Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Joyful Macaroons

I SHALL CONCLUDE 2013, MY FIFTH YEAR of blogging with one last cookie. I made this one especially for my husband, Pritchard Parker, who also happens to be my best friend, lover, caretaker, accountant, landscaper, handy-man, bed warmer, chauffeur, entertainer, mechanic, singer, protector, shopper extraordinaire, recipe taster, and all around great guy.  And he's good looking too.

Joyful Macaroons
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla
whole almonds
melted chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, flour, and salt. Add the condensed milk and vanilla. Mix well (using your hands is messiest and easiest). Drop by heaping tablespoonful onto parchment. Top each macaroon with a whole almond.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans and pressing down the almonds half way through baking. Let the macaroons cool on pans for a couple of minutes, then place on cooling racks.

When completely cooled, dip into melted chocolate.

A Fondly Compiled Compendium of Black-Eyed Pea Recipes

Black-Eyed Pea Curry

Baked Sweet Potato with Black-Eyed Peas
Texas Caviar
Hoppin' John

Crock Pot Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Clementine Ambrosia

IF YOU HAVE THE WHEREWITHAL, as my Grandmother did, to wrestle and conquer a fresh coconut, I highly recommend you do it. There is really nothing like the taste of fresh, right out of the shell, coconut. I have done it in the past, but I'm afraid I have become a wimp and now used frozen coconut, which is a fine substitute. 

My Grandmother always made a big bowl of Ambrosia for Christmas. The aroma of the oranges and the sight of the sunshiny colors bathed in a sweetened creamy sauce always provides for me fond memories of her. 

Southerners love something sweet right along with dinner which is why you see so many sweet salads in Southern cuisine. Such is the case with Ambrosia which tastes marvelous with your Christmas ham.  It can also be served for dessert along with a slice of pound cake, or for a snack with a cup of hot coffee. Dare I say this salad can be served over ice cream? 

Clementine Ambrosia
8 - 10 Clementine tangerines, peeled, sectioned, and sections halved
2 cups fresh chopped pineapple
2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) coconut
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. The acidity of the fruit and sour cream melt the marshmallows forming a sweet, creamy sauce. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Ribbons and Wands

TURNS OUT, THIS WAS my favorite Christmas cookie. Especially the ones dipped in crushed peppermint. I used the same recipe as the Chocolate Pillows I made, but finished them differently

For the wands, I fitted the cookie press with the star tip and extruded the dough slowly making a fat, wiggly line. I then scored the lines and baked as usual. After the cookies cooled, I dipped them into melted chocolate and sprinkled with chopped, salted, roasted peanuts. So pretty and so tasty. 
The Ribbons were made by fitting the cookie press with the stencil that makes a continuous ridged line of dough. Score the cookies before baking. After cooling, I dipped them into the same melted chocolate as the wands but this time I sprinkled them with crushed peppermint candy.

The taste is reminiscent of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Toffee Bars

There is no telling how many batches of these cookies I have made over the years. It is one that I bake at times other than Christmas and it is always a crowd pleaser.

A bar cookie, consisting of brown sugar shortbread covered with chocolate and nuts, this recipe is very flexible and simple to bake.  I have made them thicker and thinner, softer and crunchier. I have used milk chocolate and pecans (my personal favorite), white chocolate and sliced almonds, semi-sweet chocolate and walnuts, dark chocolate and pistachios. All combinations seem to work swimmingly.

Toffee Bars
(From Betty Crocker)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. chocolate chips or bars broken into pieces
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 inch baking pan.

Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Blend in flour and salt. Press evenly in bottom of prepared pan.

Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until very light brown. Crust will be soft. Remove from oven; immediately place chocolate chips or pieces on crust. Ass soon as the chocolate is soft, spread evenly. Sprinkle with nuts. While warm, cut into bars.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pretzel Kisses

 Last Christmas, our niece gave us a dishful of these dandy tidbits. I'm not exaggerating when I say, we could not stop eating them. Every time either of us passed by that little bowl, our hand went out. Finally, after about three days, they were all gone.

These morsels are super simple to make and deceptively delicious to snack on--crunchy, salty, sweet, and chocolatey and a great project to make with the children. The most time consuming part of it is unwrapping all the candies. 

Pretzel Kisses
Small pretzels
Hershey's Kisses
M&M candies
Toasted pecans, if desired

Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Arrange pretzels on a sheet pan and top each with a kiss. Place into the oven for 5 minutes. The candies will not look melted but they will be soft. Place an M&M, pecan, or another pretzel on top of each and press lightly.  Chill until the chocolate has hardened. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chocolate Pillows

 These buttery vanilla cookies have a secret center. They were made with a cookie press and I loved making them!

A continuous line of cookie dough is extruded then a piece of chocolate candy is placed along the line of dough. That line of dough is topped with another and the pieces are sealed together and scored to make individual cookies.

The recipe was new to me and since I made them I have thought of all the variations that could be made using this method. Peanut butter dough could be used and filled with jam. Chocolate dough filled with a cherry. Spice dough filled with dried fruit. Cheddar dough filled with a pecan to make cheese straws.

They could also be decorated with sprinkles, jimmies, or icing. I'll be baking more of these.

Chocolate Pillows
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Hershey bars, broken along score lines

Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Stir in flour and salt until combined.

Fill cookie press and fit with the ribbon stencil. Press a continuous line of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet with the ridged side down.  Place a piece of the candy along the strip of dough spacing them about 1/4 apart. Press another strip of cookie dough on top of the candies, this time with the ridges up.

Press the two strips together gently.  Score the dough between the chocolate pieces and trim the ends to make them straight. (The trimmed off piece of dough can be used again).

Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cut into pieces along each scored line. Let them cool on the pans for a couple of minutes them remove to racks to cool completely.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Spritz Cookies

If you want to make large quantities of shaped cookies for your cookie trays, the cookie press can be your friend. I received one as a gift and have really been enjoying using it. So much faster than rolling and cutting out and the cookies are really pretty.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies--16 dozen! And they are quite good; everything you want your homemade peanut butter cookies to be.

I decorated them a few different ways. On some I placed an M & M in the center, others a dark chocolate chip, and on some I dabbed a small spoonful of raspberry jam. Also, as an experiment, I attached a star tip to the press and made rosettes and ribbons.

Peanut Butter Spritz Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Place butter and peanut butter in large mixing bowl and cream thoroughly on medium-high speed. Add sugars gradually. Beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well using medium speed.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to peanut butter mixture in 3 additions, mixing well after each.

Assemble and fill cookie press with dough following the directions for your press. Select desired disc and press cookies onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 12 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Have one of each, I'll be right back. I am off to the kitchen to bake Gingerbread Spritz. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Big Crispy Chocolate Dipped Oatmeal Cookies

I like to start my Christmas cookie baking each year with a big, sturdy, bold cookie for my husband. I don't want him to feel trepidation about digging into as many freshly baked cookies as he wants to eat.

Knowing him as I do, I know he would hesitate about seeing some prissy and fragile looking little dainties that appeared like they were difficult to make. I'm not saying he doesn't enjoy and savor those cookies--oh he does. I just like to start the season with a no holds barred eat with enthusiasm and vigor model.

I am not one to bake cookies and forbid anyone from eating them--saving them for gifts, planning to serve them another day. I plan for those things and plenty to "sample" all along the way. Can you imagine coming into someones home, seeing cookies and smelling cookies, and not being able to EAT any cookies? Or someone grudgingly saying, "Well OK, but just one". 

Nope, not happening in Rocquie's kitchen. When I bake cookies, we eat cookies.

This is a very flexible oatmeal cookie recipe. I added dried cranberries and chopped roasted walnuts, then dipped them in melted dark chocolate. And I made them big. You can make them smaller and thinner if desired. You can add any nuts, fruit, or chocolate chips you wish, or you can leave them plain. Bake them a little longer if you like them more crisp. Add spices if you like. I've done all those things very successfully with this basic recipe.

Crisp Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs, then beat until the mixture is light.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir in the oats until combined well.

Add one third of the oat mixture to the butter mixture, then add the milk. Blend well then stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in nuts and fruit.

Drop dough by teaspoon for smaller cookies or tablespoons for larger cookies. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, depending on size, until the edges and tops are beginning to brown.

Let cool for a couple of minutes on the pan, then place on racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Broiled Ruby Grapefruit

I am not a breakfast eater and never have been. I am not hungry and I don't like the fuss involved. I like to awaken slowly and quietly, sip my cup of tea, and think my thoughts. Morning, when undisturbed, is when I remember my dreams.

A beautiful Ruby Grapefruit on a cold and dreary winter morning is a breakfast I can embrace.  I enjoy the preheating of the oven and the brewing of the tea as the chilly kitchen warms for the day. As I slice the grapefruit sections free from the membrane and sprinkle brown sugar atop, the cheery citrus aroma is gently released, with a sweet, tart, juicy promise. 

A fantastic way to ease into your day.

Broiled Ruby Grapefruit
1 grapefruit
2 - 3 teaspoons brown sugar (to taste)

Preheat your oven's broiler and position a rack so the cut grapefruit will be about 3 inches from the heat source.

Cut the grapefruit in half horizontally. Cut each section free from the membranes. Sprinkle with desired amount of brown sugar.

Place the grapefruit halves on a small baking pan and broil for about 10 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the edges are beginning to brown.