Gingersnaps

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I have a note to myself on my Gingersnap recipe in my recipe box that reads, “This is the best recipe!  I made this for the first time in 1997 when we went to Whistler and for each Christmas since.  The aroma is fabulous.  Everyone loves these.”    I remember that trip with my family.  I love how memories are made around food.  These smell amazing and they are delightfully good right out of the oven.

Ingredients
2 C. flour
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
3/4 C. white vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1/4 C. molasses
Sugar for rolling.

DirectionsDSC_0233
Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Do not grease cookie sheets.

In a bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Set aside

In an electric mixer, beat shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and molasses.  Gradually stir in flour mixture.

Roll dough into 1 1/2 in dough balls and roll in sugar until completely coated.  Place cookies at least two inches away from each other on the cookie sheet.

Bake between 9 to 11 minutes until lightly browned and somewhat cracked looking.

These cookies are great with coffee, cocoa or tea.  Store in airtight containers and enjoy all winter long.

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Dinner Club – February 2013

SBE 065February 2013 Dinner Club

Our February dinner club was held at Tiffany’s.  Her theme of choice was romance movies.  She asked all the participants to taylor their portion of the meal around their favorite romance movie.  If you haven’t read my blog about Dinner Club and how it works, check it out.  Since Tiffany was hosting, she had the entree.  Her movie was “Love Actually” and she chose to do penne in a red vodka cream sauce.  It goes without saying that the menu was amazing so keep reading.

Dinner Club Romance Media
Dinner Club Romance Media

Dinner Club Themes, Menu and Media

SBE 061

Tiffany – “Love Actually” – Entree – You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce

Tracy – “Gidget Goes to Rome” – Appetizer –  Three Way Bruchetta

Kelly – “Mama Mia” – Side – Mediterranean Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette

Jeni – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Beverage – Champagne Bar

Stephanie – “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – Salad – Winterfruit Salad

Trisha – “Downton Abbey” – Dessert – Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Yes, I’m fully aware that Downton Abbey is not a movie, but a television miniseries on PBS.  I was reminded over and over again that evening by multiple people, but in my defense, I love it as if it were a movie and I don’t always run with the pack, therefore making it perfectly acceptable and after all, it’s Dinner Club, so all is forgiven.

Bruchetta Three Ways

SBE 082

What’s better than having bruchetta three ways?  When your lover makes fresh french rolls the morning of Dinner Club day and you get to spoil all the girls with it!  Who needs store bought with that kind of man at home!

Ingredients

1 french baggette, preferably made by your lover, cut into half inch slices on the bias

1 T Olive Oil

1 clove garlic halved

Directions:  preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  Place baggette slices on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and rub with halved garlic.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and arrange on a tray.  Serve with three sauces.  You can make these as you see them below or come up with  your own.  Personally, the tomato and the goat cheese are my favorite and they are really great together.

Tomato Topping:

2 diced roma tomatoes, seeds discarded

1 bunch fresh basil leaf, chiffonade

1 t. balsamic vinegar

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and gently mix.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

SBE 136

Goat Cheese and Onion Topping:

1 8oz pkg of goat cheese

1/4 C. of thick sour cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. finely chopped chives

1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until blended and smooth.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

SBE 055

Drunken Fig Jam courtesy Epicurious.com

2 lemons

4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)

4 cups sugar

3/4 cup brandy or Cognac

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).

Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce adapted by Food Network

SBE 099

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate

1/2 cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Crusty bread, for passing

SBE 077

Directions

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

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While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette adapted from Bon Appetit

SBE 107

Ingredients

1 pound orzo

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

6 t finely chopped fresh marjoram

4 t Dijon mustard

1 t grated lemon peel

1/2 C. olive oil

1 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 C. pitted Kalamata olives, quartered

24 oz. cherry tomatoes, stemmed, halved

SBE 060

Directions

Cook orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occassionally.  Drain.  Rinse pasta under cold water until cool.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to larger bowl.

Whisk lemon juice, 5 t. marjoram, mustard and lemon peel in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.  Set aside 2 T. vinaigrette.  Add remaining vinaigrette, cheese, onions and olives to orzo; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and let stand 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.  Toss tomatoes with reserved vinaigrette.  Toss into salad and add remaining marjoram.  Serve cold.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

SBE 104

Ingredients

1/2 C. white sugar

1/2 C. lemon juice

2 t. diced onion

1 t. Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 t. salt

2/3 C. vegetable oil

1 t. poppy seeds

1 head butter leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

1 C. cashews

1/4 C. dried cranberries

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced

SBE 103

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.

SBE 056

In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded Swiss cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Champagne Bar

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This is such a wonderful idea.  If you have a number of guests over, grab a few bottles of your favorite champagne, mixers and your gorgeous glassware and have a ball mixing up your favorite champagne cocktails.  Don’t forget the must have cute napkins and drink stirrers.  With a champagne bar, everyone makes their own special version!

SBE 112

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz. orange vodka

1 1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 1/2 oz. orange juice

2 bar spoons Apricot preserves

Champagne

Directions

Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and serve chilled in your favorite glassware!  Too many of these and we would have really had breakfast at Tiffany’s!

SBE 058

As you can see, our champagne bar had the following ingredients, but you can use virtually anything.  Be creative and taylor your bar to a specific holiday or celebration.  Here are some other ingredients you may wish to use to stock your champagne bar:

Peach puree

Mango puree

Orange Juice

Lemon Juice

sugar cubes

Bitters

Triple Sec

Simple syrup

Raspberry puree

Strawberries, raspberries, cut pineapple and marischino cherries for garnish

SBE 114

Downton Abbey Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Makes 18 to 20

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 glass Pyrex.

Crust:

2 C. all-purpose flour

½ C. powdered sugar

1 C. butter (you can mix ½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening as an alternative to all butter)

1 tsp. grated Meyer lemon peel

Dash salt

Mix ingredients together with your hands until crumbly and press into the greased 9×13 Pyrex dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool before adding filling.

SBE 035

Filling:

4 eggs

1 C. all-purpose flour

1 ¼ C. granulated sugar

1 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 t. lemon peel

1 t. lemon extract (optional)

Add all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until combined.  Pour into 9×13 over cooled cookie base and put in oven at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is cooked through.  Remove from oven and cool on counter.

SBE 052

Icing:

1 C. powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese softened

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  Add lemon juice until desired consistency.  Pour over lemon bar cake.  Let icing set for about an hour before cutting lemon bars.    When you cut, they will look a bit rustic.

Serving Tip:  Serve inside large white paper muffin cups or on top of sweet little decorative doilies covering a cake stand.

SBE 024

Peppermint & Chocolate Chip Celebration Cookies

Peppermint & Chocolate Chip 
Celebration Cookies

My mother used to make these when I was little.  I would remember them every holiday and beg her to make some for my sister and I.  She used to pretend that she didn’t know which peppermint chocolate chip cookie I was talking about and then somehow they would magically appear in the kitchen the next day or so.  This cookie recipe has been around for years.  Those of you who have celebrated many holiday seasons will remember these cookies which are sometimes referred to as a “celebration” cookie.  They are so special they ought to accompany any celebration, including Christmas. 

Peppermint Celebration cookies are light as a feather.  They are made from meringue with peppermint extract and chocolate chips.  Meringue is achieved by whipping egg whites and sugar.  My mother used mint chocolate chips, but you can use either regular or mint.  If these cookies were not special and celebratory enough, my mother would add red or green food coloring to the batter which made them a delicate and beautiful seasonal color, light pink or light green.  These are very special cookies.  Make them for special people in your life. 

Ingredients
2 egg whites
1/2 t cream of tartar
1 t. peppermint extract
1 dash salt
3 drops red or green food coloring
3/4 C. sugar
6 oz. mint chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a stand mixer with a very clean mixing bowl and whip attachment, add the egg whites, cream of tartar, peppermint extract, salt and food coloring.  Whip mixture until soft peaks form.  While the mixer is still whipping the egg mixture, slowly add the sugar until stiff peaks form.  Remove whip attachment and using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the chocolate chips.  Using two spoons, drop cookies onto cookie sheet that is lined with brown paper.  You can use mailing paper or grocery bag paper cut to size.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Hazelnut and Ginger Biscotti with Chocolate Icing

Hazelnut and Ginger Biscotti with Chocolate Icing
I make biscotti around this time every year.  It is great to have on hand when you have company and it’s fun to give away.  Maybe you borrowed something from a friend, or they left their casserole dish at your house, or you are leaving dinner on your friends front porch; tuck these inside to let your friends know that you are thinking of them and how thankful you are for their friendship.  At Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can wrap them in cellophane, tie them with a bright ribbon and put them in a basket with a bag of  your favorite coffee and give as a gift.  They’re even fun to make!  You will be surprised how easy they are!
Hazelnut and Ginger Biscotti with Chocolate Icing
Ingredients
2 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 C. chopped, toasted hazelnuts
1/3 C. finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/2 C. chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together.  Set aside.  In a mixer, combine eggs and vanilla and beat until blended.  Add dry mixture, hazelnuts, and ginger.  Mix until just combined.  Turn dough out onto floured work surface and work dough into a ball.  Split the ball in half.  Roll each half into a log shape and place each lengthwise on baking sheet.  Press rolls slighty using flat fingers.  Place in over and cook for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Using a knife, cut biscotti crosswise into 1 inch sections.  Turn each on side and place cookie sheet back in oven for another 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer biscotti to cooling rack.
When biscotti is completely cooled, they will be ready for their chocolate coating.  Take a sheet of wax paper and place it on a cookie sheet*. In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips, stirring frequently with heat-safe rubber spatula.  Take each piece of biscotti and dip flat side into chocolate using left hand.  In your right hand, lightly run your spatula down the new chocolate coating and place biscotti chocolate side down on the sheet of wax paper to cool.  To store, put them in the refrigerator in airtight containers or freeze for up to one month.
*The reason you place them on a cookie sheet is so you are able to move them to a place to continue to cool. 

Best Breakfast Cookies

The best Breakfast Cookie has arrived.  This recipe has everything good in it.  Oats, wheat flour, honey, brown sugar, almonds, and dried fruit.  There is very little sugar and very little fat.  They are high in fiber and potassium and heart healthy.  I did a lot of research about breakfast cookies prior to putting one out here for all of you because it was important to me to load them up with the good stuff and minimize the junk while maintaining great texture and moistness.  They are an excellent way to start your day.  I encourage you to make them and see for yourself.  The proof is in the…..cookie.
Ingredients
1 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
2 T butter
1/4 C canola oil
1/2 C brown sugar
2 T honey
1 egg
1 small jar banana baby food
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 C flax seed
3/4 C rolled oats
3/4 C dried fruit (raisins, craisins, plums, pineapple)
1/4 C. sliced almonds
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together the flours, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
In a mixing bowl with attachment, cream together butter, oil, sugar and honey.  Add egg, banana baby food and vanilla and mix thoroughly until batter is smooth.  Add flour mixture until combined.  At this time, you will need to add the healthy stuff; flax seed, oats, dried fruit and nuts and fold them into batter using a rubber spatula and scraping down sides of the bowl until thoroughly combined. 
You will need to resist the urge to add more flour.  This dough is going to be sticky.  Try wetting your hands before handling dough.  Prepare your baking sheets (I use two).  Roll dough into balls of desired shape, place on cookie sheet and flatten them with your hand.  Mine are usually 3 inches across and a 1/2 inch thick.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Depending on size, bigger cookies should bake for 14 and smaller for 10 minutes and should make 8 to 12 cookies.  I like to sprinkle some oats or dried fruit on the top prior to baking.  When cookies are done, remove from oven, let them cool and after about five minutes, transfer them to wire rack until completely cooled.  Store in an airtight container in the fridgerator until ready to use.  They are excellent with coffee or tea.  My two year old loves them with milk!
You can easily change the last few ingredients of this recipe and add some others if you are looking to change the flavor.  For example, make them Hawaiian by removing the flax seed, raisins and almonds and adding coconut, dried pineapple and macadamia nuts.  You can use any combination and any kind of dried fruit or nuts you can come up with.

Holiday Spritz Cookies

My mother made Spritz cookies for as long as I can remember.  She and her girlfriends would exchange cookie recipes and this one is tradition.  It has been used in my family every Christmas for at least thirty years.  When I was a little girl, I remember her talking about this recipe and telling me with a bit of shock in her voice that there is “Five cups of flour in it!”  I think I was seven or eight and I wasn’t sure if five cups of flour in a cookie recipe was good or bad, but soon after this recipe emerged from the friendship circle’s recipe card catalog and was introduced to my father, she suddenly had in her possession a brand new Kitchen Aid Mixer because the motor was supposed to be able to handle all the flour in this recipe.  Looking back on it now, it all makes sense.  My mother is no longer with us, but I suppose you can say that indirectly she taught me that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach or that the way to get a Kitchen Aid Mixer was to bribe him with something he couldn’t imagine living without!

My mother never colored her spritz cookies and the thought hadn’t occurred to me until this year.  My daughter’s favorite color is orange and she relentlessly begged me to make orange spritz cookie Christmas trees.  Orange cookies at the holidays for me was simply going against everything “Christmas”.  After much discussion, we agreed on green.  You can make spritz cookies any time of the year and make them any color you can conjure up, in any shape that suits you.

If this recipe has been in business for over thirty years, it has to be a keeper and I know that if I miss making pink or red spritz cookies for Valentine’s Day, there are sure to be orange spritz cookies in my future sometime next fall.

Spritz Cookies 
by Carole Turner
1 lb Butter
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 t. Vanilla or Almond extract
2 Egg yolks and one egg white
5 C. Flour!
1 t. Salt
Cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg yolks and white, mixing well.  Add extract.  While mixer is on low, gradually add flour and salt until incorporated.  Load your cookie press with dough.  Press out cookie shapes onto jelly roll baking sheet.  Cook at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
Tips:  I use a little cinnamon (aka red hot) to top each Christmas tree cookie.  Use fun seasonal sprinkles and get the kids involved.
Merry Christmas.