Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

These simple and delicate sandwiches are perfect to give as gifts around the holidays. Home made goodies have a warming effect on people, one of the reasons why I love to bake. Well, there’s that and I have allergies.

I used the following recipe to make about a dozen raspberry-filled lusikkaleivat and packaged them for a bake sale. Use any jam you like, and for you nut-eaters Nutella would probably rock as a filling.

  • 1 cup soft salted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • raspberry jam (If it’s too thin, reduce in a pan and cool completely. I use a whole fruit jam.)

Cream the butter and sugar. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add the yolk and vanilla to the butter and blend well. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended together.

Note: Finns will brown the butter to bring out a nutty flavor. I’ve made these both ways and prefer room temperature butter. Using the browned butter will yield a crumbly dough that you spoon onto the pan. I like a flatter cookie because they are easier to eat, remember the thickness of the finished cookie will be twice as thick as one cookie!

Drop tablespoons of the dough on a parchment sheet covered pan, press them flat with your palm. Bake for about 10 minutes at 350ºF, or until the edges just start to brown. You should have enough to make a dozen sandwiched cookies.

The dough:

The cookies, ready to be given to lucky friends:

2013-11-30 09.54.54


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I love Christmas.

The Austin Food Blogger Alliance recently organized a gift swap with fellow foodies in Boston.  I was so excited to share a taste of Austin that I decided to put together a box for a lucky reader!

I found Rhythm Superfoods kale and sweet potato chips at my regular grocery store, my favorite flavor is the Mango Habanero because it’s naturally sweet with a background heat that keeps you snacking.  Nuts are not my friend but I’ll gladly share with you.  Honey Toasted Pecans from Austin Nuts and three types of Thunderbird Energetica Bars, go nuts!  Beanitos Chips are gluten-free, corn-free chipotle flavored bean chips, great with dips.  Last of all is a precious addition that I’m having a hard time leaving in the box, Confituras Apple Hatch Chile Chutney.  Austinites love go crazy during hatch chile season and I never buy enough of them to last until I want some.  Next year I’ll have to can some.  For now I’ll offer up this locally made, small batch confection, sigh… 

This time you will have to enter the contest via form, the last giveaway gave me heartburn trying to track down the first two commenters who “won” by random number.  Please enter your mailing address so that there is no delay in getting the prize sent in time for Christmas!  Scouts’ Honor I never share your information, EVER.

Contest closes Nov 30th at midnite.  Open to USA and Canada.  One entry per reader, bonus entry for a Tweet or Pin about this giveaway, leave a comment for each bonus entry.  Good Luck!

Click here to Enter to WIN!

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Butter cookie base recipe from The Great Holiday Baking Book (B. Ojakangas).  Had to add vanilla and milk to thin out the batter so the cookie press would release the shapes easily.

Also made a batch of spiced ginger cookies.  It’s just not Christmastime without ginger molasses cookies!

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I saw this Pumpkin Roll on A Recipe A Day’s blog and saved it to bake when I had some pumpkin available.  Well after baking the inaugural autumn pumpkin pie, I had half a can of spiced pumpkin puree leftover.  What to do?  This was more than I needed to try Nancy’s recipe.

The original recipe calls for plain pumpkin and calls out the spices to add to the batter.  I’ve shortcut this by using pie pumpkin puree and added a little extra pumpkin pie spice.  For the filling, I used a ready made vanilla icing (for some reason I have four containers of this stuff in my pantry!) foregoing the cream cheese and hopefully a few calories from fat (see the note below!).  The result was a delicate rolled cake with a good amount of sweet filling to hold it all together.  If you prefer less sweetness, visit the original recipe post for the cream cheese filling.

Ready To Serve Creamy Vanilla Frosting  (Duncan Hines)Calories: 280   Total Fat: 10g

Per serving:  28 calories and 1 gram of fat

Cream Cheese (Philadelphia)  –  8oz:

Calories: 800   Total Fat: 72g

Confectioners’  Sugar  – 1 cup:

Calories: 389  Total Fat: 0.1g

Butter – 6tbsp:

Calories: 600 Total Fat: 66g


Total Calories of the filling: 1789

Total Fat of the filling: 138.1g

Per serving 179 calories and 13.8 grams of fat

I think the type of pumpkin used makes no difference in the end, there was a soft spicy note to the cake.  If you have an abundance of pumpkins in your garden, roast them up yourself and use that instead of canned pumpkin, I love fresh pumpkin in pies so this should be equally delicious.


Pumpkin Roll

Adapted from A Recipe a Day

pumpkin roll

* Note * I suggest baking and assembling the night before you intend to serve this roll, keep it wrapped in plastic wrap once assembled.  This will help it hold shape and sort of remoisturize.

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel ~ use more if needed)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 can of Duncan Hines Classic Vanilla Frosting or similar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Butter a 15 x 10″ jelly-roll pan then line with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper. On a flat surface sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients in small bowl.  Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in the pumpkin pie filling. Stir in the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched, do not over bake. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and carefully turn cake on to the towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off the paper. Roll up the cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, unroll the cake and towel carefully.  Spread the cake with the vanilla frosting and roll it back up without the towel this time.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to help it keep its shape.

Calorie and fat information was taken from http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/

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There seem to be several schools of thought when it comes to what you should be pouring into those wine glasses.

Between what I’ve been reading/watching all over the internet, and asking the vendors for suggestions in the store (when desperately trying to figure out what wine should be used in and with a cassoulet), there is a list that I’m trying to memorize.

  • Ham -> prosecco (light, slightly sweet and fizzy – also cheaper than champagne)
  • Turkey -> chardonnay (crisp and light)
  • Pork (loin or chop) -> riesling (dry)
  • Lamb -> syrah ( or a red wine with peppery notes)
  • Beef -> cabernet

This list is literally a sticky-note tucked away in my wallet, so that I appear to know what I’m looking for when shopping for wine. It’s hard to tell what makes a good wine worth buying, I’m not an avid drinker by any means, and actually only indulge around the holidays. (I didn’t even go out for a margarita on my 30th B-Day) Maybe because the holidays call for finer foods, thus a finer drink. A beautifully crafted tenderloin deserves something more than punch or iced tea.

What will you be serving for gathered guests this holiday season?

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The holidays are fast approaching and I will have a whole week off of work.  This only means one thing: time to play in the kitchen!

I’m looking for a challenge, or a few since I’ll have more time to cook.  What do you want me to cook?  I need a “secret ingredient” or your favorite food.

I’ll be waiting for your input until Christmas, then choose and cook them over the break.  Sounds fun, eh? 

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If someone were to ask “What is your favorite cookie?” this recipe will top my list.  I love cookies that have a crisp edge and soft centers, lots of chocolate too of course.  This basic dough can be played with in several directions, all of which are mouth-watering!

I was putting the last pan into the oven when hubby beckoned from the other room.  I had just told him that I was five minutes away from being freed from the oven and surface again after diving into this batch of chewy chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies.  But no.  I was urgently needed for something.  *Sigh* Alright, I’m coming… Shocked by the sight before me, I completely forgot about those perfect little goodies baking away in the oven.  The entire closet was no longer in the closet. It was covering the floor and book cases and dresser.  “Look at this!”  Yeah, what a mess!  “No, I found all this great stuff…”  I couldn’t stand the clutter, even though probably 95 % was my stuff.  Hubby had good intentions, just lacked good timing.  The bonus was finding CD’s that I thought were stolen, necklaces that I made with hemp and beads, coins in jars (hunny’s favorite treasure), and fuzzy track pants – that still fit!  I wore the pants to bed, luckily because winter really gave us a chilly night. 

Sniff  Sniff      What’s that smell?

Well, you can guess what came wafting into the room.  Toasty cookies.  They were not even salvageable, the centers were burnt right through.  Many expletives later, I sat myself down with a small bowl of ice cream to forget about the whole incident.  And maybe a cookie or two.

Here is the recipe which I will explain how to modify.

Chocolate Chip Cookies A La Anna Olsen

This was originally conceived by Anna Olsen at Food Network.ca (Show: Sugar)

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 56 grams (4 tbsp) chocolate chips (go ahead and eyeball that one 😉 )

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla and egg.  Mix the dry ingredients and dump into the mixer.  Slowly mix until the flour is incorporated.  Toss in chips and blend by hand (or really slowly in the mixer).  Drop by tablespoonful on to your cookie sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes, the very outer edges will be golden and the centers will look puffed.  Don’t worry, pull out the sheet and let the cookies cool considerably before removing to a rack.

Yield is about 2 dozen if you are conservative with the amount of dough dropped for each cookie.  Estimated total calories for a batch: 2330 (about 195 each).

Modify this recipe with any of the following:

  • Peanut butter chips, instead or in addition to the chocolate chips
  • Replace 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/2 cup of dark cocoa powder
  • Chopped nuts could be added (no taste test for me though!)
  • M&Ms or Smarties (depending on what side of the border you live on, I actually prefer Smarties)

I think Santa would enjoy these cookies, so we will have to bake a fresh batch on Christmas Eve.  Serve warm with a glass of low-fat milk 🙂 

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Have you ever had one day where you needed to accomplish a mountain of tasks only to be challenged at every turn?

That’s today for me. 

    For the first time in weeks, I have that woman warrior power again.  There’s so much to be done, I’m under pressure from every direction.  Everything weighing on me lately just got a dose of kickass.  I’m in 4×4 all-woman drive!

    The holiday season is my favorite time of year.  Then I remember all those little projects kept in plastic tub tombs in the closets around the house.  Tree ornaments need painting.  Stockings need sewing.  Cards need to be stuffed and mailed. 

    This year I wanted to build Gingerbread houses.  I saw ready-made kits at the store yesterday and that sight really lit my mitts.  I can do this.  I will do this.  First, we need construction materials.  I need a strong cookie dough to build the houses with.  With a bit of searching through all the cookbooks standing attention on the kitchen shelf, I found a recipe.  Hmm…  Where’s the molasses?

The Dough

Adapted for my lack of enough molasses from

Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book (*) Ginger Cutout Cookies

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks room temperature butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 honey
  • 2 teas cinnamon
  • 1 teas ginger
  • 1/4 teas cardamom
  • 1/4 teas nutmeg
  • 2 teas baking powder
  • 1 teas baking soda

Cream the butter for 30 seconds then add the sugar.  Mix until well blended.  Add everything except the flour then mix until well incorporated.  Scrape the sides of the mixer bowl as you go.

Add the first cup of flour and blend slowly.  Then add as much flour as you can of the remaining 4 cups.  You should be able to mix it all in, or finish it off by kneading the flour into the dough.  It was not necessary to knead when I made this dough.

Divide the dough in to four equal parts and form a disc out of each.  Wrap in plastic and let the dough chill out in the fridge for 3 hours, or up to overnight.  This recipe is enough for two cottages, about 6.5 inches tall.

The Mortar (Royal Icing)

I have a royal icing mix from a bakery shop which was intended to serve as icing on cute pumpkin cupcakes for Little Sister’s birthday party.  I ran out of time for decorating the cupcakes, so there’s plenty of icing for the gingerbread cottages! 

Whisk one 16 oz bag (or box) with 5 tablespoons of water.  You don’t really need any fancy cake decorating tools for this job.  A plastic sandwich bag will be fine.  Fill one or two bags with the icing then snip one corner at the bottom.  Twist the top of the bags to get all that sticky sugar down to the opening.  The zipper top will tend to pop open (learn from my mistake!) so keep the top end tight with a twist-tie if you will set it down for any reason during cottage construction.  For the children, put a small amount of the icing into smaller bags if you have them, this way they can help themselves to sticking candies to the cookie walls.  I used one bag for the whole lot, Big Brother directed me where to apply his glue.  

Designing Gingerbread Cottages

I really enjoy this part because baking and art come together!  Art that is edible rocks if you ask me.  Trust me, watercolor paint does not taste good at all.  (Go ahead and ask me how I know this.) Make templates – any cardboard or heavy stock paper will work.  I had to get out my civil engineering cap to find a suitable size for my little cottages, and use the dough that was already made.  The east and west elevations consist of a 4″ x 4″ square with a peak 2.5″ on center.  The front and back elevations are 4″ x 4″ squares, the roof pieces are 5.25″ x 3.5″.


Roll the chilled dough to 1/4″ thick, a quarter of it at a time.  The templates can be placed quite closely together to maximize the useful areas of the dough.  The extra dough can be gathered up and rolled again.

There was even enough for a few star cookies, a warranted snack for the hungry cottage builders.  Use a fine toothed grater to smooth and square the edges.  Apply a plump strip of icing to the interior edge of the wall, press gently to adhere then prop the walls up with cans.  Let the walls dry and harden before affixing the roof.  Use plenty of mortar for the roof!

The Candy-Coated Cottages


What makes edible art that much more fun is involving the kids in the creation.   Big Brother really had fun adding his special artist’s touch to his house.  I made the second one for Little Sister, who was napping at the time.

Improvise and have fun building and designing your gingerbread cottages 🙂

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Stuffing a turkey or chicken with stuffing has never been my favorite holiday tradition.  I absolutely love stuffing, don’t get me wrong here.  I would rather leave the stuffing unstuffed.  Bake it as a casserole and be creative with additions.  Last year I threw together an unstuffed stuffing to serve with turkey.  Like all my best dishes, it was literally thrown together with things I had in the fridge at the time.  Little Sister was barely a month old, I hadn’t slept (obviously), and the house was beyond a mess.  I should have one of those ‘Lord Bless this Mess‘ signs in the foyer for such occasions.

This is what I can recall from the awesome unstuffed stuffing.

  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large in size
  • 1 each, red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cups of cubed bread (baguette, rye, pumpernickel, sourdough or whatever)
  • fresh sage, rosemary, coriander, salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 caramelized onion
  • About 1-2 cups homemade vegetable/chicken stock, enough to moisten the bread

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

Grease the pan well because last time I made this stuffing it stuck to the pan, even though it was glass!

My suggestion is to sauté the mushrooms in olive oil with the garlic.  Toss everything but the stock into the greased casserole dish.  Pour over the stock, preferably warmed first, cover and bake for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, check on it.  If you like it a bit wet add more stock.  If it’s too wet, leave the cover off and return to the oven to dry out and crisp up.  Whatever you do – don’t stir.

Enjoy this unstuffing with gravy, cranberry sauce, or naked.

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This week Food52 is looking for vegetarian side dishes for the Thanksgiving table.  I’m usually quite the carnivore, except for holiday spreads.  This time of year calls for extra veggies, just because I love winter veggies!

I’m planning to submit a few side dishes to the contest, the first is my cabbage rolls (sans bacon).  Next will be my potato and cheddar perogies.  I also have a stuffing (which is not actually stuffed into anything but my mouth) and a twist on green bean casserole.

Check out Food52 for inspirational vegetarian dishes to round out your holiday table!

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