Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipe: Macaroon Kisses

I finished my holiday baking last week. This was the final recipe out of my kitchen for Christmas 2011. One day, I looked in my cabinet and said, “Why do I have 3 bags of coconut?” It’s rare that I have extra of anything. This much coconut could cause a crisis. The crisis was averted through the baking of Macaroon Kisses.
Macaroons are sticky. There is no escaping it. Every time I make macaroons I end up with coconut stuck everywhere. If you are using a standard cookie sheet, you can line it with foil (greased and floured). I skipped that line in the instructions and needless to say, if you don’t grease and flour the foil, there is coconut stuck everywhere and sad looking macaroons that are missing half their parts. Moral of the story: Use your silicone baking mats and avoid calamity.

1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
5 1/3 cups flaked coconut
48 Hershey’s kisses

Preheat oven to 325. Line your baking sheets with foil (greased and floured) or with your silicone baking mats. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk and extracts. Stir in coconut. Roll coconut into balls and put on cookie sheet, flattening slightly. If you keep you hands wet/damp with water the coconut will not stick to you as badly. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Immediately press kiss into the center the macaroon (a piece of York Peppermint Patty is also delicious). Remove from baking sheet and cool on rack (or greased wax paper). Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peppermint Snowflake Cookies

Just like snowflakes, no two cookies look the same. 
At least in my kitchen. 

I think I have reached the end of my holiday baking.   Treats have been mailed, taken to potlucks, brought to the office, and given to friends.    I will take some to my neighbor and pack a big tin in my suitcase.   By New Year's, all treats need to be eaten or given away.  Beginning in early January we have our annual wellness challenge and I will be on board, getting into "Greece" shape.....but until then, bring on the peppermint, chocolate, coconut, pecans and all other ingredients of deliciousness.   

Peppermint Snowflakes are flat and a crispy.  Once they have cooled, flip them over and "paint" the bottom with peppermint white chocolate and sprinkles.    Innocent and unassuming on top and awesome on the bottom.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter/margarine
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups uncooked regular oats
1 1/2 cups cornflakes

White Chocolate Peppermint "Paint"
3 cups white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons oil
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
(optional) sparkly Christmas sprinkles  

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, stir until blended.    This being Colorado, I added 2 tablespoons more flour to the mix after baking the first few cookies.

Beat butter/margarine at medium speak until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well.   Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.   Add flour, mixing until blended.   Stir in oats and cornflakes.    Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto a silicone bake mat.    These spread quite a bit, so give yourself room or they will bake together.   Bake 12 to 14 minutes.   Cool slightly then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Lay out wax paper on the counter.   Flip cookies over on wax paper. 

I did my white chocolate "bottoming" in batches.   Per batch, melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon oil, using low heat in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.   Once you remove it from the microwave, add 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract and stir.   Spoon white chocolate onto the bottoms of the cookies and "paint" to cover the bottom.    Add sprinkles for festive cheer.  Once the cookies and the chocolate have cooled, store in an airtight container.   Makes 3-4 dozen.

Adapted from the Southern Living Big Book of Christmas

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good Cookie Winner!

Hooray, we have a winner!   Stephanie, you were comment #5 so you will get your own OXO Good Cookie Spatula.      Shoot me an email at travelerforgood (at) gmail (dot) com with your address, and I will get this good cookie on the road!

Thank you for playing along and sharing your holiday treats.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hooray for Buffalo Chicken Dip

I'm not sure how I've gotten this far in life without knowing that Buffalo Chicken Dip exists.   I like wings, I like hot sauce, I like buffalo chicken sandwiches and buffalo chicken pizza.    I was happy to find this recipe on From Cupcakes to Caviar.  Janet certainly knew what she was about with this recipe.   Click on over to her blog and take a look at the simple delicious awesomeness of this dip.    I laughed at her picture because she's right...it's hard to take a picture of dip.    A picture couldn't do it justice anyway.  Prepare it in advance and stick it in the fridge.   Throw it in the oven when you're ready.   Then dig in.

**OXO Good Cookie Spatula Giveaway!  This has nothing to do with buffalo chicken dip, except that you could use the spatula to shovel this dip directly into your mouth.    Thursday December 15, is the last day to post a comment here to win a new spatula of your own (and support a good cause).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why I Love Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Don't forget that this Thursday, December 15 is the last day you can enter my OXO Good Cookie giveaway.  Click here for the details - all you have to do is post a comment on the Good Cookie post about your fave holiday treat!

I could have been 5 years old or 20.    The drill was the same.   Anytime we visited my grandma, my sister and I would sneak to the basement and look in the freezer.  October through December was the optimal time for this search, but sometimes we would luck out, even in the summer.   For any kid with a sweet tooth the freezer was a gold mine.    In assorted Christmas tins would be spritz butter cookies, cordial cherries, candy Christmas trees, toffee, and peanut butter cups.   She would give tins of candy and cookies to her neighbors, her hairdresser, and her friends.   Whenever I do the same, I feel like it really is a family tradition.     

My grandma loved Christmas.   Our stockings, embroidered by name, would be hung on the staircase.   A tree with just animal ornaments would be in the kitchen picture window.   There was a tree in the living room and the family room.   Uncle Holly and Aunt Mistletoe figures would be hanging from the light fixtures.   My memories of her house at Christmas are some of the most vivid ones I have of Christmas as a child.  It was a sad Christmas Day in 2007 when she passed away.   But after that year, the sadness returned to joy.   She loved Christmas.   Our joy in the holiday can only honor her life.

My grandma was the only person I knew who made her own peanut butter cups.  This recipe may not be the exact same, but it is pretty close.   Get ready to spread your own Christmas cheer this year.

Peanut Butter Filling
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter/margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all filling ingredient together until smooth.   You can chill for 15-30 minutes to make the filling easier to form into patties.  Line a mini-muffin pan with festive holiday liners.   My pan has 24 openings.  

Milk Chocolate Coating
Melt 1 cup of milk chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of oil on low heat in the microwave until melted then stir until smooth.   I melt 1 cup at a time just so that it doesn't cool while I'm working with it.    With the PB filling above (and probably 2 bags of chocolate chips) I made about 36 cups. 

Once your chocolate is melted, spoon enough chocolate in the bottom of each muffin cup to cover the bottom.   If you are feeling industrious, use a small decorating paint brush to brush some chocolate up on the side of the liners (about halfway up).    Place mini-muffin tin in the fridge for the chocolate to set.  It should only take 10 minutes or so.  

Take the peanut butter filling and shape into small flat-ish discs (how's that for a definition?).   You don't want the peanut butter center to touch the edges of the muffin cups.   Once the chocolate has set in the muffin cups, place a peanut "disc" into each muffin cup.   Top each cup with enough melted chocolate to cover the peanut butter completely and to get a smooth top (rather than a chocolate covered bump).   Put the peanut butter cups back in the fridge until the chocolate sets.   Store in a Christmas tin of your own.   Goodwill sells them this time a year for under a dollar.    Peanut butter cups freeze well and will be a special treat for your family when they scavenge in your freezer when you're not looking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Georgetown Christmas Market

This was my first year going to the Georgetown Christmas Market and it was great.  All the best things about a small historical Colorado mountain town at Christmas.  There were actually chestnuts and an open fire.   Chestnuts are fairly new to me.  My first time eating Heisse Maroni when I went to Switzerland in 2006.

Spiced nuts (gebrannte mandeln) are also common in European Christmas markets and the different flavors offered in Georgetown were delicious.  I'm trying to figure out how I could recreate the ginger orange almonds I tried.  There are also stalls of handcrafts...I now am the proud owner of a small glass wine rack.   The market runs the first two weekends in December on the weekends.   Each day at noon there is a procession with St. Nicholas.  

We had chestnuts as our first snack, then baked treats at Cake prior to visiting the different shops.  We had lunch and some mulled wine at Troia's.   My meatball sub was all kinds of cheesy. 

I'm not going to lie.   One of the best things was the cuteness of this angel dog.
There is still a little time!  The market runs this weekend, December 10 and 11th as well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Perfecting the Peppermint Martini

After my great success with the Pumpkin Spice Martini last month (at a baby shower, no less), I decided that I should work on a Christmas themed martini too.   Peppermint is one of those flavors that takes you to a certain, time, place or season.   Coffee shops and bakeries are very deliberate on when they release their peppermint flavored treats to tie in the with joy of the season.   Last year it was almost a crisis at Christmas when we went to multiple grocery stores and they were sold out of peppermint ice cream.  

Mix equal parts in a martini shaker with ice:
-Vanilla vodka
-Peppermint schnapps
-Cream or Half and Half

Then add a splash of peppermint coffee creamer.   Shake until cold.   Rim your martini glass with the same red sugar sprinkles you use for decorating Christmas cookies.  Strain the martini into the glass.  Garnish with a candy cane and red sugar sprinkles.  Cheers!

In non-martini news, I'm hosting an OXO Good Cookie giveaway until December 15.  Click here for details. 

Recipe: Lemon-Coconut Snowballs

It is snowball season.   We had our second snowfall this past week - again people don't remember how to drive slowly with caution.   These are happy snowballs - perfect for your Christmas cookie tray.  Or any other time you want to zest a lemon.   Someday, I will own a zester (hint: Santa), but until then my grater works just fine.
What You Need
1 cup butter/margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

What You Do
Beat butter/margarine at medium speed until creamy; gradually add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and extracts.  Add flour, lemon rind and salt, beating until combined.   Stir in coconut.  Cover and chill 30 minutes.
Shape dough into generous 1 inch balls; place on parchment paper (or silicone mat) lined baking sheets.   Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes until golden on bottom but still pale on top.   Cool for 5 minutes.

Place 1  1/2 cups powdered sugar in a bowl and roll warm cookies, coating well.   You will have time to set the down and then roll them again (and again).   The more powdered sugar, the more they look like snowballs.   Depending on how big you roll your snowballs, the recipe will make 2-3 dozen.

Recipe from The Southern Living Big Book of Christmas

Monday, December 5, 2011

Good Cookies: Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

First, ask yourself:   Am I a Good Cookie?

My Good Cookie of the Day:  Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
By nature most oatmeal cookies come with one unfortunate ingredient: raisins. I like raisins, by themselves, in a box. But not in my baked goods. Cranberries, however, are a different story. Obviously I need to cook with Craisins more often.
1 cup butter/margarine
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup Craisins (used the small 6oz package of Craisins - keeping a few for snacking)
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces, toasted
1 1/4 cups uncooked quick oats

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat butter/margarine on medium with an electric mixer until creamy, gradually add sugars. Add egg and vanilla, beating until blended. Combine flour, soda, powder, and salt and then add to the sugar mixture, beating until blended. Stir in cranberries, pecans and oats. Drop dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet (I used a silicone baking mat instead), 2 inches a part. Bake for 9 minutes (Colorado time). After the first batch, I put the dough in the fridge for a bit so that the cookies didn't spread quite as much.

The fancy holiday touch: I used some white candy coating to dip the majority of the cookies. You just warm the coating in the microwave and stir until smooth. Dip half the cookie into the coating and let cool on wax paper.

Adapted from The Southern Living Big Book of Christmas

{The Giveaway below is long since closed, but OXO still partners with Cookies for Kids Cancer and it is a great cause}

What's With the Good Cookie?
Two OXO employees who had a child with cancer started Cookies for Kids Cancer .  It provides inspiration, ideas and support for people everywhere to help fight pediatric cancer - through the simple concept of local bake sales.  All over the country individuals and organizations host bake sales, with the proceeds going to Cookies for Kids Cancer to help fund more research for pediatric cancer.

6 Ways to Bake a Difference

1.   Send a virtual cookie.   No calories and no guilt.  OXO will make a donation for each e-cookie sent, up to 10,000 cookies per week.
2.  Find a bake sale near you and eat your way through it. 
3.  Host a bake sale.  
4.  Host a cookie exchange.  Glad will donate $0.10 per cookie exchanged or sold this December as a part of their Glad to Give program.
5.  A second no-calorie option: Make a financial gift online.
6.  Buy the OXO limited edition Good Cookie spatula. 

Giveaway!  {CLOSED}
The good people at OXO gave me two spatulas for free as a part of the OXO Blogger Outreach Database.   One of the Good Cookie spatulas was to use for my own Colorado baking adventures.  It makes me smile every time I see it.  Every cookie is a good cookie.   There is a second one for you!  Simply post in the comments your favorite Christmas / December treat.   It doesn't have to be a cookie.   It doesn't even have to be sweet.    Just what it is and who makes it (or where you can buy it).  

I will choose a winner using random.org on Friday December 16, so make sure you comment by Thursday.  Anyone can post, but I am limited to shipping the spatula in the US.   You may even have your spatula before Christmas depending on how fast FedEx Ground moves and how far away you live. 

Let your inner Good Cookie shine!

How Cold Weather Ended My Laziness

When I first moved to Denver a co-worker referred me to a dentist.   From my office in the DTC it was about a 15-20 minute drive.   Not too bad for someplace you only go twice per year.   In the Spring of 2007 I started working downtown.   Now this dental office was 22.9 miles (at least a 30 minute drive pending traffic and weather) from my house and a similar difference and time from my office.   Still, it was only twice a year, so what's a 30+ minute drive?  Why bother making a change?  

Today there was the added bonus of rush hour traffic and inclement weather.   It took me an hour to get to the dentist.   While my car was going 2 miles an hour on the Dam Road (the actual name), I thought that this was probably the kick in the a** that I finally needed to change to a dentist closer to home or to work.    Although I called the dental office to let them know that I was running late, I got there 20 minutes after my appointment time and there was not time for them to get me in before the next patient.  The next appointment I could get was in mid-January.  They offered to put me on a wait list so that I could get a call with any last minute cancellations.   But with the office being so far, that wasn't a feasible option.

Bottom line, the hour wasted in snowy traffic was what I needed to make a change.   This will save me up to an hour of driving time and gas at least twice a year.   I can think of a lot of other things I can do with an hour rather than drive to the dentist.  

Maybe I can divide that hour up and floss more often so that my new dentist gives me a gold star.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recipe: Mudslide Brownies

I love sweet cocktails.  I made it through college drinking White Russians and Amaretto Stone Sours (better than Keystone Light any way you look at it!).   A mudslide, to me, might have ice cream and chocolate drizzle in a glass.  By definition, it will have vodka, Irish cream, coffee liquor, and cream.  A calorie killer to be sure - probably just as bad as having a frappucino every day.  But it's the Christmas baking season.  You'll have plenty of parties and cookie exchanges where you can pass these off to your friends.  

What You Need 

6 oz unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter/margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Irish Cream, I used Bailey's
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons vodka, I used Smirnoff Vanilla (from the Pumpkin Spice Martinis)
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Garnish:  Chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped.   I supported the local charity The Women's Bean Project and bought these beans at church.

What You Do 

Melt 4 chocolate baking squares and 1/2 cup butter/margarine in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally.   Remove from heat, and scrape into a mixing bowl.   Add sugars, stir well.   Stir in eggs, 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, and 2 teaspoons Irish Cream.     Add flour and salt, stirring until blended.  Add pecans.    Spread batter, it will be thick, into a foil lined 13x9 pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 325 for 25 minutes, Colorado time, or until brownies appear set on top.  Cool completely.

Frosting note:  When I made it, I did it while I was making other things, so by the time the brownies were cooled, it had gotten very stiff.   I just added some more whipping cream and was good to go.

Melt remaining 2 baking chocolate squares and 2 tablespoons butter/margarine in a heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.   Remove from heat and put in medium bowl.  Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons coffee granules and remaining 2 tablespoons Irish Cream.   Add powdered sugar until it reaches a good spreading consistency, beat with an electric mixer.   Smooth frosting over brownies.   Garnish by pressing chopped chocolate espresso beans into the frosting.    These are sweet and rich, so you can cut them small if you'd like. 

Enjoy with a big glass of milk.

Adapted from The Southern Living Big Book of Christmas

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe: Peppermint Bonbon Cookies

In spite of my complete lack of real world experience with the Southern lifestyle (so much so that our hosts for Thanksgiving wanted to make sure I would eat greens), I am falling in love with the recipes from The Southern Living Big Book of Christmas, courtesy of my local library.   My first recipe was the cranberry-maple sauce that was a 5 minute Thanksgiving breeze.   The next couple cookies that I post up here are all from the same book.   I'm impressed.  I'm always picking up books from the library.  One of the many reasons I love the library - I can continually try new things...and not have to buy and store tons of cookbooks.
So, on to the bonbons (their name for it).  I could probably call them something like Chewy Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, still apt, but not as catchy, unless we just referred to them as the CCPC.

On Dasher, On Dancer, let's get these cookies in the oven!

What You Need

8oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used a cup of chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1 and 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (one and a half of the Bakers squares)
1/2 cup crushed candy canes - put them in a ziploc and whack them with a rolling pin...it works
6 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Making it pretty on top:
Crushed candy canes for garnish
Glaze:  1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons milk
Chocolate Drizzle:  1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted

What You Do

Combine the first three ingredients in a small saucepan, cook over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.  Scrape into large bowl.   Stir in candy canes and sugar.  Let cool for 30 minutes.  Add eggs to mixture one at a time.  Add extracts.   Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to chocolate mix.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Cover and chill dough 2 hours or until firm. 

Roll dough into balls, place on parchment lined (or silicone baking mat lined, in my case) baking sheet.  Bake at 325 for 12 to 13 minutes.   Colorado baking time:  13 minutes worked out just fine.   The cookies didn't look "puffed and cracked on top" like the original recipe said, they were pretty smooth, but since the end result was delicious, I didn't mind.    Right after you take the cookies out of the over, lightly press some of the crushed candy cane garnish into the top of the cookie.   Let cookies cool a few minute on the sheet before transferring to the counter/rack  to cool.  

To make them look even prettier on top, mix the milk and powdered sugar together to drizzle over the cookies.  Follow that drizzle with drizzle from melted chocolate chips and then sprinkle a little more candy cane on top.    Share with friends, quickly, before you eat them all.


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