Saturday, December 15, 2018

Popular Cookies To Bake For Christmas

Yesterday I received a lovely letter from a niece and in it she asked about Christmas cookies I might recommend. I was touched that she would ask. Today I sent her a few links and it occured to me that you, my dear readers, might want some suggestions, too.

If you read this blog on your phone or tablet you may never see the side bars. These include the calendar with direct links to past posts and more, but my favorite is the link to my recipe index. Unfortunately I haven't kept this up to date, but there are still hundreds of great recipes, organized by type. To get to web wies, scroll down to the bottom and click on Web View. That should take you to the view that has side bars.

In web view, to the right, near the top, there is a photo of a set table with rust colored table cloth. If you click on that it takes you to a recipe index. Scroll down to cookies and have fun seeing what interests you.

My two favorite cookies for Christmas are Santa's Whiskers which is a refrigerator cookie shaped in a log, chilled, sliced and baked. The nice thing is that you can leave the log in the fridge or freezer and slice and bake as needed, plus it has seasonal colors and is delicious. The second is for a rolled gingerbread cookie that you cut out, bake and decorate. Usually rolled cookies are tricky but this dough works easily and the cookies have just the right amount of seasonal spice. You can use purchased icing to decorate or make Royal icing yourself. Katherine and I enjoy being creative with icing and sprinkles and last year (I think) she also purchased a powder that gives a metallic glow. This is a long standing tradition, as you can see from the first photo.

Here are the links for the Santa's Whiskers without coconut (barbered). .

I make them without having the log rolled in coconut (the whiskers) because not everyone here likes coconut. To do the whiskers, just roll the fresh log of dough in dry coconut (can be found at health food stores & many groceries) or shredded moist coconut. Wrap, refrigerate and proceed as usual.

Here is the link for the Swedish gingerbread cookies.

Here is the link for the blog in general.

Have fun!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Squash and Sweet Potatoes in the Oven

It really feels like the season has changed to winter now. We've been getting rain, which is such a great thing since I live where most of our rainfall for the whole year happens between October and March, with the majority of that between December and February...when things are 'normal'. Unfortunately things haven't been that way for most of the last six years, with too little rain most years, so rain is even more welcome when it comes.

I spoke with my North Carolina sister Saturday... a belated birthday phone call...and they were expecting lots of snow that night and Sunday. Sure enough, I checked the news Sunday morning and they were calling it Snowmagedden. She stayed home by the fire and took it easy...a good plan. We are both missing our mother. The anniversary of her death comes up in a few days and we will toast Mom on Wednesday, and those doing the toast will include at least one other sibling, maybe more. She was an excellent Mom and, in later years, friend and she is always in my heart.

As the weather has gotten colder I've been spending more time in the kitchen, too. The cooler weather makes me want to bake and cook. I've made pea soup and lamb shanks. Neither was different from the posts, so not including the recipe, just the link. The squash and sweet potato dish that accompanied the leftover lamb shanks is a different take on a favorite. This time I didn't use butternut squash, just delicata squash and I used slices of peeled sweet potato to fill out the dish. The coating was different, too, with citrus peel and not very much cayenne pepper this time. It's a great dish with ham or chicken or turkey and it went well with the lamb shank, too.

Although this dish is roasted, not baked, it still is done in the oven and so I decided that it fit well enough with my December Baking theme. The slices of sweet potato and squash should be about the same thickness.

Delicata Squash and Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil and Maple
Serve 4-6

2-3 cups peeled sweet potato, quartered and cut in slices
1 Delicata squash, seeds removed, peel removed if desired, cut in half and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon dried orange peel in tiny pieces1/8 teaspoon dried powdered lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
a dash cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large plastic bag (I used clean produce bags from the market), combine the squash, olive oil, salt and pepper, maple syrup and dried peels and spices. Close bag tightly and shake to completely coat the squash with the wet ingredients and spices.

Pour coated mixture on the parchment lined sheet pan and use the bag to spread the squash and potato slices out in the pan into a single layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to turn the squash pieces over, then roast an additional 10 - 15 minutes until edges are browned and vegetables is softened.

Serve while hot.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Baked Quiche with Chicken and Broccoli

There is something about December that pushes me to bake. Although it's weeks away from Christmas, we have started into the holiday party season, plus I'm doing lunch with friends from time to time and want to have a little something sweet to give them. Then there are the occasions when my dairy allergy gets in the way and it's more comfortable to bring my own lunch instead of expecting the hostess to cook another entree just for me. The added bonus is that what I make is also available for another meal with Sweetie.

Quiche is nothing new. I've probably posted two or three before this and each one is just a little different from the others. This time I was baking it to bring a slice to a meeting where quiche was on the menu. Unfortunately it was Costco quiche, which has milk and cheese in it. Mine was baked with no cheese and with unsweetened soy creamer in place of the milk, so it worked for my dietary needs.

Quiche is really a versatile can put almost anything savory in it that works well with custard. Some classics include spinach and Swiss cheese with mushrooms and leeks like HERE, bacon and Swiss cheese, onion, mushroom and cheddar cheese, vegetables with onion and garlic and herbs, ham and cheddar, ham and chard and jack cheese, broccoli and blue cheese and get the idea. Most do have cheese, but it really isn't necessary as long as you make sure that you have other ingredients included are that a good strong flavor. In some ways you can use things that you might include in an omelette.

For this quiche we had onions and celery cooked in a little olive oil, broccoli, and small cubes of cooked chicken thigh. For seasonings we had poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, plus a little thyme.
It was delicious and filling and very easy to make. Since I use the ready-made rounds of unbaked crusts found in the refrigerated section of our store (Pillsbury ReadyCrusts), it all goes together fairly quickly. You can also use your favorite pie dough recipe for the will probably be better, but not by much.

This is a delicious version...packed with veggies and chicken with it all held together with a delicate and flavorful custard. It would be a handy thing to have in the fridge over the holidays, or perfect for your own dinner (or lunch) when you have had a busy day.

Chicken and Broccoli Quiche

1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cooked chicken thighs, skinned, boned, and cubed into bite sized pieces  

½ head broccoli, thawed, cut into florets
1 prepared Quiche crust (recipe follows)
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk or nut milk or creamer
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet and sauté’ the onion and celery until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Cool.

Spread the onion mixture over the bottom of the quiche crust.  Arrange the chicken evenly over the vegetable mixture and then place the broccoli florets in a pattern over the chicken.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme and poultry seasoning. Pour this mixture slowly over the ingredients in the quiche crust.

Place quiche in prepared oven and bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until just set and lightly browned on top.

Serve warm. Serves 6 – 8

Crust - Ready made and made from scratch versions
I made this the night before the luncheon, so making a crust from scratch was not an option. (The ‘from scratch’ recipe is below my substitution.)

I used Pillsbury ReadyCrust. One round was fitted into a 9-inch pie pan, the edges were crimped, a round of parchment paper was put inside and dry beans were used as pie weights. Crust was baked in a 450 degree F. oven for about 10 minutes. Pie pan was put on a cooling rack, parchment and beans were removed, and crust was left to cool.

Official Shell for Quiche1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cold shortening, cut into small pieces
½ cup (1 stick) frozen butter, cut into small pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold water
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until dough holds together and starts to forma a ball, about 25 seconds. Do not over mix.

Remove dough and shape into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place disk on a lightly floured surface, and with a lightly floured rolling pin roll dough from the center out to the edges, changing the direction with each stroke, until the circle is 1/8 inch thick and about 1 inch larger than the pie plate. Fold dough in half and transfer to pie plate. Press gently to remove air bubbles. Fold edge under and flute. Do not prick dough for a quiche because the filling will seep under the shell. To partially bake the shell for a quiche, bake it for 8 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack. It should be slightly warm when filling is added.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

December Is For Baking

Sorry I've been away from my desk, but things have been busy. We've replaced some ancient shutters on the farmhouse and removed a door that was impacted by having shrubbery too close for years. A short term closing up with plywood was necessary since we're getting rain tonight and tomorrow, but soon there will be a new door...this is the farmhouse, too.

December started with with baked apples. I baked six of them, but they were small, so yesterday I baked six more. I'm using a nice dark red apple. I bought a bunch so can't remember the variety, but I think it is a Arkansas Black or similar heirloom. Nice, crisp apple with some tartness and good juiciness, plus it keeps it's shape pretty well when cooked. Unfortunately the skin gets a bit tough with cooking, but otherwise it's perfect for this recipe.

When you bake these you first remove the stem end and the core area that holds the seeds, but you leave the bottom intact. That cavity formed by removing the core is filled with a cinnamon-sugar mixture, chopped walnuts, raisins, and a bit more cinnamon on top. With a little water in the baking dish, the apple goodness gets sealed in with aluminum foil and it's baked until the apples are tender.

First of all, your house will smell wonderful with all that cinnamon perfuming the air. Secondly, this is a fairly healthy dessert or snack (or breakfast which is how Sweetie enjoyed one this morning) and it is enhanced by the addition of milk, cream, whipped cream, ice cream, or custard. Nut milk works, too. It's fine all by itself, but I think the dairy brings a lot to the party. It's quite delicious both warm and cold, especially if you like cinnamon.

You can use your favorite apple. Just make sure that they fit snugly in the pan or dish you bake them in. The timing can vary, too, depending on the apple used. I recommend checking after a half hour and then every ten minutes after until a knife inserted goes in easily and you find the interior tender.

Baked Apples

4-6 (or more) apples
1/2 cup sugar (brown, white or a mixture)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons raisins (I like golden raisins)
1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

With a sharp paring knife, remove the stem end and core of each apple, making sure to remove all of the seeds. Be sure to leave the bottom 1/4 of the apple intact.

Place the apples in the baking pan or dish. They should be very close to each other. If not, adjust pan size so that they are. You may have to switch to another pan or baking dish.

Mix the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. You can shake it together in a jar with a lid or in a plastic bag with a zip lock. Divide the cinnamon sugar mixture among the apples in the pan or dish.

Divide the chopped walnuts among the apples. Divide the raisins among the apples. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon over the raisins, dividing it among the apples.

Add the water and place foil over the baking pan or dish. Seal to the sides. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and check for tenderness. If needed, replace the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Check for tenderness.  If needed, replace the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Check for tenderness.  When apples are tender, remove the foil and let cool slightly in the pan.

Serve warm or cold, preferable with custard or cream or nut milk.