Holiday Cookie Recipes :: Pecan Shortbread

The next in the line of cookie recipes is a really super tasty one. I love shortbread of all kinds–especially chocolate chip, but this one is right up there and it also makes a beautiful presentation in a cookie tin.

Enjoy!

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Holiday Cookie Recipes :: Classic Cut-out Cookies

This week we’ll be talking about cookies. Holiday cookies are a necessity in my world. I love desserts. We all love a fancy chocolate torte or impressive yule log, but in December you gotta have cookies. Shortbreads, gingerbreads, thumbprints and macaroons. I love them all.

Today we have the holiday classic–the sugar cookie for cutouts. Gotta have it. I have nothing but sweet, surgary memories of making them with my mom. We’d make a boatload of cookies for a family gathering at my grandmother’s house ever year. In fact, I have to email mom and ask for her recipe for coconut macaroon wreaths. I never ate them, but I LOVED making them. Go and make some cookies with your kids. It’s the right thing to do. I’ll be making them with my son later this week. If it doesn’t get too messy, we’ll post some pictures!

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Holiday Gifts for the cook :: COOKWARE!

A friend asked me recently to recommend a good set of cookware for a holiday gift. Given that I’ve been working up somewhat of a gift guide here, I thought I would include my ideas here.

Now, this is what I would recommend for those in need of a good set of cookware that is a good balance between cost and value.11644500405.jpg

I think that all things considered the 7-piece All-Clad Stainless is the best bet. I’m a big fan of the All-Clad pots and pans.

These are GREAT pans. The best thing about them is the heat distribution (your food will always cook evenly as long as your stove is level….which mine is not, sadly) as well as their ability to heat fast. You can heat pasta water so much quicker in one of these bad-boys. they retain heat better your average pots and pans.

I thought a lot about the set that has a copper core as well as aluminum, but I think that’s really only “necessary” if you are a real chef of some kind or a SERIOUS home cook. Copper is nice, but I think it’s money you don’t need to spend (it’s twice as expensive) to get a good set of pans for home use for peeps who like to cook. I have one copper pot in my kitchen and honestly, I don’t like it any more than i like my All-Clads. it’s not like I wish I had more copper. So, save the dough.

As for a non-stick option……

I am willing to bet that if you get yourself some good All-Clads, you will use them more than you think—even for things you usually rely on the tephlon for. I use mine for nearly everything, you just have to adjust how you cook a bit. Granted, you still need a non-stick for eggs and what-have-you. All-Clad makes them, too.

I am sure they are GREAT pans, but I would advise not to spend that much dough on a non-stick. The bottom line is they are great while they last, but they don’t last. Not even the “good ones” as far as I know, anyway. All tephlon peels and breaks down at some point. Hubby bought me a REALLY nice one a few years ago and it’s looking pretty shabby now. So, I recommend spending less because they will need replacing at some point. Get yourself (or whoever is on your list in need of new kitchen gear) a good Calphalon or 2. They are great pans and will totally serve you needs.

There you have it! Happy Shopping!


Holiday Gifts for the cook : BOOKS!

Holiday Gifts for the cook :: BOOKS!

Given that it’s December and the holiday season is in full swing, I will be dedicating some posts to good gifties for the cook or foodie on your list.

I wanted to feature some great cookbooks, but honestly, Epicurious.com did it already and better than I could. So, go have look and see what they are promoting. 2 books in this list that I was planning to talk up are Jamie Oliver’s new book called, “Cook with Jamie,” and Alice Waters’ book “The Art of Simple Food,” which they call bestof2007_waters.jpgthe “Best Inspirational.”

Alice Waters is the founder of the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. She sort of pioneered the whole “eat locally grown food and cook it simply” movement in the culinary world, which is so popular now, but she started it in the 70s. You can read more about her on the Chez Panisse website.bestof2007_jamie.jpg

Jamie Oliver’s claim to fame was as “The Naked Chef” on the Food Network. You’ve all heard of him, I’m sure. He’s got a spiffy new Holiday Blog that’s a fun read. You might even catch post from me over there sometime.

More gift ideas to come and of course, cookie recipes! Soon.

Cheers!


Be a star! (sort of) :: Make your own foodie video and win stuff!

So, epicurious.com is having a really fun contest this holiday season.

The basic premise is that you make a video showcasing your cool cooking technique or recipe.  Or maybe pretty table setting or signature drink you can mix up.  Then the fine folks at epicurious choose winners. The Grand Prize is a Michael Chiarello 10-piece cookware collection. And who couldn’t use some really nice new pots and pans, I ask you? I’m drooling over this set, myself.

You simply must check out some of the favorite videos posted on the site even if you don’t have the cojones (like me) to submit one.

And remember if you are thinking of making a video, but are feelin’ a little camera shy, you don’t even have to be in it! Take it from the folks who made the video called, “Julian’s Yogurt-Eating Tricks” or “Paul Pizzaro’s Easy Hors D’Oeuvres. I laughed out loud. And now I’m making a snack and going back to watch a few more. It’s totally entertaining.


Spiff up your salad :: Beet & Endive Salad w/ Garlic & Herb Vinaigrette

I love salad, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that I do. Salad can get boring, you know? I have to remind myself that if I don’t expend a little extra energy and get creative, it’s easy to ignore the much needed greens.

Here’s a great little recipe for a tasty salad that’s not *that* much more than tossing a handful of lettuce together with some carrots and shaking on a little Newman’s. But the extra effort will be worth it. I promise!

Beet and Endive Salad with Garlic and Herb Vinaigrette

3 to 4 small red beets, greens trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
6 small heads Belgian endive, cored
Garlic and Herb Vinaigrette, recipe below

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. On a baking sheet lined with foil, place the beets on top, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then fold the edges to make a  packet. Roast until fork-tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Once they are cool, peel the skins from the beets, trim the ends, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

Quarter the endives lengthwise, and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch thick moons. Combine the beets and endive in a salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Garlic and Herb Vinaigrette:
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except for the olive oil. Whisk until well-combined. Whisk in the olive oil in slow stream until and whisk more.

Need more? Here’s a great salad recipe from Simply Recipes. Cucumbers with Feta—what could be betta? (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

And here’s whole blog devoted to Easy Salad Recipes! Go on—Explore!


An easy pasta dinner :: on the light side

There’s nothing easier or yummier than a good pasta dish on a cold almost-winter night. This one is light and lemony and feels good going down. It’s a refreshing change from the heavy Thanksgiving fare and it features one of my latest obsessions—Artichokes!
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I recently discovered that I really like artichokes. I always thought they were okay. I would never pursue them, but also wouldn’t turn them down if they came my way in a dish. Then, during my recent pregnancy, I began to crave pizza. For a while, I could have eaten pizza at any meal. And for some reason not to be explained, the topping I most desired was artichoke hearts. Now me and artichokes are tight. We have developed a relationship and I’m trying to find tasty dishes for my new-found food friend to shine in. Below is a good’n!

Spinach Fettuccine with Artichokes & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 2
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium artichokes, trimmed and sliced OR a 4oz. can of artichoke hearts
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound fresh spinach fettuccine, cooked al dente, drained with about 1/4 of a cup of pasta water reserved)
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped (dry and soaked in hot water or packed in olive oil)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
Parmesan, freshly grated

Saut onion in oil until tender. Add artichokes, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Saut until artichokes are tender—8-10 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for a few more minutes. Add reserved water, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme and stir. Add pasta and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with Parmesan. YUM!

Here’s another great recipe I came across from coconutlime.blogspot.com, it’s for Steak, Spinach and Artichoke Pasta. It uses Balsamic Vinegar, which I LOVE!

Image by foodnetwork.com


Lighten up :: How to make your baked goods more healthy!

Well, Thanksgiving is past.  I hope everyone had a wonderful time preparing and sharing a delicious meal with family and friends this year.

This is definitely a food-focused time of year.  We all tend to eat more than we should of the kinds of food that aren’t what you would call Healthy or Light. It’s just not the way of it. And that’s okay.  It’s only a few months out of the year, right?

I find that I feel somewhat penitent after these big food events that occur at the holidays. The pies! The cookies! The stuffing! The potatoes! It’s all good and completely irresistible. So, when there’s a break in the action, I like to lighten up my meals for a while.  This way I feel less guilt and down right I-deserve-it-ness about fully part-taking in the next food-filled gathering.  It’s a win-win.

When contemplating what I might do during the next few weeks to eat more sensibly and healthily, a friend happened to email me to find out how to make more healthy and nutritious her baked goods.  See, she recently scored a Kitchen Aid standing mixer and since then she can’t stop the baking. And who could blame her? The upgrade from hand mixer to standing mixer is far too exciting for the foodie to resist.

So, for her, and you, here are some ideas for making your baked goods *slightly* more healthy.

Whole Wheat Flour :: replacing up to half of the all-purpose flour called for in your recipe is a great way to make your baked goods.  If you are making muffins or cookies, try to find the finest grind you can. A good whole-wheat pastry flour is a wonderful thing to have handy.

Wheat Germ :: I like to add a little wheat germ to just about anything I bake, but especially breads and muffins. It’s great in a Morning Glory muffin or anything with raisins.

Brown Rice Flour :: this is a great option for people with wheat allergies. Replace up to 1/4 of any wheat flour with rice flour.  Baked goods can tend to be crumbly, so you may want to try adding more egg to reduce crumbliness.

When I use alternative flours, I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill Brand.  They’ve got it all and great recipes on the website.

Sugars :: for the most part, I try to avoid refined sugar.  Granted, there are many times where I find it’s the best choice and totally called for, but there’s lots of places you can use alternative, natural, more healthy sweeteners. I tend to use maple syrup and honey the most. The tricky part is figuring out how to substitute. Here are some tips!

Maple Syrup :: use 3/4 cup of pure (organic if you can) maple syrup for 1 cup white sugar called for in the recipe and be sure to reduce the liquid in the recipe by about 3 tablespoons.

Maple Sugar :: use an equal amount of maple sugar as white sugar. In other words if 1 cup of white sugar is called for, use 1 cup of the maple sugar as well.

Honey :: substituting honey for sugar is somewhat a matter of taste. I like the flavor of honey, so I tend to use it cup for cup, but other people prefer 1/2 cup – 2/3 cup of honey per cup of white sugar. Remember to reduce the amount of other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey used. You may also need to add a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey you use.  The honey is naturally acidic and the baking soda will help temper it.

Applesauce :: you can replace half of the butter, oil or shortening called for in a recipe with applesauce. Your result will be healthier, but still moist!

Milks :: I often replace whole milk with soy or rice milk.  If that doesn’t float your boat, you can try skim milk to make your result lower in fat.

Those are my best tips to feeding your passion for baking without padding your hips so much!  When I get bit by the baking bug, but don’t want the calories, I give the goodies to my hubby to take to work. It’s a win-win. I get the fun of baking and his co-workers get the fun of eating.

Works for me!


Recipe Contest!

It’s a Double Post Day here at Kitchen Craft. I just had to tell you about this contest in case you have a great recipe to enter!

recipe4living.com is giving away a Cuisinart Mini for the best Thanksgiving recipes. Check the details and official rules HERE!


Thanksgiving Side Dishes—Green Bean Casserole

With all the goodies to be had on Thanksgiving, we also gotta have our greens, right? But even the veggies at my mom’s Thanksgiving (no offense, mom) end up being fattened up by some manner of dairy.

There’s one classic recipe that illustrates this. Everyone has had some at one time or another. . . green bean casserole!

It’s creamy, it’s crunchy, it’s sort of a tradition! So, here, for you, is the recipe!

Green Bean Casserole

1 can condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. soy sauce
black pepper (couple twists)
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French Fried Onions

1. Mix soup, milk, soy, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-qt. casserole.

2. Bake at 350 degrees. for 25 min. or until hot.

3. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake for 5 more minutes and your done and ready to dine!