Archive | December, 2016

The challenge is real: health and wellness vs. tradition

23 Dec
Red and green crinkle cookies were new for me this year and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

Red and green crinkle cookies were new for me this year and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 22, 2015

It seems to me that our family often has their “ah ha moment” in regards to what’s been bothering their stomachs *right* before the holidays, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s.

Although I’m always so happy we’ve figured it out and can help them, I always find it totally and completely overwhelming trying to figure out our traditional holiday meals versus their new health and wellness needs. I want everyone to feel good, and yet I want everyone to be able to partake in our usual favorites, whether it’s grilling and eating pumpkin bread in our pjs in front of the television on Thanksgiving morning, or whether it’s making and eating all our favorite Christmas cookies from recipes we’ve held near and dear through the years.

It’s very challenging.

Very.

With our new gluten free needs, I found myself completely overwhelmed, trying to immediately figure out what we needed for Thanksgiving, but while doing so, knowing that Christmas was literally right around the corner, and that holiday for us, had visions of flour and gluten dancing in my head. We normally bake dozens and dozens of our favorite Christmas cookies every year, and it’s a tradition I have held near and dear to my heart since growing up baking with my mother and it’s something I’ve passed on to my children as well. In addition to our old favorites, each year I also will often try out a new recipe and with that, I’ve added a few new favorites to our traditional list as well.

As I searched, scrolled and pinned, I tried to make heads or tails of what I was going to do. I saw many holiday cookie recipes online, and although they looked good enough, they weren’t *our* holiday cookie recipes and I knew that no matter how good they might be, it wouldn’t be good enough for us. I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy our old favorites and any new favorites we might find this year.

Winner, winner! This was the flour blend I decided to try for our cookies this year.

Winner, winner! This was the flour blend I decided to try for our cookies this year. I measured cup for cup as I would have in my regular recipes, as it said you could.

Finally, after avoiding the thought process for a while between Thanksgiving and Christmas, last week I decided to attempt to make our own recipes using gluten free flour. Specifically, I opted to use the Pillsbury gluten free flour blend which already included the various types of flour I’d seen in from-scratch recipes as well as the needed amounts of xanthan gum that is needed to hold the flours together.

I tried a new recipe for Grinch Crinkle cookies that I thought were adorable. I opted to use them for a cookie swap and instead of doing just green, I split the batter, which is made with a vanilla cake mix, and make red AND green. How cute is that??? Very, very cute. They were a big hit.

We'd already successfully used this for cupcakes, so I was willing to give it a go for Grinch Crinkle cookies too.

We’d already successfully used this for cupcakes, so I was willing to give it a go for Grinch Crinkle cookies too.

Luckily, I could make the red and green batch above to take with me Saturday night and use a gluten free cake mix from Betty Crocker for another set. Purple and sparkles were requested but I stayed with the Grinch Green theme. This time.

The cake mix worked out great, and these will be a keeper in our yearly baking for sure. I even see them as being red and blue with white chocolate chips around July 4. Wouldn’t that be adorable? It would. I’m sure of it.

These gluten free Grinch Crinkles were not mixed in with the red and green cookies above. They stayed at our house and got all thumbs up from everyone!

These gluten free Grinch Crinkles were not mixed in with the red and green cookies above. They stayed at our house and got all thumbs up from everyone!

And so, here it is, two days before Christmas Eve, and I’m on a roll. I’ve made a totally gluten free set of Grinch Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip Butterballs, Chocolate Thumbprints, Holiday Chex Mix, and I have more to come. A few more, anyway. You can find all the recipes by clicking on the titles and see if any of them work for your dietary needs! I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to reduce the fat also, so they’re not too bad in that department either. Overall I find that the batters are coming out almost the same. Maybe a bit more crumbly but not awful by any means, and definitely workable 100% of the time. The cookies taste the same, I’ve made sure to taste plenty of them just to deliver a valid verdict for you!

I wish everyone who celebrates the upcoming holidays this week a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Blessings to you and yours for health and happiness always!

 

 

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Your Tray or Mine? Cookie Tray Recipe of the Day: Snickerdoodles

23 Dec
Snickerdoodle Cookies

These are fast and easy cookies to make and one of my kids’ favorites.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 12, 2011

Today’s recipe is a new addition to our cookie trays. It is not one that we did when I was growing up but it’s one I include every year now.

Several years ago when my kids were in preschool we attended a book fair there prior to Christmas. I got them a “Strawberry Shortcake Holiday Treats” cookbook and this recipe is from there! It had all “regular” ingredients (aka ingredients I had on hand) and that’s why I liked it.

I usually have them help me by dropping the cookie dough in the cinnamon and sugar and having them roll them. Rolled cookies are good for that!

I often double this one, it’s a fast tray filler.

Tomorrow be on the lookout for a fun craft for the kids to go along with this recipe!

Strawberry Shortcake Holiday Treats Cookbook

Here’s the girls’ cookbook that this recipe came from.

SNICKERDOODLES
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

also 2 Tbl. white sugar

1 egg

2 Tbl milk or cream

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375

In medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

Use the electric mixer to cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar.

Beat in the egg. Add the milk and vanilla. Beat until all combined.

Add in dry ingredients and beat til well mixed.

In the small bowl, stir together the 2 TBL sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Roll the dough into 1″ balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place them about two inches apart on the baking tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are done. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Your Tray or Mine: Baking with the Grandmas…More Family Favorites

22 Dec

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 14, 2011

I am very, very lucky and I know it. I still have two of my grandmothers living and although they are both now in their 90s, they are both healthy and they are both tremendous cooks. I literally was born into this tradition of baking and cooking. Knowing that so many of the grandmas’ recipes were “in their heads,” we’ve taken a great deal of effort to get them to put them down on paper recently. Especially important to me are the two recipes for the cookies that go on our Christmas Cookie Trays. Grandma Rose makes hundreds of tiny Wine Biscuits each year for her trays and ours, and Grandma Grello makes her delicious iced Prune Cookies for our trays as well. Like I said, we are very lucky.

In honor of the Grandmas I am going to share with you their two cookie recipes. Consider them passed on from me to you. 🙂

Grandma Rose

This is Grandma Rose with our girls, three of her five great-grandchildren, on her 90th birthday this past November.

GRANDMA ROSE’S WINE BISCUITS

5 cups flour

1 cup sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup wine (Deep Burgundy)

3/4 cup oil

Grandma Rose's Wine Biscuits

Can you imagine making 400 of these every Christmas? Grandma Rose can!

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll dough into small logs, form into knots.

Brush beaten egg yolk on knots for glaze before baking.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes til lightly browned

*******************************************************************************************************************

Grandma Grello and the girls

This is Grandma Grello with our girls, three out of I think 15? great grandchildren, this past July which is shortly after she turned 91 in May.

GRANDMA GRELLO’S ICED PRUNE COOKIES

*Note: This recipe, as well as her Meat Pies recipe, was featured in the Providence Journal’s Food Section this past year.

A note from my mom:

Although this recipe may seem involved, it’s really not difficult because the cookies are made in several steps, and the various steps can be spread out over a period of time.

FOR THE FILLING:

1 large box of pitted prunes (18 oz. or more)

1/2 lb. raisins (dark, not golden)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup strong black coffee

Zest of one lemon and one orange

1/2 lemon

1/2 orange

=====================================

10 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

1/2 cup coffee brandy or Kahlúa

=====================================

Cover prunes and raisins with water.  Add sugar, coffee, lemon zest, orange zest, the half lemon and the half orange.  Cook until prunes and raisins are soft to the touch.  Drain well and return to pan.  Add chopped cherries and coffee brandy or Kahlúa.  Mix well and refrigerate overnight or for several days.

This is what the finished Prune Cookies roll looks like before you slice it for serving or putting on trays.

FOR THE DOUGH:

6 cups all purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup Crisco shortening

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp. vanilla

6 eggs

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, combine sugar and shortening and beat with mixer until smooth.  Add milk and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add this mixture to dry ingredients and mix together by hand with a large spoon.  Once incorporated (and with lightweight “kitchen-type” gloves, if possible), finish mixing with your hands until it comes together into a smooth dough.  Transfer to a floured surface, and use a knife to cut dough into six pieces.  Roll each piece out into a long strip (approximately 13-14” long and about 7” wide), one at a time, and fill center of strip with a portion of the prune filling.  Fold each side over the middle and fold the ends under.  Place filled strip on parchment-lined cookie sheet (two strips per sheet) with seam side down.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely before adding glaze.  (If desired, the strips can be frozen without glaze for later use.  To freeze, wrap them individually, first in parchment paper and then in heavy duty foil.  Then when needed, thaw completely and add glaze.)

Let glaze “set” (dry), and then slice before serving.

Here is what they look like once they are sliced.

FOR THE GLAZE:

The following amounts may be adjusted for consistency and flavor desired, but these ingredients should frost six strips.

4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

4 1/2 tbl. lemon juice

3 to 4 1/2 tbl. hot water (try with 3 tbl. first, then add more as needed)

Multi-colored nonpareils (optional)

Mix until smooth.  Top each strip with glaze, and if desired, add nonpareils.

ENJOY TODAY’S COOKING WITH THE GRANDMAS RECIPES!

Enjoy!

Your Tray or Mine? Cookie Tray Recipe of the Day: Chocolate Thumbprints

22 Dec

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 1, 2011

I first posted this recipe on my FB page on December 5, 2008!! It’s a cookie recipe my mom and I make every year, and if I had to pick a top favorite, this would be in my top two. I LOVE these cookies. They’re easy to make and easy to just POP into your mouth!! And, they’re chocolate on chocolate. I mean really…how much better can you get than that?

This is a rolled cookie, so your kids can help you if you’d like them to. They can also use their thumbs to make the indentation in the cookies for the filling.

***As of 2013, I’ve added some modifications to the recipe to go with our dietary restrictions. You can either stick to the original recipe or try the healthified version.***

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
Makes six dozen
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Thumbprints before baking

Almost ready to go in the oven!

Alex making thumbprint batter

Alex did almost all the measuring and mixing for the thumbprints herself, with very little help from me.

INGREDIENTS FOR COOKIES

1 cup margarine or butter, soft (We now use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (2 sq.) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (you can sneak in some wheat flour, mixing half wheat and half white)

DIRECTIONS FOR COOKIES

In large bowl, cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.
Blend in vanilla, chocolate and egg.
Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, level off. Gradually add flour to creamed mixture, mix well.
Chill dough 30 minutes for easier handling.

Shape dough into 1″ balls, place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets or parchment lined sheets. With thumb, make imprint in center of each cookie.

Bake at 375 degrees 8-10 minutes. Let cool one minute before removing from cookie sheets. Fill with chocolate cream filling.

Thumbprints ready to fill

Thumbprints are ready to be filled!

INGREDIENTS FOR CHOCOLATE CREAM FILLING

6 oz. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon margarine or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In small saucepan melt chocoalte chips with corn syup, water and margarine over low heat, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla.
Spoon 1 tsp into each cookie.

Your Tray or Mine Bar Recipe of the Day: Double Delicious Bars

21 Dec
Double Delcious Bars

Hot out of the oven, this peanut butter-chocolate chip dessert is one of our favorites!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED DECEMBER 18, 2011

This recipe incorporates peanut butter, so if you have allergies…please take note.

I love this one, it’s super fast and easy and as the title says: delicious. Kids can totally help out with this one too, it’s literally just layering of ingredients, dumping bags of chips into a baking pan.

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter

One package Nabisco “Famous” Chocolate wafer cookies

One 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk

2/3 of a 12 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips (I totally use the whole package. No 2/3 for me!)

2/3 of a 12 oz. package peanut butter chips (again I use the whole bag, and if it’s a 10 oz. bag you definitely use the whole thing.)

Chocolate wafer crumbs

First layers: melted butter and chocolate wafer crumbs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees or 325 for a glass dish.

In 13×9 pan, melt one stick of butter in the heated oven.

Crush one package of Nabisco “Famous” chocolate wafer cookies (or if you can find crushed chocolate cookie crumbs, use 1 1/2 cups of those.)

Spread 1 1/2 cups of the crushed wafers into the melted butter.

Pour 1 can (14 oz) of Sweetened Condensed Milk evenly over crumbs.

Top with 2/3 of a 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips and 2/3 of a 12 oz. bag of peanut butter chips. (If the peanut butter chips are 10 oz, use the whole bag. Depends on the brand you buy.)

Press down slightly to set.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Double Delicious Bars before going into the oven

You don’t even need a mixing bowl for this recipe. You just layer it all in the baking dish.

Cool and cut into bars.

Your Tray or Mine Recipe of the Day: Brown Eyed Susans, a Family Favorite

21 Dec

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 7, 2011

When I posted my first recipe last week for Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, I mentioned that it was one of my top two favorite cookies on our trays each year (I’ll let you know what my other favorite is when I post it.) However, the thing about cookie trays is that everyone has their own favorites. Mine tend to be all the ones that are heavily chocolate chip based, but not everyone’s are.

Brown Eyed Susans for Christmas Cookie Trays

I had a near meltdown when I realized we were totally out of any sprinkles for the tops of the cookies. I recovered when I found red and green stars instead.

Today’s recipe is for Brown Eyed Susans, which are my brother’s favorites. I might have one each year, but he *loves* them. They’re good and easy to make. I hope you’ll try them!

BROWN EYED SUSANS

INGREDIENTS

Cream together the following:

1 cup butter

3 TBL. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

CHILL FOR TWO HOURS.

Rolled and flattened cookie dough

Here’s what the cookies look like as they are rolled and then as they are flattened.

DIRECTIONS

Roll into about 1 level tablespoon ball and place on greased cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly using your fingers. (This is a good place to have your kids help out.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Frost while warm. (You can make these ahead, freeze cookies and then frost them when thawed.)

I find that if you fill all your baking sheets with the rolled and flattened cookies first, you can use the baking time to make up the frosting so that it’s ready for you to frost them while they’re warm.

Brown Eyed Susans

These look pretty with any sort of decorations on top, but we normally use sprinkes as shown here.

FROSTING INGEDIENTS

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

2 TBL Baking Cocoa

2 TBL hot water

1/2 tsp vanilla

Use about 1/2 tsp on top of each cookie (yes the frosting does drip off the cookies, so put wax paper underneath.)
**I found that the 1/2 tsp measure on top of each cookie is important. If you use just any spoon to frost them you run out of frosting because too much goes onto the cookies and then drips off the cookies onto the wax paper and then you have to make another batch of frosting.

Sprinkle colored sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles (or place an almond, or whatever you’d like,) on top. This is also a good “job” for kids to do, decorating the tops of the frosted cookies, that and running their fingers all over the waxed paper where the chocolate has dripped once the cookies are safely removed!

**In Rhode Island, the sprinkles are called Jimmies. My dad is Jimmy and my mom is Pat so we call our colored ones Patsies. Just a random fact for you…

A single recipe makes about 36 cookies.

Your Tray or Mine: Last recipe: Glazed Pineapple Cookies A Family Favorite

20 Dec

My dad’s favorite, the Glazed Pineapple Cookies come from this cookbook.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED DECEMBER 20, 2011

Today’s recipe is the last one for the Your Tray or Mine series!

It is my dad’s favorite cookie tray recipe as well as one of my mom’s favorites. He only gets these cookies once a year and he looks forward to them all year long. They are glazed pineapple cookies, such a pretty cookie on our tray, and not a stitch of chocolate on them!

My mom and I split the list of recipes in half each year, each making about 6 different kinds, and merging them on our trays. This one is one of the ones on her to do list each year. This recipe comes from her McCall’s Cookie Collection Cookbook. It looks very similar to a glazed egg biscuit, but it’s a completely different cookie.

Glazed Pineapple Cookie

Glazed Pineapple cookies….my dad’s fave.

GLAZED PINEAPPLE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

1 can (8 3/4 oz.) crushed pineapple

2 cups sifted all purpose flour

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup light brown sugar firmly packed

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

INGREDIENTS FOR GLAZE

4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons liquid from pineapple plus about 2 tablespoons hot water

DIRECTIONS

1)Drain pineapple, reserving liquid.

2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets.

3) Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.

4) In large bowl, with wooden spoon, or portable electric mixer at medium speed, cream shortening with sugar until light.

5) Beat in egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

6) Add drained pineapple, mix well.

7) Stir in flour mixture until well combined.

8) Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, two inches apart, onto prepared cookie sheets.

9) Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack; cool partially.

DIRECTIONS FOR GLAZE:

In a medium bowl combine sugar with pineapple liquid. Stir until smooth.

Spread tops of cookies with glaze while they are still slightly warm.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.