Holiday Cookies

Today I’m going to keep it short and Sweet!

By way of kicking off the cookie baking season I’ve compiled a few of my favorite cookies recipes from here on the blog to give you some inspiration for those marathon baking sessions…..Christmas Cookies!

I’ve been getting my list of “Plan to Bake Cookies” ready, and am about to embark on a baking storm.  I just love to have cookies and treats on hand to give to everyone I see at this time of year.  So as I bake and photograph these new additions, here are a few to keep you going in the meantime.

Coffee Biscotti

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Gingerbread Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate

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Kringla

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Nutella Crackles

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Red Velvet Crinkles

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White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

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Cocoa Thumbprints

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Stay tuned for some awesome festive treats.   Have a fun time baking!

Warm Apple Pie Cocktail

Warm Apple Pie Cocktail

Warm Apple Pie Cocktail

Today I’ve got a delicious fall cocktail for you.  It’s perfect for the up-coming holidays or any special celebration.

These fabulous cocktails are like warm apple pie with all the best flavors of fall poured into a glass and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.  You’re going to love them.  They do include a splash of rum, which could be left out for kids and others who prefer it plain.IMG_8685

Most everyone loves warm apple cider with fall spices. It is such a great fall and winter drink; I don’t think you can go wrong with this one.  If making this for a large group, you could make the basic spicy cider in the crockpot which would keep it warm, and add the rum to individual glasses as served, or leave it out, your choice.

With one of these in hand you just might want to sit by the fire all day and keep on sipping.

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WARM APPLE PIE COCKTAIL

Yield:  Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 1 cup Rum
  • whipped cream and ground cinnamon for garnish

Instructions:

1.  In a heavy sauce pan, add apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice.  Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain out the spices and stir in the rum.

2.  Pour into glasses and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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 Mr. D. and I enjoyed ours while trimming our Christmas Tree.

SOURCE;  Adapted from  Martha Stewart Living

Leftover Turkey Dinner Baked Dish

 

Leftover Turkey Dinner Baked Dish

Leftover Turkey Dinner Baked Dish

 

Thanksgiving may be over, but there are more winter holidays ahead and that probably means there’s going to be more turkey on your table.  And that means more leftovers.    I have a few standard dishes that I make with leftover turkey beside the all-you-cram-into-it sandwich.  There’s turkey pot pie that we love, (see my chicken pot pie recipe) and turkey tetrazzini, another comforting favorite.  But sometimes you just want to make something new.

Every layer of this dish has something in it that you will love.

Every layer of this dish has something in it that you will love.

Here’s a recipe that is definitely new, because I just made it up.  It’s based on a number of recipes that I had seen for turkey pot-pie, but this is a mash-up that includes your stuffing, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy.  It’s like having the whole dinner again in a new form,  and it tastes fabulous all over again too.

LEFTOVER TURKEY DINNER BAKED DISH

Yield:  Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked stuffing
  • 3 -4 Tbsp chicken or turkey broth

    Get out all your bowls of leftovers.

    Get out all your bowls of leftovers.

  • 2 Tbsp. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup turkey gravy
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
  • 1 cup vegetables, such as peas, carrots, green beans, small white onions, mushrooms, etc.
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, swiss or cheddar is good
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp. milk or half and half
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, same kind as above.

Directions:

1.  In a small bowl, combine stuffing and enough broth to reach desired moistness;  Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch square baking dish, or deep dish pie pan.  Bake at 350*F for 10 – 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Make a bottom crust with stuffing.

Make a bottom crust with stuffing.

 

I had a few mushrooms to use up so I cooked them up with some onions.

I had a few mushrooms to use up so I cooked them up with some onions.

2.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and gravy until smooth.  Stir in the turkey, vegetables, grated cheese, salt and pepper.  Spoon over stuffing crust.

Mix vegetables into gravy.

Mix vegetables into gravy.

Stir in cut up turkey.

Stir in cut up turkey.

3.  In a small bowl, combine potatoes and cream to loosen the potatoes and make them spreadable.  Spread over the turkey filling mixture.

Drop mounds of mashed potato over the filling and spread it out.

Drop mounds of mashed potato over the filling and spread it out.

Drizzle with butter, if using;  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese.

Drizzle with melted butter, if using, and shredded cheese.

Drizzle with melted butter, if using, and shredded cheese.

4..  Bake at 350*F.  for 25 – 30 minutes or until bubbly, heated through and browned.  Serve with additional gravy, that has been warmed.

Hot and bubbly out of the oven.

Hot and bubbly out of the oven.

Serve with additional gravy, if desired.

Serve with additional gravy, if desired.

SOURCE:    A Carolyn’s Original

 

Kale, Mandarin and Avocado Salad

Kale, Mandarine and Avocado Salad

Kale, Mandarin and Avocado Salad

I have over-indulged!  Way over.  I imagine there are any number of people saying the same thing about now.  Don’t we ALWAYS over-indulge during the holidays?  And we’ve got only the first one behind us.

I’ve eaten too much sweet potato casserole, stuffed myself with stuffing, picked at one too many pieces of pecan pie. I’ve done the peppermint stick ice-cream.   It was delicious, but it’s over.

Stomach, I’m going to be nicer to you,  because you deserve a break.   Before I start making cookies, I’m making a salad.  This is going to be so good, you’ll be thanking me all over the place.  So, hang on to your hat.

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A salad  begins with greens, right?   And what’s the most popular green in town?  Kale!   Yes, kale, chopped up nice and fine, raw and crunchy.  Next we add some romaine, also chopped up nice and fine, also crunchy.

Cut up the greens nice and fine.

Cut up the greens nice and fine.

To sweeten up this deal we’re adding clementine or tangerine.  Grab and peel those babies.

Avocados go in next;  for color, for fat nutrients, for creaminess…..oh heck, just put them in because we love them, and they love to hang out with citrus.  Bright and juicy meets soft and creamy.

Avocado + Citrus = True Love

Avocado + Citrus = True Love

Last, we sprinkle in some toasted sesame seeds because we need something to get stuck in our teeth to embarrass us later. If you want to leave them out that’s okay,  you can still go ahead and walk around with kale stuck in your teeth.

To soften the kale, you can rub it with a bit of olive oil and salt….that’s called a kale massage….a totally normal thing to do.  If you find baby kale you can skip this step.  My supermarket is now carrying baby kale.

Once the kale is massaged, make the dressing.  The dressing ingredients go into a small jar.  They consist of rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, soy sauce and pepper.  Add in a tiny bit of minced garlic if you’d like.

 

These become the dressing.

These become the dressing.

Now tighten the lid, and start shaking.   Shake, shake, shake like mad.  That’s it.  Done.

Toss dressing with salad.

Toss dressing with salad.

Toss some with the salad, and as it gets tossed together the orange segments may split open and the avocado may mash a bit making these two elements a lovely addition to the sesame dressing.   Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Now’s the time to grab a fork and dig in.  Your stomach will thank you.

Do yourself a favor, take a break today with a salad this good.

Do yourself a favor, take a break today with a salad this good.

KALE, MANDARIN AND AVOCADO SALAD

Yield:   Serves 4 as a side salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups clean and well-chopped kale
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups clean and well-chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 tangerines or clementines, peeled and divided into segments
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • fresh pepper and coarse salt to taste

Instructions:

1.  Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Massage the oil and salt into the kale.

2.  Add the romaine, tangerines, and avocado to the bowl.

3.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

4.  In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and pepper.  Place the lid on the jar and shake vigorously until emulsified.  If you don’t have a jar, whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined.

5.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad.  Toss to combine.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy!

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SOURCE:   adapted from The Joy of Baking

Apple Upside Down Cake with Salted Caramel

Apple Upside Down Cake with Salted Caramel.

Apple Upside Down Cake with Salted Caramel.

It’s official:  Winter is here.    Snow has fallen, plows have been out, fender benders happened, walks and driveways have been shoveled.  Black Friday took place, and we are barreling straight ahead to Christmas.  It’s time to make my list of cookies that I plan to bake, and get in the necessary ingredients.

There are quite a few apples remaining that I picked at the orchard, so let’s see what I can do to use them up during this last weekend of November.

I know that I will make applesauce and I may even make baked apples and eat them for breakfast. We like them with a little granola sprinkled on top,  or a dollop of yogurt, or both.

Baked apples filled with dried fruits.

Baked apples filled with dried fruits.

Feeling a little “out-of-sorts”, (probably because I have too many projects going right now), I decided to use some of my apples and make this upside down cake.   The recipe is an adaptation of one featured on the Food Network that used summer stone fruits, but with salted caramel in the picture I was certain that making it with apples would be just fine.  And it was.

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This recipe was a good choice as the white cake is light and mildly seasoned with vanilla and has a fine texture that I attribute to the buttermilk.  Apples with caramel and sea salt are the perfect topping, made that much better with a little ice cream on the side when you serve it.  It’s baked in a 9-inch square pan, so you will get 8 generous servings or several more if cut smaller.

It only gets better with a little ice cream on the side.

It only gets better with a little ice cream on the side.

The problem I had with this cake was getting it out of the pan intact.  The recipe suggests waiting 15 minutes after removing from the oven before turning it upside down onto a serving plate.  I did that, and still the cake broke on one corner, and stuck to the sides of the pan.  I patched it up as best I could using some of the sticky caramel for “glue”.   (note photo)   I realized I might have prevented this by running a knife around the edges of the cake before attempting to turn it out of the pan, so I suggest you do that if you make this cake.

See that broken corner?

See that broken corner?

The bright side is that it tastes so good, even when broken, that I’m happy to share my “disaster” photo with you.  We all have an occasional disaster, and there’s no shame in that.

APPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE WITH SALTED CARAMEL

Yield:   Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

Beautiful crisp apples, waiting to become a cake!

Beautiful crisp apples, waiting to become a cake!

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, divided
  • 2-3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375*F.  and coat a 9-inch-square cake pan with cooking spray.

2.  Combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1  1/2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and stir until the mixture looks like wet sand.  Cook over medium-high heat, gently swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until light amber, about 5 minutes.   Remove from the heat and immediately pour into the prepared cake pan.  ( The caramel hardens quickly.)  Arrange the apple wedges over the caramel in 4 rows;  set the pan aside.

Lay rows of sliced apples on top of the caramel in the pan,

Lay rows of sliced apples on top of the caramel in the pan,

3.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and remaining 1 cup sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, and mix until just incorporated.  Pour the batter over the apples and spread evenly.

4.  Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  ( Mine took 45 minutes.)  Cover the cake loosely with foil it is browning too quickly.   Remove from the oven and let sit 15 minutes, then invert onto a platter and let cool completely.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

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SOURCE:   adapted from The Food Network Magazine

 

 

Butternut Squash Gratin

Butternut Squash Gratin

Butternut Squash Gratin

Butternut squash has got to be just about my favorite winter vegetable.  For the longest time the only way I ever had it was when it had been boiled till tender, then mashed with butter, and served as a puree.   WOW! I didn’t realize how many different and interesting ways there are to prepare it…..and they’re all so good!

We’ve grown to like it best when it’s left in chunks and there is some “chew” left to it.

This recipe is very easy to make.  Don’t let the name of the dish make it seem like a big deal.  All “gratin” means is a baked dish that has a  crumb topping.    So with that in mind let’s get started making this side dish that goes with so many entrees.  We particularly like it with roast chicken or turkey, but it’s also a great accompaniment to baked ham, or meatloaf.

All that’s required for this dish in addition to the squash, is some melted butter, a little garlic, and crumbs made from Panko and Parmesan cheese.  If you prefer to use a different winter squash in place of the butternut, I’m sure it would work out as well, since many of them are interchangeable.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH GRATIN

Yield:   Makes  4 servingsIMG_8608

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch rounds, or crescents
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375*F.   Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Baking dish size needs to be about 8 x 11, or 9 x 13-inches.

2.  Arrange the squash rounds or crescents in rows in the baking dish.

3.  Melt the 4 Tbsp. butter with the minced garlic, in the microwave.

Melt butter with garlic;  mix Panko with cheese for crumbs.

Melt butter with garlic; mix Panko with cheese for crumbs.

4.  Combine the Panko crumbs and the grated Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Add 1 Tbsp. melted butter and toss to blend into crumbs.

5.  Brush the remaining butter and garlic mixture on the squash slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6.  Sprinkle the crumbs all over the top of the squash.

Top with the crumb mixture.

Top with the crumb mixture.

7.  Bake at 375*F.  uncovered, for 30 – 40 minutes till tender.  Crumbs should be nice and brown.  If not, run under the broiler for about 5 minutes to brown them up, being careful not to burn them.

Toasty, fragrant crumbs, jazz up this winter squash dish.

Toasty, fragrant crumbs, jazz up this winter squash dish.

 

SOURCE:   Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

The Tale of a Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

This story begins with a cheesecake and ends with a “dog story”.  It may not make sense at the start, but it will by the end, so hang in here with me.

One of my contributions to our Thanksgiving Dinner was a pumpkin cheesecake.  I brought it plus my Sweet Potato Casserole and Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce to my sister-in-law’s house for our family dinner.  Having made these last two items in advance, last Wednesday I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake.

The project began in the morning when I took two blocks of cream cheese out of the fridge to soften up while I did some other things.  By afternoon I was ready to begin putting the cheesecake together.   It is very easy to make and I chose this recipe because it has garnered so many “stars” by recipe testers on Allrecipe.com.  Think of it as an all-star recipe, even award-winning, you might say.

Folks who made it said it tasted just like the cheesecake at a very popular restaurant.  It cut cleanly and looked attractive on the plate because the cheesecake goes into the crust in two layers, and when it’s cut the layers are very apparent.  It was described as perfectly seasoned with the spiciness of pumpkin pie, but so much more creamy, because of the contrast of the crumb crust.

As I happily went about making what sounded so delectable, my mouth was watering.  I had described it in such detail to my sister-in-law that her mouth was watering just hearing about it, and she really loves cheesecake, so we two couldn’t wait for dessert.  I don’t want my wonderful readers to miss out on enjoying  this terrific cheesecake so the recipe, and steps I followed in making it are listed below…..

DOUBLE-LAYER PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Yield:   Makes one 9-inch cheesecake, or 8 servings

Ingredients:IMG_8627

  • 2  (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (low-fat is OK)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1  (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • frozen whipped topping, thawed, or whipped cream to dollop on top.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325*F.

2.  In a large beater bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.  Blend in eggs, one at a time.

3.  Spread 1 cup of cream cheese mixture in the bottom of the crumb crust.

Plain cheesecake batter goes in the bottom of the crust.

Plain cheesecake batter goes in the bottom of the crust.

To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.   Stir gently until well blended.  Carefully spread over batter in the crust.

The remainder of the batter containing pumpkin and spices goes on top.

The remainder of the batter containing pumpkin and spices goes on top.

4.  Bake at 325*F. for 35 – 40 minutes, until center is almost set.  Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours and best if overnight.  (Make this a day ahead if you can, because it really needs that much time to set up properly.  It will slice beautifully after a night in the fridge.)

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

 

At the completion of our main meal we eagerly went outside to get the pies where they had been stored in the cold, as there was no room in the refrigerator.  We had a total of 4 pies and my cheesecake.  When we went out to the get the pies we found only 3 pies and 2 empty pie plates,  plus 1 very guilty-looking dog.   Who let the dog out, that’s what we’d like to know?    The dog devoured what we ourselves couldn’t wait to try:  the cheesecake and an apple-walnut-caramel pie.  The whole scenario was so funny with poor Sandy sitting next to the empty pie plates, hanging her head in shame, but with a secret smile on her face, and a few crumbs on her whiskers.  She would  give them 5 stars if she could 🙂

Sandy, after her pie-eating escapade.

Sandy, after her pie-eating escapade.

I  promised to make the cheesecake again for Christmas, so we will try again to see for ourselves how good it is.

 

SOURCE:    Allrecipes Magazine