Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fifth Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Round-up

Twelve more cookie and treats to help you celebrate this Christmas season.

As you whisk and sift and bake this year, be sure to look up from your bowls of flour and melted chocolate to appreciate the joy and wonder of the Christmas season. As we share and give our love to those around us (whether that is through cookies, gifts or service), may we also remember the gift of love given to each of us on that very first Christmas.

Shortbread 3

DAY 1: Scottish Shortbread

Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies 2

DAY 2: Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Raspberry Blondies 1

DAY 3: Raspberry Swirl Blondies

Oreo Truffles 1

DAY 4: Oreo Truffles

Ninjabread Men 3

DAY 5: Ninja-bread Men Cookies

Hot Cocoa Mix 2

DAY 6: Hot Cocoa Mix

Peppermint Marshmallows 1

DAY 7: Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Nutella Marbled Cheesecake Bars

DAY 8: Nutella Marbled Cheesecake Bars

Cranberry Orange Cookies 3

DAY 9: Glazed Cranberry Orange Cookies

Rocky Road Cookies

DAY 10: Rocky Road Cookies

Christmas Fortune Cookies

DAY 11: Christmas Fortune Cookies

Peppermint Bark 1

DAY 12: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

For forty-eight more cookie and candy ideas, there are links below for the four previous years’ Christmas Cookies:

First Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2009)

Second Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2010)

Third Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2011)

Fourth Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2012)

—-

My best wishes to each of you for a faith filled Christmas season.  May God be with you and your family.

Click the photo above or HERE for videos, music, cards and messages reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas, the gift of the Savior of the world, and how we can incorporate that meaning into our lives every day.

No Empty Chairs Signature

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Candy, Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

Softball (or Baseball) Cookies

Softball Cookies 1

We made it to the end of another girls’ softball season! Last week was our end-of-season party and awards night. Since I had a couple-dozen plain round cookies left from the graduation party Fruit Pizza Cookies (stored in the freezer), I made these softball cookies in our team color (Go Purple Bandits!) for the girls to eat after their pizza.

Softball Cookies 6

I used a simple Glacé Icing to frost these (just powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, vanilla or almond extract and gel food coloring) that you mix with a whisk. You could also use a Royal Icing. Click HERE to see soccer ball cookies made with Royal Icing. There are also some more detailed pictures there of piping and flooding sugar cookies.

To make the baseball/softball cookies:

Using  thick white piping-thickness icing, pipe a circle around the edge of each cookie. Using  thinner flooding-thickness white icing, fill the center of each cookie with white icing. Use a toothpick to move icing around to completely fill center. Use toothpick to pop any bubbles. Let cookies set for about 30 minutes before piping on colored lines (ball seams).

Using thick colored piping-thickness icing (I used purple, but you could use red for a traditional baseball), pipe two arcs at the edges of the cookies. Pipe “v’s” to complete seams. Let icing harden at least 24 hours before stacking cookies.

In humid weather it will take even longer for the icing to harden. After 36 hours, mine were still slightly soft. Royal icing dries harder and faster than glacé icing, but I didn’t have any meringue powder and I like the taste of the glacé icing better, especially with almond extract.

Softball Cookies 3

Little J in her Bandits uniform. She was voted Best Hitter by her teammates.

Softball Cookies 2

Little J had a great coach this year that really focused on fundamentals, and her game improved a lot. Her favorite thing to do was to slide. Whether the ball was anywhere near her or not. Here she is sliding into third:

Softball Cookies 4

She tried this in a game once wearing shorts (“It’s too hot to wear pants, Mom!”). After coming home with a softball-sized scrape on the edge of her bum, I haven’t had to nag anymore about the wisdom of pants.

RECIPE:

Softball Cookies 5

Sugar Cookies

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Beat sugar, butter, sour cream and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add soda, salt and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough (start with 7 cups and add additional flour if needed). Chill dough for 20 minutes to 1 hour for easier handling. Roll out dough to desired thickness (I like these fairly thick) and cut with cookie cutter.

Bake at 375°F for 9-11 minutes; if they brown, it’s been too long.  They should still look white when done.

Glacé Icing
——–
(from Our Best Bites)
1lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups) + additional for thickening piping icing
1/4 cup+ 2 Tbs  whole milk or cream
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
Gel food coloring

With a whisk, combine sugar, milk or cream, corn syrup and almond or vanilla extract until smooth. NOTE: If you are using cream, you will need 1-2 Tbs more. Using cream does help the icing look whiter. Add food coloring for desired colors.

You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. It’s smooth and thin. It easily runs off of a whisk in a thin drizzle.

To prepare the icing for piping, add more powdered sugar until icing is thick enough to hold its shape.

To make the baseball/softball cookies:
Using  thick white piping-thickness icing, pipe a circle around the edge of each cookie. Using  thinner flooding-thickness white icing, fill the center of each cookie with white icing. Use a toothpick to move icing around to completely fill center. Use toothpick to pop any bubbles. Let cookies set for about 30 minutes before piping colored lines (ball seams).

Using thick colored piping-thickness icing (I used purple because our team was the Purple Bandits, but you could use red for a traditional baseball), pipe two arcs at the edges of the cookies. Pipe “v’s” to complete seams. Let icing harden at least 24 hours before stacking cookies. In humid weather it will take even longer for the icing to harden. After 36 hours, mine were still slightly soft.

5 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

Graduation Party: Individual Fruit Pizza Cookies

Fruit Pizza Cookies 8

At a graduation party for Big A and her best friend M we had a dessert bar where guests could make their own mini fruit pizzas using sugar cookies, fruit dips and chopped fruit.

I made plain round sugar cookies (about 4” in diameter) to use as a base for the fruit pizzas.

Fruit Pizza Cookies 4

There were two fruit dips that we used as frosting for the cookies, a Berry Fluff Dip (which I didn’t get a good picture of) and a Creamy Nutella Dip. Using a fruit dip instead of a regular frosting makes for a less-sweet base for the fruit, which I prefer.

Fruit Pizza Cookies 1

The Nutella fruit dip needs to be stored in the refrigerator, but should be served at room temperature. The dip will get very thick in the fridge, almost fudge consistency. Fudge. Nutella fudge. That is something to ponder for next Christmas.

This “fruit dip” also makes a great frosting for sugar cookies or brownies:

Fruit Pizza Cookies 7

To top frosted cookies, there was an array of chopped fruit. We used fresh pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, mango and kiwi.

Fruit Pizza Cookies 3

The graduates and their friends loved it!

Fruit Pizza Cookies 5

Congratulations Class of 2013. We are so proud of you Big A!

Fruit Pizza Cookies 2

RECIPES:

Fruit Pizza Cookies 8

Individual Fruit Pizza Cookies

Sugar Cookies
3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Beat sugar, butter, sour cream and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add soda, salt and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough (start with 7 cups and add additional flour if needed). Chill dough for 20 minutes to 1 hour for easier handling. Roll out dough to desired thickness (I like these fairly thick) and cut with cookie cutter.

Bake at 375°F for 9-11 minutes; if they brown, it’s been too long.  They should still look white when done.

Creamy Nutella Fruit Dip
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup Nutella
½ cup heavy cream

Warm cream cheese and Nutella slightly (about 30 seconds in the microwave) and then stir together with the cream until well mixed. Serve at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 2 1/2 cups. Serve as a fruit dip or as a frosting for cookies or brownies.

Berry Fluff Fruit Dip
1 container marshmallow fluff
1 container Cool Whip
1 container strawberry flavored cream cheese, softened
OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup sweetened raspberry (or strawberry) puree or seedless jam

Mix all ingredients until well blended. Serve as a fruit dip or as a frosting for cookies. NOTE: The original recipe only calls for fluff, cool whip and cream cheese. I thought this tasted too much like “fluff” and not enough like “berry”, so I added 1/2 cup sweetened raspberry puree to the fluff.

To make individual fruit pizzas:
Cut out sugar cookie dough with a 3-4” round cookie cutter and bake. Prepare dessert bar with sugar cookies, fruit dips and chopped fruit (choose from strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, kiwi, mango, nectarines, peaches, grapes). Guests can assemble their own cookie fruit pizza.

1 Comment

Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

Homemade Fortune Cookies and thoughts on Japanese Gaman

Fortune Cookies 1

As we approach Chinese New Year which begins on  February 10,  I want to share a recipe for homemade fortune cookies and also my favorite fortune (from a cookie) ever.

A few years ago  I was serving in a responsibility at church that most of the time filled me with love and gratitude, but also involved a heavy time commitment and occasionally left me feeling heart-sick about things that I could not fix.

After one such day, Brian and I went to dinner with some good friends. After the meal, the traditional fortune cookies were served. I received the most timely fortune. It is the only one that I have actually held onto and occasionally reread.

Fortune 2

I know this doesn’t sound like an especially cheery sentiment, but it described exactly how I was feeling at the time. It was also a wonderful nostalgic reminder of the time we spent living in Japan. My Japanese is extremely limited, but one of the concepts that fascinated me there was the concept of uncomplaining endurance or perseverance, regardless of circumstance. From a religious perspective, we might call this “enduring to the end.” The Japanese have not just one word for this, but a vocabulary that covers an entire spectrum of levels of endurance and different situations which might require endurance.

The word “ganbatte”, on the low end of the spectrum might be called out to someone who has just one lap to go in a race or is about to take a hard test. It implies both an encouragement to keep going or work hard and also an admonition to do your best. It implies as well an unspoken wish of good luck in your endeavor.

At the other end of the spectrum you have “gaman”, which implies a self-sacrificing patience, endurance and perseverance through extremely difficult and often prolonged circumstances. It is a charge to endure with grace and dignity. “Work on in despair” is not meant to be a negative concept, but a positive character trait to develop that will bless both you and society at large.

So, as you make these cookies and the edges burn OR you wait too long to fold them and they harden, OR you make 600 of them for a Chinese New Year party and while you are changing your kids break open every single one to read the funny fortunes, all I can say is:

GANBATTE!

Fortune Cookies 2

Making Fortune Cookies:

Fortune cookies are made from a thin egg white based batter. You will need to line your baking sheets with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Spread batter in 3-4” circles on your baking sheets. I can get 6 on my baking sheet. The cookies will harden quickly after removing them from the oven. Start with just a couple of cookies on your baking sheet until you get the hang of folding them quickly.

Fortune Cookies 5

The cookies are done when the dough is dry, but not brown. Don’t be discouraged if you ruin a cookie or two trying to get the exact time right (no two ovens are exactly the same).

Fortune Cookies 3

To fold: While the cookies are still hot from the oven, flip a cookie over and place a fortune in the center of the cookie. Gently fold cookie in half (do not flatten center crease; just make the edges meet). Using a mug or drinking glass, fold the cookie in half again over the edge of the mug. Transfer to a muffin tin to keep cookie from unfolding while it completely cools.

Fortune Cookies 4

Cookies should be eaten the same day, or stored in an airtight container. They will quickly become soft in a humid climate. Making them in the winter here in dry western PA, they will keep for several days without becoming soft.

You can write your own fortunes, or here are some links for pre-written fortunes:

Traditional Fortunes:
FortuneCookieMessage.com
Fortunecookies.co.nz
KCFortuneCookieFactory.com
BreakTheCookie.com
ChineseFortuneCookie.com

Funny Fortunes:
YourDictionary.com
MentalFloss.com
SayingsPlus.com

For Kids:
DAPatchy.com/Kidscook
Fortunecookies.co.nz

RECIPE:

Fortune Cookies 1

Homemade Fortune Cookies

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp salt
4 egg whites
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbs water
1 ½ tsp orange or almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fortunes cut into strips about 3 ½” long by½” wide

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

Use a whisk to mix flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, use the whisk to lightly beat the egg whites, oil, water, vanilla, and orange or almond extract until frothy.

Stir the flour into the egg white mixture and mix until you have a smooth batter. The batter will be thin, with the consistency of a sticky pancake batter and not stiff like a normal cookie dough.

Place one tablespoon of batter onto the cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, spread batter in a circular motion to make a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.  Place 4-6 cookies on a baking sheet (start with fewer cookies until you get the hang of folding quickly). The batter should be very thin on the baking sheet. If it’s too thick the cookies won’t fold without breaking.

Bake for 11-14 minutes, or until the outer edge of each cookie barely begins to brown.

TO FOLD: Immediately after  removing baking sheet from the oven, working very quickly, remove a cookie with a thin metal spatula and flip it over onto a clean plate or mat. Place a fortune in the middle of the cookie (let one end slightly extend beyond edge of cookie, if desired). Fold the cookie in half, but do not flatten center crease; just make the edges meet gently. Fold cookie in half again by gently pulling the edges downward over the rim of a mug or glass. Place the finished cookie in the cup of a muffin tin so that it keeps its shape while it cools. Continue with the rest of the cookies.

Let cookies sit, uncovered, for 1-2 hours (so that they harden completely). Cookies are best eaten the same day, especially if weather is humid. In drier climates, cookies will keep well for several days.

Yield: 36-40 cookies

 

2 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

Halloween Humor

Why did the Mushroom get invited to all the parties?

103012 025

‘Cuz he’s a fungi!

103012 023

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Birthday Trifle, Lyme Disease and Baseball

Pirates Game 006-1

Last week was a week of highs and lows for our Little A. After contracting Lyme disease last month (and a long month before a definitive diagnosis), he had some unexpected complications on Monday which landed us in Children’s Hospital for the next few days. He was released just in time to celebrate his 9th birthday on Friday: a day full of Pirates baseball (GO BUCS! Who are not only over 500 for the first time in almost 20 years, but are leading their division!) and a family celebration with one of Little A’s favorite desserts: English Trifle. A birthday party with friends on Saturday helped to erase the not-so-fun start to the week.

Trifle 022-1Happy Birthday to an amazing little boy, who was a great example of courage and patience this week.

Trifle 030.3

Late night photos do not do justice to this dessert. Layers of pound cake, fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, and a homemade vanilla custard were the dessert of choice for my little guy that never eats anything made with chocolate.

Trifle 008-1Leftover Vanilla Custard

RECIPES:

Trifle 030.3

English Trifle **

½ – l loaf pound cake, cut into thin cubes (or ladyfingers or angel food cake)
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1 pint blueberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
½ cup raspberry jam
1-2 Tbs sugar or small pinch of Stevia extract
Vanilla Custard (see recipe below-or use boxed vanilla pudding)
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs powdered sugar or small pinch of Stevia extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
Toasted almonds, for garnish

Prepare Vanilla Custard or pudding. Cool completely. In a separate bowl, mix fruits, jam and sugar/Stevia.

Layer half of the cake slices, fruit and custard in a large glass serving bowl. Repeat layers. Whip cream with powdered sugar/Stevia and almond extract. Spread on top of the trifle layers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. Just before serving, sprinkle with toasted almonds.

**NOTE: The exact amounts of cake, fruit and custard that you use will depend on the size of your bowl. Leftovers make great individual parfaits!

Vanilla Custard

Trifle 008-1

3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs cornstarch or ClearJel
1 vanilla bean, optional
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (if not using vanilla bean)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and vanilla bean (Split bean in half and scrape seeds into the saucepan. Place bean pod in the saucepan as well). Stir in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. While boiling, cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir 1 cup of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to the saucepan, stirring well. Return custard to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 2 additional minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla extract (if using) and remove vanilla bean pod. Pour into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard (to keep from developing a skin). Chill until cool. Do not stir while custard is cooling.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

1 Comment

Filed under Desserts, Uncategorized

Triple Berry Syrup

0507110091_thumb

Triple Berry Syrup
————-(Adapted from Our Best Bites)

4 cups mixed frozen berries
1/3 cup raspberry jam (I used this homemade Raspberry Nectarine Jam)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 Tbs cornstarch

Combine berries, jam and sugar in a saucepan. Mix together water and cornstarch and mix into berries in pan. Over medium heat, cook sauce until thickened and just barely beginning to boil. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes about 3 cups syrup.

Serve over Waffles, Pancakes, Cheesecake, Ice Cream

Leave a comment

Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Condiments/Sauces, Uncategorized

Homemade Maple Syrup

SD Maple 031-1

Homemade Maple Syrup
————-(adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 Tbs honey or corn syrup (dark or light)
1 cup water
1 tsp pure maple extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a large 5-6 quart pot, combine the sugars, honey and water. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low so the mixture gently simmers. Cover the pot and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes before stirring in the maple and vanilla extracts. Pour the hot syrup into a mason jar and immediately seal with lid and ring. As it cools the jar seals. Store unrefrigerated for 1-2 weeks, or in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Reheat before serving, if desired.

*Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Leave a comment

Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Uncategorized

Blueberry Syrup

blueberry-syrup

Blueberry Syrup
————(from Simple Bites)

5 cups blueberries
3 cups water
1 cup sugar (Turbinado or regular white sugar)
1 whole lemon, washed

Using a sharp paring knife, peel three or four strips of lemon peel from the lemon. Skin should be about 1/2 inch wide and not have too much of the bitter pith or white part on it. Then juice the lemon, and set both zest and juice aside.

Place blueberries and 1 cup of the water in a medium pot. Don’t worry about stems or leaves; they will be strained out later. Using a potato masher, crush the berries. Over medium-high heat, bring the berries and water to a boil, then lower the temperature to medium-low. Simmer berries for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will darken considerably.

Remove pot from heat and ladle berries into a fine sieve set over a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup. Using the back of a  ladle, press on the berry solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids.

Wash out your pot, then add the remaining 2 cups of water, lemon peel(not juice yet), and the sugar. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for about 15 minutes until the mixture thickens (or reaches 225°F). Add reserved blueberry juice and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and stir to combine. Boil another minute or two. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove lemon zest.

Using a funnel, pour syrup into clean jars. Top with lid and store in the refrigerator for up to six months. Or process in sterile canning jars with a boiling bath canner (Process half pints for 10 minutes; pints for 15 minutes).

Makes about 4 cups.

Serve over Cheesecake, Waffles, Pancakes, Ice Cream

Wholegrainwaffles61_thumb

Leave a comment

Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Canning/Freezing, Condiments/Sauces, Uncategorized

Vanilla Buttermilk Syrup

banananutwaffles1_thumb

Vanilla Buttermilk Syrup

1 1/2 cups white or brown sugar (I use half white, half brown)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 Tbs dark corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped**

Combine sugar, buttermilk, butter, corn syrup, baking soda, salt and vanilla bean (both seeds and split pod) in a large pot (mixture will increase drastically in volume while cooking from the reaction between buttermilk and baking soda. Use a LARGE pot: soup pot size). Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until syrup is a light golden brown. Remove from heat. Remove and discard vanilla bean pod. Serve warm.

Store in refrigerator. Syrup will thicken to a soft caramel consistency in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

Serve over Waffles, Pancakes, Ice Cream, or anywhere you would use a caramel sauce.

** You can substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract for the vanilla bean, if desired. Stir vanilla extract into syrup AFTER cooking and removing from heat.

Leave a comment

Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Condiments/Sauces, Uncategorized