Archive | dessert RSS feed for this section

Monday Musings: Carrying on a family tradition

9 Mar

To me, this photo means that nothing is impossible with a little extra effort, and a family tradition will be carried on.

Each year at Christmastime, my grandmother on my mom’s side would make her mini cherry cheesecake tarts. They were always a favorite dessert of mine, and for years even after she moved into an assisted living facility, she would still come to my mom’s house before Christmas and make them. Recently though, as she approaches her 100th birthday in May, it’s become impossible for her to make that trip and my mom had taken over making them. However, in recent years we’ve also been dealing with gluten and dairy food allergies at our house, so this year when my mom said she didn’t think she’d be able to make them, I told her not to worry, that I wanted to play with the recipe myself and make them gluten and dairy-free so that we could all enjoy them.

This past weekend my parents were coming over for dinner and I was thinking about what I could do for a dessert. I always like to make something special and I always like to make something with cherries at this time of year because it’s around the time that they had their first date more than 50 years ago, and my dad always says it was my mom’s homemade cherry pie with the perfect lattice top crust that made him fall in love with her. So as I thought about that, I remembered the cheesecake tarts and I decided now was the time. I’d attempt to make over the recipe.

The Enjoy Life brand has been a favorite and when I saw this new flavor cookie, I thought it would make a great crust for my tarts.

I searched online for a typical cheesecake tarts recipe to see what I was up against. The first one I found from Taste of Home called for vanilla wafers as a crust. I remembered that at the allergy-friendly bakery we go to often, they told me that they used Snickerdoodle cookies for their cheesecake crusts and that I’d done a raspberry swirl cheesecake last April for Easter and done just that, with great success. I decided to get some allergy-friendly vanilla wafers and follow the recipe. However, when I stopped at the store late last week, they didn’t have gf/df vanilla wafers, but I spotted a new flavor cookie I hadn’t seen before from one of my favorite brands, Enjoy Life. It was a crispy cookie, Vanilla Honey Graham, and it sounded like it could work. Since they were priced two for something, I bought four boxes, two to crush up and two to have on hand to eat later on.

I have used a couple of different kinds of dairy-free cream cheese for recipes in the past, and I had an unopened container of Tofutti on hand already. Any time I have cooked with dairy-free cream cheese I have had great results and most will say they can’t tell the difference between my finished product and ones they’ve had in the past. To me, that’s a sign of success.

When I’ve used dairy-free cream cheese in recipes in the past, I’ve been told that you can’t tell the difference.

On Friday afternoon I got to work on the recipe, putting the cookies into the blender and making crumbs out of them. I use a vegan buttery baking stick for butter when I bake since most dairy-free butter comes as a spread, which is fine to cook with but hard to bake with.

I keep several boxes of this on hand since I can only find it in one store near me.

I tasted the cookie crumbs and decided to throw some sugar in with them, so I threw in about 1/4 cup of sugar plus the butter it called for in the recipe, turned on the blender again and mixed it all in. My kids gave the final version a taste and said they were good to go.

From there, I followed the Taste of Home recipe below, and instead of following the recipe for the topping, I used canned cherries for the tops of the tarts, just as my grandmother always did.

When the tarts cooled, my daughter put the cherries on top and I put them in the fridge for the final chilling. We had a great dinner that my husband had cooked, and then it was time to bring up the dessert. I was so excited for the big reveal. I hadn’t told my mother that I was making them for dessert, only that I had a really good dessert on deck. I wish I had a camera to capture her expression when I came around the corner with the platter of cheesecakes. I had even chosen to use my grandmother’s platter to serve them on. That look alone made my day, but tasting the tarts, and having everyone declare them delicious made my night.

Oftentimes having food allergies can be challenging, but over time we’ve found that almost nothing is impossible. It takes some time and some research and planning, but most times it can be done. This dessert means a lot to me. It is a family tradition and it holds memories dating back to when we would eat that at my grandparents’ house and when they’d bring them to the Christmas Eve dinners for dessert. It’s something we only have this one time of year, so knowing that we are capable of carrying on tradition makes me happy. Further, I was able to combine that tradition with my nod to my parents’ more than 50 years of history that all started with that one cherry pie with the lattice topping that sealed the deal. Thank goodness for that or none of us would be here.

Below is the Taste of Home recipe just as it is found on their website before all of my modifications, and here are some photos of where my mini cheesecake tart recipe has come from, which stems from more than just an internet search.

Grandma Grello with our three daughters, just three of her many great-grandchildren.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers (about 30 wafers)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • TOPPING:
  • 1 pound pitted canned or frozen tart red cherries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Red food coloring, optional

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Combine crumbs and butter; press gently onto bottoms of 12 foil-lined muffin cups. In another bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Spoon over crusts.
  • Bake until centers are almost set, 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.
  • For topping, drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup juice in a saucepan; discard remaining juice. To reserved juice, add cherries, sugar, cornstarch and, if desired, food coloring. Bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Cool; spoon over cheesecakes. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours.

 

  • My parents’ wedding day, which was 50 years ago this past October 18.

    My parents celebrating 50 years together on October 18, 2019.

    Two more of her great-grandchildren, my niece and nephew learned how to make the tarts at my mom’s house a few years back.

    My brother looks on as they learn the secret of putting just the right amount of cherries on top.

 

 

Fun Friday: Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

17 Jan

These cookies were so delicious and contain one of my favorite combinations.

Happy Friday! I love a long weekend because it gives us more time to cook up something extra special, like cookies.

I found this recipe in Gluten-Free Living Magazine back in October and it was actually featured in a holiday cookie recipe spread in the magazine, in anticipation of the upcoming holiday baking season. However, I love the combination of chocolate and cranberries. In fact, it’s January now and I have a pumpkin-cranberry-chocolate-chip bread in the oven as I write.

Being gluten-free, the recipe calls for a one-to-one all-purpose gluten-free flour, (which means you can take a typical recipe and substitute the one-to-one GF flour for the regular all-purpose flour with no other substitutions or extra ingredients needed) and we do use their recommended brand below. However, I believe you could substitute back the other way too, and instead of using the GF one-to-one flour, you should be able to also use regular all-purpose baking flour in this recipe.

I always use a Pampered Chef small scoop to scoop out the batter, so oftentimes my cookies are particularly round if I don’t think to flatten them out a bit after I scoop them onto the tray. That’s why they are seen this way in my photo above.

This was a quick and easy recipe and it would make a great treat with coffee, tea, milk or whatever your favorite beverage. They also made a great school day or after school snack.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour is recommended by Gluten-Free Living Magazine)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly (to also make this dairy-free I used Earth Balance baking sticks)

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (to make this dairy-free I used Enjoy Life brand allergy-friendly mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

3/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the gluten-free flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, [using a mixer], combine the melted butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Add the egg and mix until combined. The mixture should look like thick caramel sauce. Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture. Mix on medium speed until a thick dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Stir until incorporated.

Drop dough, about two tablespoons each, onto prepared cookie sheet. Space cookies about two inches apart.

Bake until golden brown, about ten minutes. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Allow the cookies to cool for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Your Tray or Mine Recipe of the Day: Chocolate Crinkles

22 Dec
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Can you spot the Chocolate Crinkle cookie on the cover of our cookbook?

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 15, 2011

This recipe is an original to our cookie trays and I like it because it makes a lot of cookies, so it’s not a cookie that you have to ration one per tray or anything like that. You can be generous when you give them out.

I also think these are such pretty cookies, like snowflakes, which is funny for a chocolate based cookie.

They’re easy to make but you do need to make sure you make the batter ahead of time and chill it, so take that into account when you’re doing your planning.

CHOCOLATE CRINKLES

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 sq. unsweetened chocolate (4 oz.) melted

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Chocolate Crinkles on baking sheet

Chocolate Crinkles fresh out of the oven

DIRECTIONS

Mix oil, chocolate and granulated sugar.

Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.

Add vanilla.

Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting (I really just measure. I’m not sure what either of those methods are, although it says See p. 5 to find out what the dipping method is.)

Stir flour, baking powder and salt into oil mixture.

Chill several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into confectioner’s sugar BEFORE rolling into balls. Roll in sugar, shape into balls. (This is how you get the snowflake look when they bake.)

Place about 2″ apart on greased baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Makes about six dozen cookies.

Three tiered cookie rack with crinkles

This recipe is the whole reason why I wanted this three tiered cooling rack this year. It makes a ton of cookies!

Baking with the kids

Many hands make light work. Messy work, but light work. Powdered sugar everywhere!

Your Tray or Mine: Grinch Crinkle Cookies

21 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!

 

 

Your Tray or Mine: 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.

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

19 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? Recipe of the Day: Cherry Squares

18 Dec

This recipe is not a recipe that I’ve ever posted on FB before but it’s one of my mom’s recipes that I love. Each year her office celebrates the holidays by taking turns bringing in treats for everyone in the office. Each year my mom brings these in and each year she gives me all the corners. I *love* the corners of bar cookies, brownies and cakes!! Sometimes I’ll arrive home to find a little package in my door of four wrapped corners just for me. 🙂

This Sunday and the next two I will post bar cookie recipes. You can include them on your trays or you can bring them to a party on a tray all their own. Either way, they’re delicious!

CHERRY SQUARES

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks butter or margarine, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs added one at a time

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

3 cups flour

2 cans cherry (or any other) pie filling

Confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top, when completely cool, for presentation

DIRECTIONS

In large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together.

Add eggs, one at a time.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.

Gradually add the flour til all ingredients are combined.

Spread three quarters of the batter in the pan. My mom uses a greased 11 x 17 cookie sheet pan for hers.

Top with the fruit filling.

Top with remaining batter. (Batter will be thick and not spread easily on top of the filling, so just drop small spoonfuls of it randomly across the top of the filling. It will spread as it bakes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and cut into bars for serving.