What I Ate (on Christmas!) Wednesday!

Hey There!

Happy New Year!!! How is your 2013 shaping up?? I hope it’s awesome. Speaking of awesome, I know I am late to the WIA (on Christmas) party, but I’ve just been having too much fun to open my computer! (no offense!) ;)

I have had such a fantastic vacation with both my families over the past couple weeks! I’ve pretty much been doing nothing except hanging, lounging, playing games, and eating eating eating! But hey, what are the holidays for? :)

Christmas Day at my house, we have some traditions…

One is the rolls.

The most amazing, delicious, sticky, sugary, nutty, doughy, perfect rolls in the whole entire world. They are kind of like a religious experience, especially on Christmas morning.

The really great thing is the combination the rolls create when paired with their BFF…

The crab. I know. It sounds like a weird combination. But it isn’t. It’s perfect. It’s awesome. It’s Christmas.

That’s my family’s Christmas morning. The rolls. The crab. And of course a few cups of coffee and glasses of champagne.

Then it’s Christmas. Especially when it looks like this…

Hope you are still basking in Holiday joy as I am! Unfortunately, it’s back to the real world tomorrow :( I guess every vacation has to end. It was sure great while it lasted!

Happy Wednesday!

 

Peppermint Bark – Williams Sonoma Knock Off!

Hi!

Guys, today is a great day. My Christmas vacation starts in T-4 hours and then I’m flying home to see my family including my brand new, still teeny tiny, niece! I am so excited I can hardly contain myself! But I’ll try… :)
Alright, maybe my jittery-ness is half due to excitement and half due to the giant quantities of peppermint bark I’ve been consuming over that past couple days! We’ve all been there. You walk into Williams Sonoma around the holidays and you are greeted by some of the nicest people in the world (I’m pretty sure they are Santa’s helpers) who offer you a warm cup of cider and a sample of their peppermint bark. So you take one of each and I’ll be darned if it’s possible to leave the store without buying both. It’s that good.
Well, now you can make it at home! Williams Sonoma may not share their recipe, but I think this one is pretty darn close…with a special touch of my own!
The recipe is actually quite simple, and only requires a few ingredients. But since there’s nowhere to hide, I suggest using really good quality chocolate. It’s definitely worth a little splurge!

I love the “peppermint” part of peppermint bark, so in addition to smashing up bunches of candy canes to sprinkle over the top (which coincidentally is a great way to get out a little holiday aggression or stress over not being able to find the perfect gift for your brother-in-law…don’t worry Ryan, I found something good!;)

I threw some candy canes directly into the chocolate! They won’t totally melt in, but it is ok because then you get pieces of candy can in the chocolate too. It is a welcome surprise to anyone sinking their teeth into a piece of this bark.
While this bark is pretty simple to put together, it does require a little bit of patience. After spreading out the dark chocolate layer you’ve got to put it in the fridge and let it set until it is almost hard, but not quite. This will let the white chocolate meld into the dark with the greatest of ease. If you let the dark chocolate harden to much, when you crack the bark you might end up cracking the layers too!

Speaking of cracking the bark…

I swear I don’t have a lot of holiday agression, but who doesn’t love getting to smash something in the kitchen (or otherwise)?!?! I highly suggest smashing and not cutting. Partially because smashing is a great time, but also because half the fun is in the irregular, cracked pieces.

I like to keep the bark in the fridge until I’m ready to serve it, and it will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks (not that there’s any chance it’ll last that long!)
Enjoy!

Recipe: Peppermint Bark

Ingredients

  • 16 oz good quality dark chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract (divided)
  • 16 oz good quality white chocolate
  • 4 large candy canes or 10 mini candy canes + 1 large or 3 small

Instructions

  1. Prepare a jelly roll pan by lining it would aluminum foil.
  2. Melt dark chocolate over a double boiler set to medium low heat. Add 1 teaspoon peppermint extract and 1 large or 3 small candy canes roughly smashed.
  3. Spread melted chocolate onto foil lined pan in a single, uniform layer. Refrigerate until almost set, about 15 minutes.
  4. In a clean bowl, melt white chocolate over a double boiler set to medium low heat. Add 1 teaspoon peppermint extract. Pour over almost set dark chocolate and smooth out.
  5. Crush candy canes (a rolling pin works great!) in a plastic bag. Sprinkle pieces over the top of the bark. Refrigerate until fully set.
  6. Keeps well in the fridge for a couple weeks.

;

Linzer Stars

Oh heyyyyy,

Isn’t Christmas season the best? You get to wear cozy (and sometimes sparkly!) clothes, drink cozy (and usually spiked!) drinks, and eat some delicious, decadent food without feeling the least bit guilty about it. It’s the holidays! Right??? ;)

These festive cookies are sure to put you in the holiday spirit and will bring a smile to anyone who sees them. That smile will then turn into a WOW! as soon as they take a bite. Trust me, I’ve been there.

The batter for these buttery, almond-y cookies comes together in a snap. But I won’t lie to ya, the entire process is a bit labor intensive. But don’t worry! Grab a friend, a bottle or two of wine, and throw on some Christmas tunes and you have got a super fun evening ahead of you.

Even if you kitchen is covered in flour and powdered sugar after it all ;)

The best way to deal with this dough is to keep it very, very, VERY cold. The cookies cut out easily and stick-free rolling is simple…as long as you keep the dough cold. If you don’t keep it cold…well, let’s not even go there, just keep it cold, OK?

You’ll need two different sizes of the same shape of cookie cutter. It doesn’t have to be a star…but stars sure turn out pretty, huh?!?! Just don’t do what I did and make an entire batch of big stars and and entire batch of small stars. Whoops! You need to make all the stars the same size then cut small stars out of half of them. Duh, Tara!

The raspberry jam filling is amazing, and so easy! I think it helps if you have homemade raspberry jam from your mom like I did, but store bought will work just fine too.

 

I have to say, a little powdered sugar goes a long way. The dusting of powdered sugar on the cut outs makes these cookies look so fancy and elegant. If you want some major “ooh’s and ahhh’s” at your Christmas party or cookie exchange, these are the cookies to make. Or, just make a batch to leave out for Santa, I know he’ll appreciate them!

These delicious cookies are definitely worth the little bit of work they take to put together. Give them a try and you’ll see!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Linzer Stars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)
  • Special equipment
  • A 2-inch star cookie cutter; a 1/2-inch star cookie cutter

Instructions

  1. Pulse flour, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until almonds are finely ground.
  2. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients. Beat dough just to blend; gently knead if necessary to form a ball.
  3. Divide dough in half. Place each half between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Working with 1 piece at a time, flatten dough into a disk; roll dough, occasionally lifting paper on both sides for easier rolling, until 1/8 inches thick. Chill dough in paper until very firm, at least 2 hours.
  4. Arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 375°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  5. Working with 1 dough disk at a time, remove top sheet of paper and, using 2-inch star cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Transfer to baking sheets, placing 1/2 inch apart; chill. Repeat with remaining dough. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, chilling, and cutting until dough is used. Be sure to keep the dough chilled!
  6. Using 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, cut out a star from the center of half the cookies. Working in batches, bake cookies until light golden brown, dry, and just firm to the touch, 11-13 minutes. (Cookies will firm up as they cool.) Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.
  7. Bring jam and 2 teaspoons water to a boil in a small saucepan; let cool slightly.
  8. Arrange whole cookies flat side up. Spoon 1 teaspoon cooled jam in the center of each, dabbing slightly to spread. Arrange cookies with cutouts flat side down on a wire rack; dust with powdered sugar. Set atop whole cookies, lining up star points and allowing jam to push up slightly through center.

Recipe adapted very slightly from Bon Appetit

On another note: My heart is still breaking for all the families involved in the Newton school shooting. I feel helpless, but I’m not. I can do this…and I’m going to. Maybe you can too??! xoxo, t

Butter Balls

Hey there!

Christmas cookie season is in full bloom at my house and I’m so excited to share this recipe with you all! These cookies have a special place in my heart, and in my tummy! I had never tried these cookies until I spent a Christmas with my husband’s family. His mom had made a gigantic batch of these and I think I was responsible for eating 90% of that batch. I am usually pretty good about sweets, limiting myself, even around the holidays, but I just couldn’t say no to these delicious, powdered sugary delights. As if a wonderful husband AND an amazing family-in-law weren’t enough, I knew I really hit the jackpot when I tasted these cookies!

This year, I asked my MIL for the recipe and I was really surprised at how easily these cookies come together! Flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, walnuts, and of course, the star of the show…butter!

Come on people, it’s the holidays! ;)

You mix everything together and you’re left with a super sticky, buttery dough. A couple important things to remember…#1 the recipe calls for chopped walnuts, but I used half chopped and the other half I put in the blender until they were almost pureed. This way you not only got chunks of walnuts, but also walnut flavor running throughout the cookie. #2 You really have to let the butter come to room temperature before you use it. Dont try microwaving it, it just won’t work. The good news is that butter can be left out for quite a while, so take it out at night before you go to bed, or before you leave for work in the morning and it will be just fine and ready to melt into the buttery dough.

After you bake the cookies, which come out golden brown and perfect, it’s time for the fun (and messy!) part. While they are still warm, roll each cookie in powdered sugar. You’ll want to use a wire rack and line several paper towels or clean dish towels underneath – unless you want your counter covered in powdered sugar, that is!

But these cookies don’t just get one layer of powdered sugar – no, no, no. After you roll them the first time and let them cool a bit, you give them a second coating of powdered sugar. There isn’t a ton of sugar in the dough, so this double coating is really necessary, plus it makes the cookies look really pretty!

I love these cookies so much we even put them in the welcome bags for our wedding! My MIL made millions of them and wrapped them up for all of our guests. Everyone loved having the little treat in the bag at their hotel. I know any holiday guests you have will love them just as much!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Butter Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until very fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Slowly add flour, salt, vanilla, and walnuts. Mix until blended (dough will be very sticky!)
  4. Roll into very small balls and place on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar, allow to cool slightly and roll again.
  7. Note: these cookies freeze really well!

 

Triple Ginger Cookies

Ladies and Gentlemen…It’s CHRISTMAS COOKIE TIME!

This past weekend, I baked 3 batches! Linzer Stars (Yum!), my mother-in-law’s butterballs (Amazing!), and these supremely addictive tripple ginger cookies. I’m on full speed ahead until December 25th. Don’t even try to stop this train, it’s running on a sugar rush!

I love ginger. I love ginger cookies. Problem is, I love soft, chewy cookies. I am not a gingersnap girl. The word “snap” and the work “cookie” do not belong together in my vocabulary. “Cookie” goes with words like, “ooey” and “gooey” and “soft.” Those are my kind of cookies. Scratch that, THIS is my kind of cookie.
These ginger cookies bake up puffy, just the right amount of crisp on the outside, and perfectly soft on the inside. Hence, the reference to addictive above.
The “triple ginger” part comes from powdered ginger, fresh ginger, and chopped candied ginger. The addition of the candied ginger is amazing! Not only do you get little lumps of ginger in the cookies, but when you bite into one it’s like winning the ginger burst lottery. Seriously, seriously good.
As my husband so wisely put it, “These cookies are super gingery, without being annoyingly gingery.” I love ginger, but even I admit that sometimes things labeled as ginger this or ginger that, try to smack you in the face with too-spicy-for-it’s-own-good ginger flavor. These cookies are packed with all the good ginger flavor and none of the bad. In short, they’re perfect. Make them now. :)
Enjoy!

Recipe: Triple Ginger Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup good molasses
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup raw or sanding sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk both flours, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar and butter in a large bowl, scraping down sides halfway through beating, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add egg, molasses, grated ginger, and vanilla; beat just to blend. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger (dough will be very soft and sticky).
  3. Place raw sugar in a shallow bowl. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out dough. Using a second spoon, scoop dough from tablespoon measure into bowl with raw sugar; turn to coat well. Roll into ball. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with half of remaining dough and sugar, spacing balls 1 1/2″ apart.
  4. Bake cookies 10–12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. Keep unused dough chilled until baking.
  5. Recipe adapted very slightly from Bon Appetit

Bourbon Soaked Cherries

Hey there!

You guys ready for a holiday cocktail?! I am! I’ve spent the day Christmas-ing it up! We got our tree set up and decorated  and the house is looking Christmas-y and smelling like a Christmas Tree thanks in part to our freshly cut tree, but mostly due to my favorite candles from Bath & Body Works. Fresh Balsam. Run to your nearest BBW and pick up a few (or 20) asap!

So, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. Including some cookies baking in the oven as we speak (more on that to come!), all that’s missing is a Christmas cocktail.

Not for long!

Well…kinda…

These cherries are so easy to make, but the catch is, you have to let them marinate for 4-6 weeks before you can use them. So make them now and they’ll be ready for the holidays!

Michael drinks a lot of Manhattans. They are one of his favorite go-to cocktails, which I am fully on board with for two reasons. #1 I like them too and usually get a sip and #2 I always get to eat the cherry that comes with it

Every once in a while, I’ll get something a little fancier than a plain ol’ maraschino cherry. One that the bartender pulls out from under the bar in a jar full of cherries and liquid. Those are the ones I can’t wait to get my hands on. This is my attempt at recreating them.

It seems you can marinated cherries in all sorts of liquors and liqueurs, but I chose bourbon because, well, I like bourbon!

The very simple process involves just dissolving sugar in the bourbon and then pouring it over pitted cherries. You can use frozen just as well as fresh. This time of year fresh ones would be pretty hard to come by! I used cherries I pitted and froze this past summer, but you could pick some up in the freezer section of your local grocery store.

Once you let the cherries marinate, you can toss them in your Manhattans, muddle them into a cocktail, or mix the cherry-infused bourbon with some spiced cider for a seriously festive drink. Whatever you want to use them for, make these cherries asap. They are sure to make your holiday a little merrier.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Bourbon Soaked Cherries

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups Bourbon Whiskey

Instructions

  1. Place cherries in a 1 quart canning jar.
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat the sugar and whiskey over medium low heat, whisking constantly just until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour mixture over the cherries and refrigerate 4-6 weeks. Cherries will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

 

Iced Almonds

The Christmas Season isn’t over in my house yet! I love the time between Christmas and New Years because the family is still together but a lot of the hustle and bustle has died down so there is more time to play games, cook, eat, and drink! My 4 favorite things to do!

Yesterday, my mom and I whipped up a batch of these Iced Almonds. My mom has been making these during the holidays pretty much since I can remember – they are definitely a holiday staple in our house. The main problem with these little guys is that they are extremely addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! But I figure, you are eating almonds. Almonds are healthy. So it is only logical that these gems are healthy, right? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Continue reading →

Peppermint Meringues

These little gems are like Christmas in one bite! From the cookie baking extravaganza that brought about these bites of heaven also came these delicious (and low calorie!) peppermint meringues. I’ve heard people say meringues seem intimidating, but they are so easy to make! AND you just need a few ingredients : Egg whites, sugar, powdered sugar, salt, and peppermint extract Continue reading →