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Christmas Cookies

December 21, 2011

Photo by Pat

It’s been a busy Christmas season and I thought to myself, I have plenty of treats so I’ll just not do the Christmas cookies. Out of the blue, a comment on Dancing in the Kitchen from a long ago friend brought them front and center so how could I not do the cookies.

Chelle, my daughter, is home for Christmas. What a treat!! She hardly ever comes home for Christmas because she uses her holiday time visiting when the niece and nephew celebrate their birthdays in the summer. You can see how much we rank in her book!! But that is okay because those babies are mighty sweet.

“Let’s make cookies!”, she exclaimed and off we were mixing up batter and doing our own little version of “cook dancing”. It’s a wonder any cookies got baked because the dough is so much better when snitched when no one is looking.

The recipe we used was one I have used many years in my catering business. I’ve always loved the white on white decorations and I’m still not tired of it. Colored decorations are fine but I love the glow of candlelight dancing off the shine of the cookies on Christmas Eve. Beautiful!

Here’s the recipe and a little nudge in case you have decided to forgo the cookies this year.

 

Satin Sugar Cookies

Makes 2 or so dozen

1 c. sugar

1 c butter

3 oz cream cheese

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

2 c. flour

 

Mix well.  Cut out the cookies, using your favorite cookie cutters.  I like to roll my dough a little on the thick side because I don’t like crispy edges when they bake.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the bottoms begin to brown but there is no browning on the top.

 

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 T butter, very soft

Hot Water

 

Mix the powdered sugar, butter and several drops of hot water.   Keep adding drops of hot water until you reach the glaze stage which means the spreading marks disappear by the time you set the cookie down on the wax paper but doesn’t drip off.  Sometimes I add a touch of corn syrup to make them shiny but it takes longer for them to dry.  Be sure they are dry before decorating them

 

Icing

2 T butter, softened

2 T milk

Powdered sugar

 

Mix together and thin with milk until you have an icing that you can easily pipe with a pastry bag.  Decorate your cookies as you wish.  I usually outline, add a few inside details and then sprinkle with white sprinkles.   Allow them to dry several hours before stacking and storing for Christmas.

 

 

 

Garmisch Nut Stollen

December 11, 2011

Photo by Gerik

December always seems to be about the food.  My recipe box is full of special things specifically for the holidays.  This recipe is one of them.

My friend, Linda, has the uncanny knack of doing little acts of kindness just when needed and very unexpected.  She and I use to live next door to each other and although we could not chat over the back fence (too much acreage between us), it was so fun to look across the way and see the light over her kitchen sink shining in the twilight.  She is a wonderful cook and baker.

One Christmas morning she showed up at my doorstep with this beautiful nut stollen.  She learned to bake it while working in a restaurant in Austria.  It is a wonderful recipe and amazingly easy to make but looks very complicated when done.

True confession time, I overthink things.  I hesitate to just show up with a food gift intended for immediate consumption for fear my friends had already planned something.  But when it happens to me  I love it!!!

This nut stollen really breaks the mold for me because the stollens I remember from years past were chocked full of candied fruit.  I do love dried and candied fruit but not in bread. That being said, the raisins in this recipe are just perfect to me but for those of you who don’t care for them, just leave them out.

This year I’m going out on a limb and will just do it!  My greetings of Christmas cheer will be in my gift of this beautiful stollen to those I hold dear.  It’s an act of friendship any way you look at it.

Garmisch Nut Stollen
Makes 2

1 ½ pkg. active dry yeast

Photo by Pat

2 tsp. sugar
⅓ c warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 c milk
½ c unsalted sweet butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 T sugar
4 ½ c all-purpose flour
2 T unsalted sweet butter, melted
2 tsp grated lemon peel
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 C golden raisins
Nut Filling, recipe follows
1 egg
1 T whipping cream
White icing, recipe follows
½ c chopped walnuts for garnish

Dissolve yeast and 2 tsp sugar in water, let stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Heat milk in small saucepan until hot; remove from heat.  Stir ½ C butter and the salt into milk.  Beat 2 eggs and the yolks in large mixer bowl.  Gradually beat in 2 T sugar until thick and lemon colored.  Beat in milk mixture and 2 C of the flour until smooth.  Beat in yeast mixture.  Stir in melted butter, lemon peel, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and remaining flour to form soft dough.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead 5 minutes (I let my mixer do the work for me).  Knead in raisins.  Let rise covered in large greased bowl in refrigerator overnight or 4-5 hours if you are in a hurry.

Make Nut Filling

Remove dough from refrigerator, let stand covered 30 minutes.  Divide the dough in half and place 1 ball back in refrigerator.  Roll out the dough to about 12 x 12” square.  Spread ½ of the nut filling over dough, leaving 1” border on all sides.  Mix 1 egg and the cream in small bowl.  Brush border with part of the egg mixture.  Loosely roll up dough beginning at long edge.  Pinch seam and ends to seal.  Transfer dough to greased and floured baking pan.

Photo by PatSlice the dough roll in half long wise starting about 1 inch from the top.  Turn pieces with the cut sides facing upward.  Working quickly, twist halves together.  Pinch ends together.

Repeat with the other dough ball from the refrigerator.  Let both stollens rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees, bake stollen 15 minutes; brush with part of the egg mixture.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake 10 minutes.  Brush with remaining egg mixture, sprinkle with 2-4 T sugar or coarse sugar crystals,  Bake until golden and nut mixture is set, 5-10 minutes.  (If stollen browns too fast, cover loosely with foil.)  Cool on wire racks 30 minutes.

Make White Icing
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 T hot water

Drizzle icing over stollen in decorative pattern, sprinkle with chopped walnuts.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Refrigerate tightly wrapped up to 4 days, serve at room temperature.

Nut Filling – makes 4 cups
4 egg whites, at room temp
2 c finely chopped walnuts
1 ½ c ground walnuts
1 cup sugar
4 tsp water
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients except 2 tsp of water in medium-sized saucepan.  Cook, stirring, over low heat until warm and sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes; remove from heat.  Stir in remaining water.  Cool to room temperature.  Filling can be made up to 24 hours in advance, refrigerate covered.  Bring to room temperature before using.

Greek Vegetarian Chicken Phyllo Pastry

December 5, 2011

Photo by Pat

I love a good party.  Weddings are the best.  To me it’s all about the dress and the cake, right?  Next, my thoughts wander to the buffet table and what might be available for the vegetarian guest.  Only once in my life have I been treated to a beautiful vegetarian entree that rivaled the meals being served to the other guests at my table.  It will be a forever memory.

Cooking a vegetarian option is a daunting task for most chefs and caterers. For the home cook, it can be downright terrifying. A classy meat-free entree to mark a special holiday or family event can be difficult to pin down.

For me, I look for something that can be made in advance and frozen, or stored a couple of days in the refrigerator and then baked just before serving.  For large gatherings you want something for everyone and because it’s special you really want that “wow” factor. When a friend asked for help finding something vegetarian for her sister’s wedding, I immediately thought of Kotopita.

I have made Kotopita or Greek Chicken Pastry several different ways but this particular recipe is my favorite.  It comes from a classic recipe available abundantly on blogs and websites but I have converted it to a vegetarian version.  It is easily made and rolling up the phyllo dough into packages is not as hard as you think.

Simple side dishes will highlight this beautiful star of the plate.  At home, I serve it alongside a simple couscous with toasted almonds, a beautiful Mediterranean style salad, and lightly steamed asparagus with a drizzle of orange vinaigrette.  Because of the creamy appearance of this pastry, additional color from your side dishes is a must on the plate.  Give it a try before the big event, I’m willing to bet that the meat lovers in your group won’t notice that it’s vegetarian.

Kotopita or Greek “Chicken” Pastry
Makes 10

Filling:

1 pkg. (12 oz) Quorn Chicken Tenders (vegetarian product)

Photo by Pat

2 T olive oil
2 lg garlic cloves, chopped
2 c onion, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ c water
1 heaping T McKay’s Chicken Seasoning and Broth mix (Vegetarian)
½ c grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
1 recipe white sauce listed below

Saute the garlic, onion, and celery with the olive oil in a skillet.  Add the Quorn Chicken Tenders and sprinkle the McKay’s Chicken Seasoning over all and continue to saute until the vegetables are cooked.  Add the water and simmer until the mixture is almost dry.  Remove from heat and let cool about 15 minutes.  Drain if necessary.

Add the cheeses and the warm white sauce.

White Sauce for Filling

2 c milk
4 oz butter
5 T flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour.  Stir and bring mixture to a “bubble”.  Take off heat and stir in the milk with a whisk.  Place back on the heat and continue whisking until the sauce has thickened.  Remove from heat and add the salt but add more if needed.  Stir in the cheese and let the sauce cool about 15 minutes.  Mix into the Chicken tenders mixture above.

To make the pastries you will need:

2 pkg frozen phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), melted

Photo by Pat

To assemble: (Note:  phyllo pastry sheets dry rather quickly, cover the unused portion with a sheet of plastic wrap and a wet towel.  If you have holes, the next pastry will cover it up and seal it.)

Lay out on the counter 1 sheet of phyllo and paint the sheet with melted butter.  Top with 2 sheets of phyllo and paint the top with melted butter.  Add two more sheets and paint with butter.  Add 1 more sheet which makes a total of 6 sheets.

Place about ¾ cup of filling toward the end of a long side of the phyllo sheets and fold over the sheets once, trying to leave a little pocket of air for expansion while cooking.  Fold in both sides about an inch or a little more then continue to roll forward until you have a neat package.  Use melted butter to seal the edges.  Place on a buttered cookie sheet and then paint the pastry all over with melted butter to seal it so the phyllo doesn’t dry during storage.  Continue until you have all 10 pastries rolled.

At this point, the pastry can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen for later use.  I saw no difference in the quality from the two methods.

To bake:

Thaw in the refrigerator if frozen.  Place thawed pastries on a greased baking sheet.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.  The pastry should be golden brown.

For plate service, slice the pastry diagonally and serve crisscross on a bed of couscous.  For buffet service, I usually roll the pastries wider and thinner around so they nestle in a buffet pan like enchiladas.  Garnish with a drizzle of sour cream gravy down the middle and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley and toasted slivered almonds. . . even a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Rosemary Garlic Beans and Peppers with Roasted Potatoes

November 22, 2011

Photo by Gerik

It seems the older I get, the greater my desire the holiday dinner menus to be slimmed down to just the favorite basics.

If I fully embraced that idea, we’d be serving just turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce with a few sweet potatoes on the side this Thanksgiving.  I can just hear my mother scream in horror “what about brussel sprouts, parsnips and green bean casserole?”  .

Yes, good point, but those items are usually assigned a very, very small portion of my plate for dinner and live on in the fridge for a month of leftovers.  It’s just too much for me. But facts are facts, vegetables especially dark colored veggies are a healthy option.  So to round out my menu and to add color to my table, this is my go-to favorite combination.  It’s classy, colorful, and good for you!.

Mushroom Roasted New Potatoes
2 pounds baby sized potatoes (Try using the new Flavor Fusion’s package of 3 colors of baby
potatoes)
Special Tool Needed:  Apple Corer
Olive Oil
Seasonings:
Seasoned Pepper
Lawry’s Garlic Salt with the the green specs in it
Cajun Seasoning if you like it hot!
Salt

*Special note: Your potatoes don’t need to be refrigerated, so leave them sitting out, they are easier to work with when they are room temp.

Wash but do not peel.  Insert the apple corer into the end of the potato (stem end) to about ½ way.  Using a paring knife, cut into the side of the potato hitting the corer that is in the center and turn to cut the potato in half except where the corer protects the mushroom looking stem.   Once you’ve cut all the way around, gently pull out the corer making sure not to pull off the mushroom stem part of the potato.  Store covered in salted cold water until ready to roast.

To roast,  dry the potatoes then toss them in olive oil, coating well.  Sprinkle on the seasonings to taste.  Don’t be shy with the seasonings, I like them strong and flavorful!  Scatter on a cookie sheet and bake them in a 400 degree oven until done.  Usually about 45 minutes.  Timing wise, if you put the potatoes in as the turkey comes out, you’ll have time to cook the potatoes while the turkey rests and is carved.  Serve with the green beans and peppers.

Garlic Green Beans and Red Peppers

3 T. Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, fresh minced, more if you like garlic
2 pounds whole green beans, fresh or frozen
1 red bell pepper
1 T fresh rosemary, minced (1 tsp dry herbs work as well)
1 T McKay’s Chicken Style Instant Broth & Seasoning  dry mix (McKay’s brand from Amazon.com or the generic one located in the bulk food section of Gerbes)

Cook the green beans (I like mine salted) until tender crisp but still a beautiful green, about 10 minutes covered.  Drain and shock them with ice water.  Slice the red pepper into long thin strips.

In a fry pan, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add the garlic and minced rosemary, stir once and then add the green beans.  Toss the green beans in the garlic rosemary oil until hot but not brown.  Add the red bell pepper and toss once more.  Don’t be tempted to cook the peppers more!  Take off the heat and sprinkle the dry chicken seasoning on top and give it one final toss.

It’s ready to be dished up with the roasted potatoes and placed on the table.  This recipe serves 4-6 people.

Mock The Turkey

November 20, 2011

Photo by Gerik

For those who have come to being a vegetarian late in life, we’re coming up to a holiday season that could be a tough one. I’m sure many are thinking “Growing up a complete vegetarian would make the Thanksgiving Feast so much easier!” Traditions and culture are hard to buck when the beautiful baked turkey graces the table where family and friends are seated.  And it’s not just the turkey you’ll be avoiding. It’s the gravy made from the drippings and stuffing that was cooked inside the bird, etc. But good news, being vegetarian at Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean filling yourself up with the “sides” while everyone else eats Turkey.  I’ve got a favorite that will make it so much more enjoyable.

Pulling out my Mock Turkey Recipe always puts a smile on my face.  Years ago, I asked my daughter, Chelle, to make the mock turkey.  Overhearing “you stupid bird, you will never amount to anything!” and “who do you think you are, a turkey?” snapped me to attention rather quickly and provided a priceless memory of my Chelle-girl mocking the turkey!

Mock Turkey Loaf almost fills the bill for me.  Although the traditional turkey is not front and center, this loaf has the taste that pairs perfectly with mashers and gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie making it still a treasured part of our Thanksgiving Dinner.

It’s very easy to make but may take a bit of planning if Worthington Vegetarian Burger is not stocked by your grocer.  Amazon.com carries most Worthington products either by the case or by the can and shipping is free.  Many of you from Columbia, MO can find it locally at the College Park Christian Academy located on College Park and Stadium.

There are many version of this recipe floating around but this version is one I have used in catering and college food service over the years.  Also it’s one of my favorites and will be gracing my Thanksgiving table this year.

Mock Turkey Loaf
Serves 6-8

20 oz can Worthington Vegetarian Burger
1 onion, chopped
2 ½ cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs (dry)
1 ¼ c milk
½ cup oil
1 T McKay’s Chicken like Seasoning and Broth dry mix
2 ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Put in a 9×13 inch baking dish which has been greased.  Cover the casserole with foil before baking.  Remove the foil toward the end so the top will turn golden.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

Sour Cream Gravy
1 stick butter
½ cup flour
2 or more cups of milk
1 tsp salt or to taste
¼ cup sour cream

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the flour and stir while the flour and butter bubble just a bit.  Remove from heat and pour in at least 2 cups of milk while stirring.  Keep stirring until the flour has no lumps left then place back on the heat.  Stir and cook on medium heat until it begins to thicken.  Turn heat way down and stir until it finishes cooking and it is smooth and glossy.  Add salt (seasoned pepper, too, if you like) according to your taste.  Add more milk just before serving if needed.  Also stir in the sour cream just before serving.

Cherry Tomato and Pesto Galettes

November 15, 2011

Photo by Pat

There is something about puff pastry that makes it so very delightful to eat. It’s almost indescribable to those of you who have never experienced it.

Union Market use to have a master baker, long since retired, that made puff pastry from scratch. Our bakery featured a delectable dessert called Napoleons at least once a month. Flaky wafers of pastry alternated with cream pudding and chocolate. Of course it had that classical Napoleon decoration on top. . . . white icing with stripes of chocolate across the icing and then the crowning touch, a toothpick drawn through the stripes of chocolate to make the design.

I enjoy making all kinds of things with the pastry but this weekend I used it to make Cherry Tomato and Pesto Galettes as appetizers for a party. I love the flaky pastry punctuated with the dab of concentrated flavors of the tomato and pesto. It’s kind of like eating chips and dip in a new way.

This choice of appetizer for your table is really a good one. They can be made ahead of time and stored at room temperature. Before the party, a quick warm in the oven, or not if you want to serve them at room temperature. What could be quicker than that?

Puff pastry is not as delightful to make as it is to eat. But you can purchase puff pastry in the freezer section of your grocery store so that flaky goodness can be made at home with ease. It’s worth every penny for the product so buy some and at least make the apple or cherry strudel recipe on the back of the box. Yummy!

Cherry Tomato and Basil Pesto Galettes
~adapted from my favorite appetizer book: “hors d’oeuvres” by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell

Photo by Pat

Makes 20

1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic
2 T pine nuts
1 T olive oil
4 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 pkg Pepperage Farm puff pastry
20 cherry tomatoes, each cut into 3 slices
salt, seasoned pepper
2-inch fluted or plain pastry cutter (I made mine a little larger)

For pesto, place basil, pine nuts, oil and Parmesan in a food processor or blender; pulse to a thick paste. I usually make pesto late in the summer with the last of the basil in the garden. I line small storage containers with plastic wrap and fill them with pesto. When frozen, I remove the pucks, wrap up tightly and freeze in a zip lock bag to be used for winter and spring recipes.

Photo by Pat

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out each sheet to iron out the creases. Cut out 20 rounds with the pastry cutter. With a sharp knife, score a circle about ¼ inch in from the edge and about half way through the pastry. Dock or prick the inside circle with a fork.

Warning: do the above in small batches to keep the dough from getting too warm. Warm dough does not puff well.

Place the pastry rounds on a floured baking sheet. Spread ½ tsp pesto on each inside round and top with 3 cherry tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and seasoned pepper. Bake until crisp and golden, 10 minutes. Serve plain or with more pesto and a sprig of fresh basil on top.

Indonesian Peanut Salad

November 11, 2011

Photo by Pat

Peanut butter is what we call a “must have” in our household. Peanut butter on a banana, peanut butter and apples, peanut butter on your finger… have I hit one of your own memories yet? I have a picture of my little grandson sitting on my couch eating globs of peanut butter with a spoon. It’s not only a favorite picture, but photographic evidence that he has the Parmele peanut butter gene. Also, thank goodness for cleanable leather.

My mom made a shredded carrot with peanut butter dressing salad. I really loved that salad despite the unappetizing appearance of a long brown smear on top of bright orange carrots. Pretend for a moment you’re a 7 year-old and use your own imagination there. (I have since revised that salad, but that’s a recipe for another day).

My point is – there is a lot of love for peanut butter.

Gado-gado Salad, or as it is known in my house, Indonesian Peanut Salad is one of my favorite ways to use peanut butter. If you Google it, you will find many versions of the salad which list a variety of vegetables that you can use. Really get creative and use which ever veggies you enjoy the most. My favorite version has sweet potato cubes and fried seasoned tofu.

I tend to choose vegetables that pop with color as well as taste-match what I think is best. You may want other options. Whatever the choices, this recipe feeds my soul with the beautiful colors and flavors.

Indonesian Peanut Salad
Serves 4-6 people
Spicy Peanut Dressing:
3 T water
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 ½ T soy sauce
2 ½ T lemon juice
1 T brown sugar
⅛ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
a sprinkle of ground cumin

Grate the garlic clove with a microplane. Mix all ingredients until smooth. If refrigerated to use later, gently warm the dressing in the microwave to thin it so it mixes into the salad well.

Salad:

Photo by Pat

Vegetable Oil
Salt
Seasoned Pepper
1 pound tub firm tofu, patted dry and cut into cubes
6 cups baby spinach, washed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
½ pound fresh bean sprouts
1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
1 med. size sweet potato or squash, cubed and boiled in heavily salted water
Roasted peanuts for garnish

Season the cubes of tofu with salt and seasoned pepper. Heat the oil in a small fry pan and fry the seasoned tofu cubes until golden. Drain on paper towel.

Gently toss the tofu, spinach, cabbage, bean sprouts, pineapple, potatoes and dressing in a large mixing bowl. Arrange on plates. Garnish with roasted peanuts. Serve immediately.

I prefer to assemble the salad on each plate and drizzle the dressing and garnish just before serving. I think it just looks prettier.