Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Double Delights

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 4 – Double Delights 

I know I’ve told you I collect Christmas magazines, but I’m not sure I mentioned I buy and collect every Christmas cookie magazine I can find every year. I love cookie magazines. I usually start looking at my cookie magazine collection and planning what I’m going to bake around Thanksgiving weekend, and I keep the magazines out all season long.

Better Homes and Gardens has been putting out cookie magazines for years, and I love looking through their yearly Christmas cookie issues. Taste of Home also started putting out Christmas cookie issues in the last three years, and I have been gravitating toward those recipes more and more. The recipes are creative and fun since they come from subscribers. It must be satisfying to see your cookie recipe published.

Double Delight cookies are in the 2015 Taste of Home Ultimate Cookie Swap issue, and it is my favorite cookie recipe of 2015. The recipe makes a large batch of cookies. The original recipes says it makes 15 dozen, but I can’t seem to slice my cookies thin enough to achieve that yield. The cookies are deliciously rich and chocolaty, but the vanilla side keeps them from being too rich.

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 1 - Norwegian Chocolate Chip Cookies
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 2 - Gingerbread Bark
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 - Russian Tea Cakes 

Double Delights 
Adapted From Taste of Home Ultimate Cookie Swap
Printable Recipe

Chocolate Dough
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup baking cocoa
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
4 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped

Vanilla Dough
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
4 ounces German sweet chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Dough
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, and beat in vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until combined. Stir in pecans and white chocolate. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Vanilla Dough
In another large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, and beat in vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until combined. Stir in pecans and German chocolate. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Both Doughs
Divide both doughs in half, and shape each portion into a 12-inch roll. Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm.

Unwrap and cut each roll in half lengthwise. Place a chocolate half and vanilla half together pressing to form a log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until the dough holds together when cut.

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into ¼ inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 9 dozen

Monday, December 21, 2015

Russian Tea Cakes

Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 3
Do you have a favorite cookie? I usually pick out a “cookie of the year” which happens to be my favorite cookie from the new cookies I’m making during the Christmas season, and the cookie changes each year, but I have to admit I have a cookie that is my all time favorite. Russian Tea Cakes are the cookies I reach for most on any platter of cookies in front of me. Russian Tea Cakes are my all time favorite cookies.

My mom always made Russian Tea Cakes at Christmas time, so maybe it’s partially my memories helping make them my favorite, but I still really love the buttery powdered sugar goodness of my favorite cookie. This is my mother’s Russian Tea Cake recipe, and I still make them and love them.

Russian Tea Cakes
Printable Recipe
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup finely chopped nuts (I use pecans or walnuts)
¼ teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Beat butter and ½ cup powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together. Chill the dough for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack. Roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar. Cool on a wire rack and then roll in powdered sugar again to coat.

Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 1 Norwegian Chocolate Chip Cookies
Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 2 Gingerbread Bark

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gingerbread Bark

Warm, fragrant cookies coming straight out of the oven is an integral part of my Christmas memories and traditions. That being said, there is always room for an easy no-bake treat on my Christmas cookie platter.

The December issue on Taste of the South Magazine has a candy bark section with recipes for White Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Butterscotch Bark and Dark Chocolate Bark, but the bark that really caught my eye was the Gingerbread Bark.

I have loved decorating gingerbread houses since my high school friend and I created houses out of graham crackers that we decorated with pounds of candy we bought at the drugstore. The medium doesn’t really matter; it’s all about the decorating.

With this recipe, you don’t decorate by making windows, doors and pathways like you do on a gingerbread house, but it is really fun to decorate the bark with candy and sprinkles. I used spice drops instead of the gumdrops called for in the recipe, and I think that works to help keep the bark from becoming too sweet. This would be fun to make with small children.

If you are looking for another easy Christmas treat, check out Caramel Heavenlies.

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 1 – Norwegian Chocolate ChipCookie 

Gingerbread Bark
Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine
Printable Recipe

1 pound vanilla flavored candy coating
12 thin gingersnap cookies
½ cup of spice drops
3 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon sprinkles

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt candy coating according to the package directions. Set aside ¼ cup of melted candy coating covered in a small bowl. Spread the remaining candy coating in a 12x18-inch rectangle on the prepared pan. Gently press cookies 1 inch apart in the candy coating. Scatter with the spice drops, ginger (if using) and sprinkles, and gently press them into the candy coating. Drizzle with the reserved ¼ cup of candy coating. Let stand until set, and then break into pieces. Store covered for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Norwegian Chocolate Chip Cookies

2015 Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 1

Are you ready for Christmas? Me? Not quite. I still have a few gifts to buy, menus to plan, and my daughter isn’t home from college yet, but I’m getting there. I have been making cookies, and that always helps me feel more prepared. I missed doing the Christmas Cookie Countdown last year, but I’m ready to get started again (I did bake cookies last year, so my family didn’t go without. I just didn’t have the capacity to blog).

Norwegian Chocolate Chip Cookies start off 2015’s Christmas Cookie Countdown. I was looking for a recipe that reminded me of Grandmother’s brand of Angel Chocolate Chip cookies. I found this recipe in the Taste of Home Cookie Magazine, and I made them for the first time last year. This recipe wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but I loved them anyway (maybe even more than the Grandmother’s).

Norwegian Chocolate Chip Cookies are tender and light, and the flavor of the cinnamon-sugar topping with the chocolate chips create a perfect cookie to enjoy with coffee or tea.

Check out 2013’s Christmas Cookie Countdown for more cookie ideas.

Norwegian Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Taste of Home Cookies and Candies
Printable Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
 ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and add the vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Gradually beat into the creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll each quarter into a 15-inch rope. Place two ropes on each lined baking sheet 4 inches apart. Flatten each rope with a fork to ¼ inch thickness. Mix the cinnamon and the remaining sugar, and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the mixture over each of the flattened cookie ropes.

Bake 15-17 minutes or until the edges are light brown. Cool on pans for 2 minutes, and then immediately cut each rectangle cross way into 1-inch slices. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Cuban Pork Roast

It has been almost a year since I have posted to this blog. I had intentions of posting all year, and I continued to cook and take photos (not as many as usual, but I still was therapy cooking and baking during the year). Sitting down and writing blog posts was the hard part. I took on new responsibilities at work, and was so busy that the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was pick up my computer.

Things have changed a bit (my colleague came back from maternity leave recently, so things have eased up). The biggest change has been in my family. When I first started blogging, my daughter was 13 and my son was 7. My daughter was an adventurous eater, and as I said in my profile, my son only liked steak and macaroni and cheese. Now my daughter is away at college and is becoming a better cook than I am, and my son is in high school and has expanded what he eats to a more adventurous diet.

The change in my son happened so slowly that I barely noticed. I finally noticed in grand fashion on Thursday night. Lynn invited us out to dinner, and we chose to go to our favorite Greek restaurant in town. We ordered our favorite meze dips, but Les and my son thought the Keftedakia (Greek meatballs) looked good, so they decided to try them.

When it came time to order dinner, I was sure my son would order his normal steak with a feta cheese and chili pepper topping. I was happy Lynn and Les supported his choice, because I’m sure I was sitting there with my mouth open. What did he order? He ordered the lamb shank. Lamb shank?!?! To say I was shocked was an understatement. Lamb shank isn’t something that I would ever order, so how had this happened?

I should have noticed the change in my son, but somehow I missed the signs. Looking back, it was clear my son had turned a corner on our summer vacation. I had a business trip in Florida we leveraged into a family vacation to Orlando, before we headed to Naples.

Once we were in Naples, my family and I went different ways. I went to my conference, and my husband would stop at the concierge desk at the Ritz Carlton, and ask, “What should we do today?” The helpful people at the concierge desk would send my family on fun boat tours to see manatees and the Everglades. They also gave them dining ideas, and a coupon to try alligator nuggets. My son tried the nuggets and ordered the sautéed alligator as an entrée (Why was I was surprised about the lamb shank?). They also went out to try Cuban food. I was eating well at my conference, but I wanted to try Cuban food too.

We looked up the best Cuban restaurant in Naples, and we headed to Fernandez the Bull on our way to the airport. I finally got my Cuban food, and not a moment too soon. I asked the waitress her recommendation for the quintessential dish her restaurant serves, and she had me order the pork roast. It was delicious. I thought about that roast all the way home, and I knew I wanted to try to make it at home.

I have a recipe that a Cuban friend gave me for a pork roast, but it didn’t seem to have the flavor profile that I was looking for. I saw this Bobby Flay recipe, and it seemed to be exactly what I wanted. And, the Food & Wine Arroz Blanco tastes exactly like the rice at Fernandez the Bull.

My daughter was back at college when I made this, but Les and my son loved the pork roast. It was flavored all the way to the bone with garlic and oregano, and the citrus glaze adds a brightness that works great with the rich pork.

I asked my son what his favorite part of our vacation was, and he said it was the food. Our vacation rule, “We can’t eat anywhere we can eat at home” has paid off. My son is now an adventurous eater. I need to change my profile. 

Cuban Pork Roast
Adapted from Bobby Flay at
Printable Recipe

4 ½ cups fresh orange juice, divided
1 ¼ cups fresh lime juice, divided
1 orange, zested
1 lime, zested
½ cup finely chopped fresh oregano, divided
12 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 bone-in port shoulder (4-6 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine 3 ½ cups orange juice and ¾ cup of line juice and zest in a large saucepan over high heat and reduce to 2 cups. Remove from heat. Add another ½ cup of orange juice and ¼ cup of lime juice, and add a few cloves of garlic. Let cool to room temperature (refrigerate overnight if you refrigerate the pork roast overnight).

Make small slits with a paring knife over the entire surface of the pork roast. Salt and pepper the roast, and then rub the garlic and ¼ cup of the oregano all over the pork roast tucking the garlic and oregano in the slits. Put the roast on a large roasting pan, and pour ¼ cup of olive oil over the top of the roast. Turn the roast to coat it in the olive oil. Cover the roast with cling wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to roasting. Cook the roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° F and continuing roasting, basting with the citrus marinade during the last 30 minutes of roasting until the roast is golden brown, and the pork is easily shredded (about 45 minutes per pound). Remove from and baste with any remaining glaze, tent loosely and let rest for 15 minutes before shredding.

Serve with Arroz Blanco (White Rice), Black Beans and Mojo Dipping Sauce.  Make Cuban Sandwiches out of any leftovers.

Mojo Dipping Sauce
8 cloves garlic
1 serrano chile pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup orange juice (separated from above)
¼ cup lime juice (separated from above)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, Serrano, cilantro and a few pinches of salt until it becomes a paste. Add the orange juice, lime juice and olive oil and stir to combine. Serve with the shredded pork roast.


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