Friday, December 31, 2010

Easiest Dessert Ever

I made this for dessert tonight and it is one of my favorite. Frozen berries in a while chocolate sauce.  It takes minutes to make.  You start you with this:
Frozen mixed berries, white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Heat heavy cream with a big splash of vanilla in the microwave. Start out with 2 minutes and check every 30 seconds after that to see if it's hot yet. You want it hot, but not boiling.

Dump a 12 ounce package of white chocolate chips into a bowl and pour the hot cream on top of it. Stir until melted.

Dump frozen berries into serving bowls. I used mixed berries, but you could use any kind you like. Make sure they are the individually frozen berries, not the kind mixed with sugar.

Add your white chocolate sauce

And if you are me, add tiny gold glitter stars

Merry Christmas. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Random Christmas Memory: Tracking Santa

Back when I was a teenager, on Christmas Eve Nightline used to always do a feature about NORAD's Santa Tracking station and they would go from place to place around the world checking with different military personnel about when Santa would pass over their area. It was just a good fun thing on what was generally a slow news night. I remember very strongly shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union that they did the usual show, hitting Alaska, England, Germany etc... and then they went to some Russian Airforce guy (technically he wasn't Russia yet, this was the interim time between the Soviet Union and Russia being Russsia again.) This guy was grinning from ear to ear and said that this year Santa was cleared in Russian airspace for the first time in many, many years. I cried harder at that than I did when the Berlin Wall fell down. And I get a little teary-eyed just thinking about it now.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Beating the Party Clock

We decided to have a Kinect Bowling Christmas Party. For those of you unfamiliar with a Kinect, it's a video game device that requires no controller. You just flail yourself around to move objects, like a bowling ball. So I planned this get together for Friday at 7:30pm, even though I don't get off work until 6. And to make it even more of a challenge, I didn't do any food prep for the party (with the exception of mixing some onion soup mix into some sour cream the night before.)  So could I have it read to go by 7:30?  Timeline if you please.

6:15pm home

Pull out the pretty red chargers my sister-in-law bought me and put them to my favorite use, displaying appetizers. Bright, plastic, shiny & affordable they work for a million things.  Dump store bought hummus into a dish, sprinkle with paprika for color and dump out pita chips. Dish One done by 6:18pm

Pulled out Onion Dip & Bleu Cheese Ball and put in pretty Christmas dishes. Dumped Crackers on plate & chips in festive Christmas Bowl.

6:25 pm - Opened Cajun Crab dip & Seafood Salad from Walt Churchill's Market and began putting a little bit onto individual tortilla chips. I went with Blue Corn.
I stole this idea from Nigella Lawson. She used different topping, but the thought it the same. One bag of tortilla chips makes about 75 appetizers.

Glam up your Tostitos

The seafood salad has lots of pretty red and green flecks in in.

Variation on a theme: Barbecue potato chips

Topped with pimento cheese spread made with a very sharp old cheddar. From the store. This is very much a non-homemade party

They all turned out kind of nice

7pm. Time to make my Egg Nog. Storebought Nog of your choice. Divide into 2 pitchers. One for the boozy nog, one for the virgin nog. Fill pitchers about half way up. Give boozy nog a slight splash of vanilla. Give virgin nog a good splash of vanilla. Then beat two egg whites until fluffy and slowly fold half of the mixture into each pitcher. To the boozy nog add as man shots of bourbon as you feel comfortable with. We did two. Then softly whip about half a cup of cream and fold half into each pitcher. Then either grab a nutmeg and grate some on top of each pitcher or sprinkle a little ground nutmeg from a jar on top. I love the jar of nutmeg I keep in the freezer. I feel like a chef whenever I grate some onto something.
7:12  Have a cup of egg nog

Tim put out the cookies I baked earlier in the week. He's excellent at arranging.

He's an excellent arranger

Food looked good to go.

Now it was time to work on me.  The Christmas sweater only comes out one or two times a year. Along with the Santa Hat.

7:29: Tim fires up the Kinect. The Christmas Lights go on, the regular lights are dimmed.
Fido is ready greet guests.

7:30pm: Company arrives!

Let's bowl!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Making Christmas Cookies

I took advantage of a couple of days off to do some Christmas baking. This year I decided to go gold. I like shiny things

First up: Chocolate Pepper Cookies made with cayenne & black pepper. You'd never guess the pepper was in there. They are spicy in the way that gingerbread tastes.

Step 1: sift flour, peppers & cocoa together.

I use Droste Cocoa. Genuine Dutch cocoa, it is delicious and it hates me

Seriously, it flies everywhere to spite me. Cruel, cruel Cacao.... Product of The Netherlands.

Sifting never works well for me.

Creaming butter goes better. A Kitchen-Aid stand mixer makes it easy.

Add those dry ingredients. To keep them from flying everywhere, wrap a towel around the mixer.

 Except that cocoa despies me and attempts to dust me every single time I use the stuff. Perhaps it knows it will soon be in 350 degree oven.
Serioiusly it flies everywhere.  But that doesn't stop me from making a nice square of dough to chill

And while it chilled, I made a nice pot of soup

Then an hour later, I rolled out that dough between two sheets of plastic wrap

Then cut them out

I decorated with lots of shiny. I like shiny

I also made spritz butter cookies

And Salty Chocolate Cookies.


Chocolate Pepper Cookies

Chocolate pepper cookies

Makes 3 to 4 dozen

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp.

2 large eggs lightly beaten

3 cups sifted all purpose flour.

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened coca powder.

¼ tsp salt.

1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the butter mixtures and bat until well mixed. If dough seems too soft add up to ¼ cup more flour. Shape into a flattened round wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking shets with parchment paper.

Rol out dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into shapes and set 1 to 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until crisp. Do not allow to darken.

Butter Spritz Cookies:

Makes about 6 dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies. Published November 1, 2004.

We had the best results baking these cookies one sheet at a time. When reusing a cookie sheet, make sure that it has completely cooled before forming more cookies on it. Unbaked dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days; to use, let it stand at room temperature until softened, about 45 minutes. Baked cookies will keep for more than a week if stored in an airtight container or zipper-lock bag. For longer storage, freeze unbaked cookies right on the baking sheet and transfer to zipper-lock bags for storage. When ready to bake, place them back on the baking sheet and follow the recipe, adding 2 to 4 minutes extra baking time.


1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened (about 70 degrees)

2/3 cup sugar (about 4-3/4 ounces)

1/4 teaspoon table salt

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)


1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. In small bowl, beat yolk, cream, and vanilla with fork until combined; set aside.

2. 2. In standing mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With mixer running at medium speed, add yolk/cream mixture and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. With mixer running at low speed, gradually beat in flour until combined. Scrape down bowl and give final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain.

3. 3. If using cookie press to form cookies, follow manufacturer's instructions to fill press; if using pastry bag, follow illustrations 1 through 3 below to fill bag. Press or pipe cookies onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1-1/2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet until just warm, 10 to 15 minutes; using metal spatula, transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Salty Chocolate Cookies
Salty chocolate cookies (aka World Peace Cookies)

Cookies need three hour chill before bake time

1 ¼ cups all urpose flour

½ cup unsweetened coca powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar.

½ tsp fleur de sel or other sea salt.

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Sift flour cocoa and baking soda together.

Using stand mixer beat butter on medium until soft and creamy. Add sugars, salt, vanilla and beat for 2 minutes more. Turn off mixer, pour in dry ingredients then drape towel around stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen free of flour. Pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times a second or two each time. If there is still a lot of four on the surface of the dough pulse a couple more times. Continue at low speed mix for about 30 seconds more just until flour isappears into the dough. For best texture work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a bit crumbly. Toss in chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. Turn the dough onto work surface, gather it together and divide in half. Working with one halt at a time shape the dough into logs that are 1 ½ inches in idamter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for 2 months.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Line baking shee wit parchment. Then slice the dough into rounds ½ an inch thick. The dough may crack, but don’t worry. Leave about an inch between cookies. Bake for 12 minutes. You can eat when just warm or wait until they cool.