Monthly Archives: November 2009

IT’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE TIME!

IT’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE TIME!

For the past two weeks I have been mixing cookie dough almost every day. Most of the recipes are “ice box cookie”* recipes; the dough is shaped into logs and wrapped in wax paper and then I wrap them again in aluminum foil and write on the outside with a Sharpee pen the name of the cookie and the oven temperature and baking time (so I don’t have to look up the recipe again). Some of the cookie dough are just family favorites, such as the original chocolate chip cookie “without ingredients” which means chocolate chips are just fine, don’t add nuts or raisins or anything that might be interpreted by my sons as ingredients. I have packed most of the drop cookie dough into zip lock freezer bags; some is in the freezer and some in the refrigerator. I have doubled most recipes.
Yesterday I made up a recipe I found in a Taste of Home cookie booklet; the directions say it yields 9 dozen cookies so I was afraid to double that one; I have been baking the stars for two days and it’s a cutout cookie dough I would highly recommend because it’s so easy to handle and roll out. I confess; I made some changes. I added nutmeg to the batter for one thing and when I was making the glaze, I substituted lemon juice for the milk, to make a more lemony cookie. It worked.

A lot of my cookie recipes have to be made up within a few weeks of Christmas – such as a favorite and often requested little lemon crisps that are made with lemon cake mix and – of all things – Rice Krispies. I love all the cookie recipes made with cake mixes! Dress them up with glaze and sprinkles and no one ever guesses it started with a box of cake mix. Some need to be made well in advance of Christmas, such as the Amaretto Bon Bons which will improve with aging. Ditto a cookie called Leckerli that is aging in a big cookie tin with a piece of apple to help them mellow. I’m not going to share the Leckerli recipe although it LOOKS very pretty and festive with a European flair—but it was the most difficult dough I have ever worked with & I kept adding liquid to make the dough hold together. As a matter of fact, several of my very old recipes were difficult to work with—it makes me wonder if the processing of the basic ingredients, such as flour, has changed in the past few decades? And, you know, a basic drop cookie can change dramatically depending on the kind of shortening you use (it took me a lot of trial and error to figure that out). I like to use butter in most of my cookie recipes but in most instances it really needs to be at room temperature when you start mixing it with other ingredients.

*Wanted to say this about ice box cookies – before electric refrigeration came along, housewives had – literally – ice boxes. An ice man brought a big hunk of ice once a week and it went into your ice box. Food was kept cold this way. And ice box cookies are – quite simply – the forerunner of refrigerated cookie dough that is available in every supermarket nowadays. I love homemade ice box cookies. The most requested is my
“Lemon Rounds”

To make Lemon Rounds, you will need:

1 ½ cups sifted regular flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon rind
½ cup very finely chopped pecans

Measure flour, soda and salt into sifter. Set aside. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy; beat in egg, lemon juice, rind, and pecans. Sift in flour mixture and blend well.
Shape into 2 logs; wrap in wax paper and chill overnight (or longer). To bake, slice dough ¼” thick. Bake at 375 degrees 8 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Recipe can be doubled.

To make Crisp Little Lemon Cookies, you will need:

1 package lemon flavored cake mix (18.5) (pudding included)
1 cup rice Krispies
½ cup butter or margarine, melted (1 stick)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Shape into 1” balls. Place 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 9-12 minutes. Cool 1 minute, remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies. These are nice with a drizzle of lemon glaze.

This next one is my updated version of sugar cookie dough for busy mothers.

To make Savannah’s Christmas Tree Cookies you will need:

4 1-lb packages of refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 to 1 ½ cups of flour
Butter cream frosting
Various sprinkles

Let refrigerated cookie dough come to room temperature in a large bowl. When soft enough to handle, mix in flour to make a stiff dough. Shape into four balls of dough and re-refrigerate until firm. Roll out and cut with tree shaped cutters. Bake at 350 8 to 10 minutes (until just brown around the edges). Cool on racks. Spread with butter cream frosting that has been tinted green with food coloring. Decorate as desired. Makes about 6 dozen (more if you have a smaller tree cutter than what we were using).

To make Aunt Sandy’s Easy Chocolate Cookies you will need:

1 box (18.25 oz) devil’s food cake or dark chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 6-oz package of semi sweet chocolate chips*
1 tsp vanilla extract

In large bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake mix, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or shape into balls) onto ungreased* baking sheets, about 2 ½ inches apart. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 10 minutes. Allow to rest on baking sheets 5 minutes. Remove with a thin spatula and cool on wire racks. Drizzle with glaze, if desired. Makes 2 dozen.

(I quadrupled this recipe and added a 12-oz bag of chocolate chips and a 12-oz bag of white chips. Towards the end I added some chopped walnuts. I rolled the balls in sprinkles or some of them in finely chopped walnuts to which ground candy canes had been added. You can do your own thing for embellishments).

Sandy’s cooknote: *A word about parchment paper. It’s available almost everywhere now. Even Reynolds wrap has a parchment paper. You can completely skip greasing or not-greasing cookie sheets if you use parchment paper. And it can be used quite a few times before it become necessary to change the paper.

I make a lot of fig bar cookies but have to admit—we had 3 fig trees in Arleta and I made loads of fig jam or my own version of fig filling for bar cookies. I realize not everybody has a fig tree – but this is a really yummy bar cookie so I’m including it:

To make DATE OR FIG BAR COOKIES you will need

Ingredients For the filling:

3 cups coarsely chopped dates
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups water

FOR THE CRUST & TOPPING:

1 CUP FIRMLY PACKED BROWN SUGAR
1 ¾ C. FLOUR
½ TSP BAKING SODA
1 TSP SALT
1 ½ CUPS OLD FASHIONED ROLL OATS
¾ CUP VERY COLD BUTTER, CUT INTO SMALL CUBES

PREHEAT OVEN 400. In a saucepan, cook dates, sugar and water until thick, about 15 minutes. Cool. OR—open a jar of fig-orange-apricot spread. In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and oats. Mix on low speed to combine. Add butter, 1 or 2 pieces at a time. Mix until crumbly. Using your hands, press and flatten half the crumbs into a greased 9×13” pan. Spread cooled filling over crust. Cover with remaining crumb mix, patting lightly. Bake until lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into bars while still in the pan. (You can drizzle on a little glaze if you like…to make the bars more festive).

This next recipe has been making the rounds – sometimes made with graham crackers, sometimes with saltine crackers- they are easy to make; it’s more of a confection than a cookie, I think. But you will love them.

To make EASY TOFFEE CRACKER BARS you will need:

20 graham crackers (individual squares)
1½ sticks butter (6 ounces)
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans

Line a jelly roll pan (10×15-inch) with foil; arrange graham crackers in the pan in a single layer. Combine butter and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 2 minutes; stir in vanilla and chopped pecans. Pour the hot mixture over crackers and spread evenly. Bake 10 minutes at 350°. Remove at once from pan to flat surface to cool. When cool, break into smaller pieces.
**
I think I have posted my chocolate chip cookie recipe on my blog before – but Just in case someone missed it – here it is:

To make the Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies you will need:

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz) Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven 375 degrees

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulate sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts.
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

*Ok, I bake them at 350 degrees about 10 minutes and don’t add nuts. And I use parchment paper on my cookie sheets all the time. I also use a lot more chocolate chips.

This is another favorite. To make CINNAMON OATMEAL COOKIES you will need:

¾ CUP OLD FASHIONED OATS
¾ CUP ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
1½ TSP BAKING POWDER
½ TSP SALT
½ TSP GROUND CINNAMON
4 TBSP UNSALTED BUTTER, SOFTENED
3 TBSP APPLE BUTTER
¾ CUP SUGAR
1/3 CUP LIGHT BROWN SUGAR
1 LARGE EGG
1½ TSP PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

Preheat Oven 350 Degrees. In A Medium Bowl, Combine Oats, Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, & Cinnamon. Set Aside.
In A Large Bowl Blend Butter, Apple Butter, And Sugars Until Smooth. Add Oatmeal Mixture. Drop Batter By One Level Tablespoon* Onto Parchment-Lined Baking Sheets. Bake 18 Minutes Or Until Golden Brown. Remove From Oven, Let Cool Slightly On Baking Sheets, Then Transfer To A Rack To Cool Completely.

Per cookie: 125 calories, 2 g. protein, 22 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. fat, 1 g. fiber at 1 tbsp batter per cookie, = 1 ½ points on WW..

*Sandra’s cooknote: the original recipe, in fitness magazine, October 2006, calls for dropping the batter two tablespoons per cookie. The cookies are a tad big and would be 3 points each. I measured the batter to make mine a level one tablespoon per cookie to come out at 1½ points per. Don’t crowd the drops of dough on the baking sheets – they are going to spread very thin. I only baked 6 cookies at a time on my baking sheets. These are really great, a nice crisp & crunchy cookie!

I love making Biscotti and have several recipe cards set aside to make some with dried cranberries and pistachio nuts – but until we get enough pistachios shelled, here is a recipe for making Lemon Biscotti.

To make Lemon Biscotti you will need:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 TBSP water
2 TBSP canola oil
4 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp lemon extract
½ cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
yellow sugar (optional)

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a bowl. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat the granulated sugar, egg, water, oil, lemon zest and lemon extract until blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture, beating just until combined.

Place dough in 2 (12”) logs, 3” apart on the sheet. Bake until golden, 20 minutes. Cool the logs on the sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut each log crosswise into ½” slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on the sheet and bake until lightly browned, 15-18 minutes. Cool on a rack.

For the icing, whisk confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle on the biscotti; sprinkle at once with yellow sugar (if using). Let stand until icing hardens, about 2 hours. For Weight watchers, 1 point per biscotti. 50 calories, 0 trans fat, 0 fiber

Some months ago, I was itching to make the Bundt cake I used to make for birthdays at work—it had a graham cracker crumb and black walnut filling…yum! Well, you won’t find black walnuts around here so I ordered them online (isn’t the internet fantastic? I also ordered black walnut extract online. (I made the black walnut bundt cake for myself for my birthday). One of the ice box cookies I have in the freezer are Black Walnut ice box cookies.

To make Black Walnut Ice Box Cookies you will need:

2/3 cups butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 2/3 cups flour
1/3 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add unbeaten eggs and mix well.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and gradually work into the creamed mixture. Add the black walnuts and stir in by hand. Turn dough onto a sheet of wax paper and shape into a roll about 2″ in diameter. Refrigerate until firm – overnight or until you are in the mood to bake. Slice thinly and bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 375° for 10-12 minutes.

This has gotten pretty long and I haven’t shared some of my biscotti and other ice box cookie recipes – so look for a Part 2 of “It’s Christmas Cookie Time!”

Happy Cooking (or baking)
Sandy

A BIG YELLOW BOWL

A BIG YELLOW BOWL

My mother had a big yellow bowl
In which one mixed cookie dough or
Muffins,
And when I was eight, she said I could make muffins
And she placed the ingredients and the yellow bowl
On the kitchen table.
My mother admonished me
Not to try to pick up the bowl
Because it was heavy,
Filled with muffin batter.
But I insisted on holding the bowl
In the crook of my arm
While mixing with the other
Thinking, perhaps, this is what
I had seen my mother and grandmother do.
I dropped the yellow bowl
And it shattered on the kitchen floor.
I ran away in tears,
Leaving my mother to clean up the mess.
Remarkably enough, I was not discouraged
From learning how to cook and bake
But it took me at least a year
To save up enough money to buy
Another set of Pyrex bowls – red, blue, green, yellow -
Because you couldn’t buy just one bowl.
They came in a set, $2.98 at Pete’s Washington Store
In Camp Washington.
Whenever I see any of these bowls
In an antique store
I am instantly carried back in time
To a kitchen on Sutter Street
Where I am eight years old
And yearning to cook.

–Sandra Lee Smith

November 14 was National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

So I wrote a poem about this one too:

NATIONAL CLEAN OUT YOUR REFRIGERATOR DAY

I approach the refrigerator with a lot of foreboding,
On front of the door I begin by unloading
Magnets and notes and recipes of mine,
And a receipt from the cleaners, dated 12/99.
I take them all off and wipe it all down
With a rag and a bottle of Formula 409;
I open the door and take a peek inside,
It’s filled to the brim, for hard as I’ve tried
Not to cook too much, we can’t eat it all,
And you might say, that’s been my downfall.
*
There are bottles of catsup, salsa, and mayonnaise.
Six kinds of mustard and my favorite Dijonnaise
Worcestershire sauce—Tabasco & steak sauce,
Eight bottles of dressings—why so many, I’m at a loss;
There are five jars of marinades, lemon juice, and cream,
Leftovers covered with mold black and green.
There are bags of salad gone brown and now soupy
Wilted celery and carrots that are now limp and droopy,
A hard lump of cheese that is covered with mold,
And what once was some pie is a sight to behold.
I find a box of old berries, shriveled and dried,
At four dollars a pound, when I saw them I cried.
On a shelf there are jars of my jellies and jams,
In a drawer I identify dessicated yams,
Along with salami that has seen better days,
Are eggs no hen would be proud to have laid;
I toss it all out and now that I’m hopping,
I grab the car keys and head out to go shopping.

–Sandra Lee Smith

November 17 was National Home Made Bread Day

So I wrot a poem about it:

HOME MADE BREAD DAY

My mother had two large speckled turkey roasting pans
And twice a week
Her morning would be devoted to
Making two large loaves of bread,
Loaves large enough to fill those big roasting pans.
It was a most special treat
If she cut off an end of the crust
And handed it to you to eat.
We would put jam or margarine on it
Or just eat it plain,
Hot bread from the oven,
Crusty and yeasty tasting.

We took that bread for granted;
It was served at every meal,
Large slices of homemade bread;
I realize now that
It also served to fill up
The insides of five hungry children.
I was sometimes envious of classmates
Who brought sandwiches to school
For their lunch, made with Wonder Bread.
Our sandwiches were made with mom’s
Homemade bread
Which you couldn’t begin to slice thin—
Our sandwiches were mostly bread;
Sometimes I took a scrambled egg sandwich
To school for my lunch,
Wrapped in wax paper.
The egg was still warm when you made your
Sandwich so by lunchtime
The wax paper had sort of glommed onto the
Bread
And had to be carefully peeled away.
I wondered why my mother couldn’t just be
Like other mothers
And buy her bread
At the corner grocery store.

What wouldn’t I give for just a slice
Of mom’s homemade bread, today.

–Sandra Lee Smith