to measure out the dough. Roll balls in powdered sugar. Let rum balls dry several hours before storing in air-tight container in refrigerator.

To keep hands from become too messy, try using powdered sugar on the palms of your hands while rolling.

Yields: about 40 rum balls

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Rice Krispie Treats

Looking for a really fast, really easy Christmas treat? Here's an easy way to "holidayize" your rice krispie treats.

Holiday Rice Krispie Treats

I won't even bother putting the whole rice krispie treat recipe on here since you can find it on every box of Rice Krispies, not to mention most marshmallow packages.

Here's how to "dress them up." First, cut up some red and green maraschino cherries into quarters. I found the green ones at Target.

Then make the treats as usual. As soon as you've pressed them into a greased pan (I think I used a 9 x 13 pan), press one red cherry quarter and one green cherry quarter together into the treat before it cools. Do this every two inches or so, depending on how big you want your treats to be.

Once the treats have cooled completely, cut them up so that the cherries are at the center of each piece. Immediately store them in an airtight container if you don't want them to dry out. I've also found that using a little more butter and marshmallow than the recipe actually requires also helps keep them moist.

If you want to dress up your presentation of the treats, use muffin cup liners like I did in the photo above. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cucidati (Italian Christmas Cookies)

I learned how to make these cookies by taking an Italian Christmas Cookies class. The instructor was named Dora, and her website can be found by clicking here. She was born in Italy and now teaches many different Italian cooking classes in my area.

Dora explained that the filling is different in each region of Italy, so I decided to play around with the filling recipe she gave us to come up with my own. I actually left out the figs, which are generally the main ingredient in the filling. Below is what I came up with for the filling, but I also tried using the fruit varieties of Solo Baking and Pastry Filling, and those worked out as well. I guess the moral of the story is: Try whatever filling you'd like.

Still more Christmas Cookie recipes to come this week. Tomorrow I'll post a quick way to "dress up" your Rice Krispie Treats for the holidays. Then on Wednesday or Thursday I'll post my mom's rum ball recipe. Finally, I've got a recipe for Eggnog Cups, a delicious little cream-filled cookie if you like the drink. I'll post those next Sunday, in plenty of time for New Year's Eve.

(Italian Christmas Cookies)

Ingredients for dough:
2 cups flour
¾ tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
½ vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ milk (add more if needed)

Ingredients for filling (my version):
12 ½ oz. can of dates with walnuts (Solo brand)
¾ cup raisins
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons rum

Ingredients for icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

For the dough, add all ingredients to a mixer and mix for three full minutes. Dough will be soft.

Remove dough from mixer and knead by hand for five minutes. (I had to flour my hands several times during this process to keep the dough from sticking to me.)

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Wrap each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. Dough can be made ahead of time and stored for up to five days.

For the filling, stir all ingredients in a bowl. This can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

When you are ready to make the cookies, flour your working surface and roll out one section of the dough at a time until it is 1/8 inch thick. Spread a long row of filling about an inch for the edge of the dough. The picture below is with the raspberry Solo Baking & Pastry Filling.

Roll the edge of the dough over the filling. Cut the rest of the dough off. Then cut your “log” into slices and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Repeat this process until you have used up all of your dough and/or filling.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine seemed to take closer to 20) or until cookies are golden.

Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool. Be sure they have completely cooled before icing.

For the icing, mix together all ingredients, add or subtracting milk to achieve the right consistency. Spread the icing on top of the cookies and decorate with sprinkles. Let icing set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Red and Green Cherry Cheesecake Brownies

The red and green maraschino cherries in this cheesecake brownie make it a fun Christmas treat! I found them a little tricky to cut, so I think if I make them again, I might stick them in the freezer for ten minutes before cutting.

Whether or not they turn out a little messy, they are definitely delicious if you like cheesecake and brownies!

Red and Green Cherry Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients for crust:
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour

Ingredients for cheesecake topping:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup green and red maraschino cherries, chopped
½ teaspoons almond extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Place unsweetened baking chocolate and two sticks of butter in large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power for 2-3 minutes, stirring after each minute, until mixture is smooth.

Beat in 2 cups sugar, 3 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until blended. Stir in 2 cups of flour. Spread batter in greased pan.

Beat cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, and 1 egg. Stir in red and green cherries and almond extract. Spread over top of chocolate batter in pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or just until set. Remove from oven. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars and cover. Refrigerate leftover bars.

Yields: 36 bars

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peppermint Drops

Here's a fun Christmas cookie that will help you use up a few of those old candy canes you have lying around!

I developed this recipe by messing around with the Ricotta Cookies recipe and then changing the glaze on top. Enjoy!

Peppermint Drops

Ingredients for cookie:
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup ricotta cheese
¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

Ingredients for glaze:
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons milk
2-3 drops red food color
about 10-12 mini candy canes, crushed (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

In medium-sized bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until blended. Add egg, ricotta cheese, and peppermint extract, beating until combined. On low speed, add flour mixture slowly.

Use a small cookie scooper to drop the dough onto cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Watch cookies carefully. They won’t brown on the top, but they should be lightly browned around the edges. After three minutes, remove to cooling racks. (Warning: bottoms can brown quickly without seeing much browning around the edges.)

Let cookies cool for fifteen minutes before making glaze. While you are waiting, crush the candy canes with a rolling pin and put them in a small bowl.

Stir powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract, milk, and red food color in a small bowl. Dip top of cookies into glaze and then crushed candy canes. Allow glaze to harden before storing.

Yields: about 60 cookies if you use a small cookie scooper.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cherry Chocolate Macaroons

Holiday cookies are on their way, and with the cherry red centers on these macaroons, this recipe could certainly join the party!

Many more holiday cookies to come this month!

Cherry Chocolate Macaroons

1 bag (14 oz.) of sweetened coconut flakes
½ cup cocoa
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice
about 24 maraschino cherries, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet or spray it with Pam.

Stir together coconut and cocoa in a large bowl until the coconut is coated by the cocoa. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and cherry juice.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet. Shape with your fingers as necessary. Press cherry half onto center of each cookie.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet immediately. Let cool completely on wire rack. Cookies can be stored loosely covered at room temperature.

Yields: about 48 cookies