Today is National Cookie Day

December 4 is National Cookie Day, or so says the ubiquitous Internet where all things are true. So, let’s bake cookies with the flavors of the season. Here are two of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes.

Canberry Coins
Pictured above, this recipe came from Melanie, the neighborhood Martha Stewart. She got the recipe from Martha, of course!

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth. Add flour and salt; beat just until combined. Stir in dried cranberries. Divide dough into quarters.

On parchment or waxed paper, shape each portion into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long. Wrap logs tightly in parchment or waxed paper. Chill 30 minutes or up to one day. (Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen up to one month.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife, slice dough into one-quarter-inch thick rounds. Rotate log as you cut to keep it from flattening. Place rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, one inch apart.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to two weeks.

Holiday Pumpkin Cookies
These were a mainstay every Christmas growing up. Mom made up her recipes and named them. Her naming conventions went right to the point. Thanks for the memories, Mom!

INGREDIENTS
1 cup shortening (this means Crisco, luckily, today, you can buy them in pre-measured sticks)
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon orange extract
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup solid pack pumpkin

Cream the above, then add the following:
1-3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (usually a mixture of cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice)
Drop and top with pecan half.

Bake at 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

My variation: For Christmas, top with red and green sugar and the pecan. Or do some without the pecan for non-nut eaters. However, the original version is the one in the photo.

Holiday Pumpkin Cookie photo by Cindy Dyer.

True Colors

‘Tis the season for red and green and easy-to-carry party food. Spinach stuffed tomatoes provide all the color you need and this dish is easy to make ahead (even the day before) and bake when you need it. This tasty veggie dish is also a hit when you have to take something to a party because baked-ahead tomatoes can be eaten at room temp.

Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion of your choice (I use chopped shallots or finely-minced red onion)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese mixed with 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Wash tomatoes and slice a small slice off the stem end so the tomato will sit upright in a baking dish. Cut off the top of the tomato and scoop out the pulp. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a little salt. Spray baking dish with cooking spray and place cored tomatoes in dish.

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain and squeeze all water out

Add butter, cream cheese, onions, salt and pepper and combine until butter and cheese is melted.

Spoon spinach mixture into tomatoes. Top with parmesan/bread crumb mixture.

Bake for 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Can make ahead and hold in refrigerator for two days before baking.

 

 

 

 

 

Dressed for Fall

The leaves are falling this time of year….right onto your cake! Dress your pumpkin cake up with some silk leaves for a fall look and a great dessert centerpiece for a dessert table.

I used this recipe but baked it in a Bundt pan.

 

It Might Be Your Grandmother’s Gooey Dessert, But It’s NOT Your Grandmother’s Hearing Loss

Hearing loss isn’t just for grandparents. You might not be an elder statesmen, but you could be losing a little hearing. Join the crowd – one in ten people have a hearing loss in the U.S.

  • Do you often think,  “I can hear but I can’t understand.”
  • Do you have trouble hearing on the phone?
  • Do you turn up the volume on the TV?
  • Do you say to yourself, “I’ll just stay in the kitchen and cook so I won’t have to talk to anyone!”

I hope I am not making you uncomfortable by asking these questions. (Quick, skip to the recipe!)

I write about the food that brings us together, but when someone is left out of the party, the family dinner, or the conversation because he or she can’t hear, that’s NOT hospitality. If you haven’t already, do something about your hearing loss today. The holidays are coming so don’t stay home or leave the party early! I love you and that’s why I am writing about this.

The Number One charitable organization in the world for people with hearing loss is HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America). I normally don’t ask for donations for charitable organizations on this blog, but this organization is a winner. Revlon has chosen HLAA for the LOVE IS ON 2016 MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE.

You have about 24 hours to make a tax-deductible contribution. Read more about HLAA and the Revlon Challenge. I’ve donated. If you think you have a hearing loss or know someone who does, you might want to as well. Click here and scroll to my photo. The LOVE IS ON! If you aren’t inclined to give (no amount is too small), just enjoy this easy recipe and peruse the blog. Thanks for reading.

Spread-the-Love Space Cake

(This is my grandmother’s gooey peanut-butter chocolate cake. Mabel Varner Space did not have a hearing loss that she admitted to, but her husband, my grandpa, sure did, as do the younger branches on the family tree!)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box graham crackers
  • Bananas, about 3-5 depending on the size of the dish
  • Chocolate frosting, about 1-2 cups
  • Peanut butter, about 1 to 2 cups

DIRECTIONS

Layer graham crackers in a baking pan. Slice bananas lengthwise and layer on top of graham crackers. Repeat the layers at least twice until you end with graham crackers. Frost the top with your favorite chocolate frosting mixed with peanut butter (about half and half). Cover tightly and let cake sit for at least 24 hours before eating it. It gets better with age and will hold in the refrigerator a few days after that.

[Photo by Cindy Dyer.]

End-of-Summer Blues

Labor Day is the hard stop of summer, even if the weather stays hot beyond that. There were a lot of blueberry pies this summer and this one was one of my favorite. Mark your summer’s end with something sweet.

This recipe combines both cooked and fresh fruit so the pie isn’t so “soupy.” The crust uses both butter and shortening. Too much flour and water will make the crust tough. Both the butter and shortening mixed with very cold water makes the crust flaky. I’ve experimented with coconut oil, vegetable all, it’s all good, but find the one you like. Making pie crust is an art – sometimes my “art” isn’t so fine, but this one came out like a winner. Just keep practicing.

Blueberry Pie, the Right Way

This recipe was inspired by Ronnie S. Benwick’s deep-dish blueberry pie. I appreciate her brilliance of using both cooked and fresh fruit. I might try the same approach with peaches. 

  • Single pie crust (recipe below), baked
  • 6 cups fresh blueberries, washed, separated into 3 cups to cook and 3 cups to add later
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Lime zest from 2 limes (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 3 cups blueberries, lime juice, zest and water in a saucepan. Cook briefly over medium heat until the blueberries have “popped,” about 6 minutes.

Whisk together 5 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir into blueberry mixture and cook over medium heating, stirring constantly, until the consistency is like pudding. Remove from heat, add vanilla and gently stir in remaining 3 cups of blueberries. Pour into baked pie shell and chill for at least 3 hours. You can adjust fruit amount if you like.

Basic Pie Crust for Single-Crust Pie

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 shortening
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold right from fridge
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup of ice cold water

Stir together flour and salt. Cut in chunks of butter and shortening until the shortening/butter are about the size of peas. You can use a fork, your fingers or pastry blender.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of water over part of the flour. tossing with a fork. Continue adding water, I tablespoon at a time, until moist. Gather dough in a ball, kneading gently. Roll crust out on a floured surface into about a 12-inch circle. Put into a 9-inch pie plate, crimp edges. Prick bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Line crust with foil and bake for 8 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove foil and bake for 6-8 minutes more until golden brown. (Foil tip from Better Homes and Gardens.) Cool and fill with filling.

It’s Not the 1960s Anymore

By this time in 1969, I had consumed at least (at least!) 52 Sealtest ® Ice Cream Sandwiches at the local Clarion pool in the college town where I grew up. Clarion was sleepy in the summer because the college kids left and all the happenings were at the pool on Liberty Street or down at the river.

I remember those ice cream sandwiches from the vending machine – thick with ice cream, not like the skimpy ones today. Maybe when you’re a kid everything just seems bigger and better like the little house you grew up in.

I never deviated from that frozen treat, even though the lure of banana popsicles beckoned. I think I only sat out one week that summer when I had what mom called, “sun poisoning.” I looked like a lobster with bumps and the word “poisoning” scared me enough to stay home, but it killed me!

The pool closed down after that for several years on and off for repairs and I never really got back into going. I found books, bicycling and baking instead. Hang on to those good memories as you build new ones.

2016 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pictured above is my brownie bar filled with Breyers® Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Cut the brownies into squares, freeze them. Take them out of the freezer and slice in half crosswise and top each half with your favorite flavor of ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt. Make little ice cream sandwiches and wrap each individually with plastic wrap. Make a ton and keep them in the freezer for when the kids come in looking for something good.

Cookies work well too. I used molasses cookies here. And, keep enjoying summer with all those food memories!

Susie-Infused Shrimp

Susie makes a succulent marinated shrimp and avocado salad. I’ve never met Susie but I couldn’t help but think about her yesterday when preparing this dish for a picnic.

Do you ever feel like you know someone just by hearing about her over many years? Susie is Nancy’s sister. I know she makes delicious and creative food. She’s pretty, fun and loves her family. She’s also a youngish grandmother who loves cuddling babies. I can picture the kind of clothes she wears because Nancy will often say, “My sister Susie could get away with wearing that! (And it’s always something stylish.) Susie also talks to the hummingbirds that linger on her feeders, “Hi sweetie…”

Now you know Susie like I know Susie. Enjoy one of her signature recipes.

Marinated Shrimp and Avocado

  • 2 lbs. shrimp, peeled, cooked and deveined
  • 2 small onions sliced (I used one bunch of green scallions)
  • 12 mushrooms, sliced
  • Lemon-Thyme Marinade (recipe below)
  • 2 avocados cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine the shrimp, onions and mushrooms in a bowl. Toss lightly. Pour in the Lemon-Thyme Marinade and toss gently to coat. Chill covered in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Add avocado a few hours before serving. Drain the marinade and serve.

Lemon-Thyme Marinade

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I added some fresh thyme from my garden to the dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Whisk ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.