Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ball Drop Champagne Cocktail

Early in December, Les and I set out to test champagne cocktail recipes. We were having a small party to celebrate our 15th and final Christmas concert at the elementary school our children attended. Champagne and dessert were on the menu, but we also wanted to serve a fun cocktail.

We tried a few different cocktails, but my favorite was the Ball Drop, which I found in Food Network Magazine. It tastes a little bit like an old fashioned cocktail. It was definitely the favorite cocktail of our small party.

These Ball Drop Champagne cocktails would be a great addition to your New Year’s Eve menu, but be careful when you serve and drink these cocktails, they go down easily and they go to your head quickly!  

Ball Drop Champagne Cocktail
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Printable Recipe 
Triple sec or other orange flavored liquor
Champagne or sparkling wine
Maraschino cherries
Orange twists

Pour ½ ounce bourbon and ¼ ounce triple sec into each champagne flute. Top with Champagne or sparkling wine and garnish with maraschino cherry and orange twist. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Salsa Verde Frito Pie

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Les was home for both Christmas and Christmas Eve this year, so it was…well, like Christmas! We hosted Margot and her family again this Christmas Eve. I am so happy we started our Christmas Eve tradition 17 years ago! Margot’s husband Jeff missed our Christmas Eve festivities this year with a bad case of flu. We missed him more than we can say!

We all share a love of Mexican food, so I made chicken and beef enchiladas and rice and beans. Margot brought a salad to round out our dinner. If you have seen my Christmas Cookie Countdown,  you know what we had for dessert.

We had a more traditional ham, potato, yam and asparagus Christmas dinner, after our traditional Christmas Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m kind of tired of eating!

The rest of my family doesn’t seem as tired of eating as I am, so I’ve been trying to find delicious meals that are easy and fast. This Salsa Verde Frito Pie is fast, easy and delicious, so it checks all the boxes. My son loves Salsa Verde Frito Pie. The first time I made it, he scarfed down two helpings before I even noticed. The Salsa Verde is like chili, but doesn’t contain a single tomato. The green salsa and chiles give this chili a tangy finish that pairs well with the pepper jack cheese.

My mom used to make Frito pie for us every so often, but her version just included opening a can of chili, shedding some cheese and serving it on a bed of Fritos. I loved that version as a kid, but as an adult, I prefer Salsa Verde Frito Pie.

Salsa Verde Frito Pie 
Adapted from Southern Living
Printable Recipe 
2 cups frozen whole kernel yellow corn, thawed
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 12-ounce tube Jimmy Dean Hot Breakfast Sausage
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 16-ounce bottle of salsa verde (I used Herdez brand)
2 4.5-ounce cans chopped green chilies
1 16-ounce can small white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh limejuice
6 cups of original Frito corn chips, or 6 mini bags
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
Toppings: cilantro, sliced jalapenos, green onions

Add 3 teaspoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook until the corn browns, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Sauté sausage in the same skillet until the sausage is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet and add the onions. Cook onions over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chili powder and cumin, and cook stirring often for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in salsa, chilies and sausage. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 7 to 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in beans, corn and limejuice and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Divide chips among 6 plates and spoon the chili over the chips and top with the cheese. Serve with the toppings.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Double Butterscotch Cookies

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 6 – Double Butterscotch Cookies

As I mentioned, I am on a slice-and-bake cookie kick this year, and yesterday I reaped the rewards of the cookie logs I had made in November.  I thought I had Christmas Eve all taken care of, and I was working on my family’s traditional Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas morning.  My daughter was slicing the last of the rolls and putting them in the baking pan, while I set out the fudge and cookies for our Christmas Eve dinner party later that night.  I realized that not only had I forgotten to bake the cookies for dessert, I had also forgotten to take the dough out of the freezer.

I was running out of time, so I didn’t have time to let the cookie dough defrost.  I gave slicing the frozen dough a shot, and it sliced up beautifully.  I was able to get the cookies baked in no time.  Christmas Eve was saved!  Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but I was less stressed because the cookies were so easy to bake.  The recipe makes so many cookies, I was able to bake a log of dough for three or four different events this year.  I love that!

Double Butterscotch Cookies are crunchy and sweet with a wonderful toffee flavor.  My friend, Margot said that of all of the cookies I offered last night, these were her favorite.  I am also sharing this year’s Christmas table.  I had made the black and white table runner for theme party we did in September, and I wanted to incorporate it into my Christmas table decorations.  Merry Christmas!

Double Butterscotch Cookies
Adapted from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies
6 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened
½ cup of shortening
4 cups packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 10-ounce package English toffee bits
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.   Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, and mix well.  Stir in the toffee bits and pecans.

Shape the dough into three 14-inch rolls (the dough will be crumbly), and wrap each roll in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours to firm up the dough.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.   Unwrap the dough, and cut into ½ inch slices.  Place the slices 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool for 1 to 2 minutes on the baking sheets and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes 7 dozen.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 5 – Cranberry Icebox Cookies

I am on Day 5 of my Christmas Cookie Countdown, and I think today’s cookie is one of my favorites from this year’s batch of new cookies. I found this recipe in the Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies magazine. I’m on an icebox cookie kick this year. The convenience of a dough you shape into a log and store in the refrigerator or freezer can’t be beat. I made the dough for Cranberry Icebox Cookies in late November, and have been brining out the logs as needed this Christmas season.

This cookie has become my favorite due to its soft texture and sweet and tart flavor. My daughter likened the cookie to a scone. I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, but it is a special tender little cookie.  

Cranberry Icebox Cookies 
Adapted from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies.  
Printable Recipe 
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Carefully stir in the cranberries. Shape the dough into three 7-inch rolls, and wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Dough can also be frozen for up to one month.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut dough into ¼ inch slices and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Makes 5 ½ dozen.

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 1 - Pecan Tassies
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 2 - Chocolate-Orange Crackles
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 - Molasses Crinkles
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 4 - Peppermint Patty Fudge

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Peppermint Patty Fudge

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 4 – Peppermint Patty Fudge 

Technically, fudge is not a cookie, obviously, but fudge is such a big part of my Christmas gift giving, I had to include it in my Countdown. Some years, when I feel I don’t have enough time to bake, I always seem to find the time to make fudge. Fudge is easy and fast. You can whip up a batch in under thirty minutes.

As I’ve told you, I grew up with chocolate-butterscotch fudge, and I suspect it will always have a place in my Christmas candy repertoire, but this Peppermint Patty Fudge is also finding its way onto my list every year too with its creamy texture and minty taste. My daughter requested it this year.  

Peppermint Patty Fudge 
Adapted from Southern Food
Printable Recipe
4 cups granulated sugar
1 twelve-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup butter (two sticks)
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow cream
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups chopped peppermint patties

Line a 13-x9-x2-inch pan with aluminum foil, and grease thoroughly with butter. Set aside.

Combine sugar, milk and butter in a heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and add the marshmallow cream, chocolate chips and vanilla, stir to blend. Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chopped peppermint patties over the fudge mixture. Spoon the remaining fudge mixture over the top of the peppermint patties. Gently swirl the mixture with a knife to mix in the peppermint patties. Chill until firm and cut into 1-inch pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 1 – Pecan Tassies
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 2 – Chocolate-Orange Crackles
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 – Molasses Crinkles

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Molasses Crinkles

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 – Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles from Fine Cooking’s Cookies magazine are my choice for Christmas Cookie Countdown on day three. I’ve made these cookies before (I’ve even blogged them before), but they are worth a revisit. Molasses Crinkles are sweet, spicy, soft and chewy. I think they might be my favorite Christmas cookies.

I like them so much, I made a double batch this year, but they are already gone, so I’ll be making more before the big day. Makes 2 dozen.  

Molasses Crinkles
Adapted from Fine Cooking’s Cookies
Printable Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon table salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup molasses
1 large egg
Granulated sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt, set aside.

Add butter and brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and beat until blended. Add the molasses and the egg and beat until the mixture is well blended, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the flour mixture until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the over to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure the dough into tablespoon-sized pieces and roll each piece into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the center surface of the cookies is barely dry, about 9 to 10 minutes; don’t over bake. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 1 - Pecan Tassies
Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 2 - Chocolate-Orange Crackles

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chocolate-Orange Crackles

Cookie Countdown – Day 2 Chocolate-Orange Crackles 

The second cookie in my cookie countdown is a new cookie for me.  Food Network Magazine has some interesting cookies in their December issues, and when I saw the Chocolate-Orange Crackles, I knew I had to try them. I love chocolate and orange together.

Chocolate-Orange Crackles have a chewy texture, and rich chocolate flavor with a subtle orange finish. They are also pretty with their powdered sugar coating.

I loaded up a platter with different cookies, and took them to work with me, and the Chocolate-Orange Crackles were the first cookies to go.

Chocolate-Orange Crackles 
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Printable Recipe
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
2 cups granulated sugar, separated
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Heat the butter, chocolate and 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until the mixture is melted. Let cool slightly, and then add the Grand Marnier and eggs, and stir until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Transfer to a bowl, and cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the remaining granulated sugar and the powdered sugar into 2 separate shallow bowls. From the dough into 1-inch balls, and dredge the balls first into the granulated sugar and then into the powdered sugar. Arrange the balls about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracked, about 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, and then transfer the cookies to cooling racks, cool completely.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cookie Countdown - Pecan Tassies

Is there anything more fun at Christmas than a gift of cookies and fudge? Okay, that is arguable, but getting a gift of baked goods is really fun. We always baked cookies for Christmas when I was a kid, and they were always served to guests in our home, but I don’t remember my mom packaging them up as gifts.

The first time I received a gift of cookies, I had just moved up to northern California, and had made some new friends. One of these new friends, Janet, left a shirt box packed with cookies on my doorstep. She went out of her way to deliver her delicious and carefully packed gift of cookies. I was touched. And, I have given Christmas gifts of homemade treats ever since.

These Pecan Tassies have been part of my Christmas cookie giving for over 20 years. I have to laugh when I see the picture of the Pecan Tassies in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook though. Their Pecan Tassies are perfect—My Pecan Tassies are a bit more rustic. I like rustic, and these mini pecan tarts taste delicious either way.

Come back tomorrow to see the next cookie recipe I will be sharing.  

Pecan Tassies 
Adapted from Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook  
Printable Recipe
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting

Add the cream cheese and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until well blended. Add the flour and mix well. Place the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Divide the dough into quarters, and divide each quarter into 12 balls. Press each ball onto the bottom and sides of miniature muffin tins.

Combine eggs, brown sugar and vanilla, and stir in the pecans. Spoon the pecan mixture into the pastry shells, filing each cup.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove from the pans. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 4 dozen.


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