Slow Cooker BBQ Beef with Apple Slaw

If you’re looking for something easy and scrumptious this could be it. It is so easy to put together and tastes like it was a lot more complicated to make. I served it open face, to cut some calories, with plain potato chips on the side.

Recipe:

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef with Apple Slaw – serves 8

Ingredients:
4 lbs. boneless chuck roast, trimmed of fat, cut into 2″ cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 T canola oil
12 oz. apple cider, apple cider vinegar or one bottle of apple ale (I used apple cider vinegar and it was wonderful!)
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 cups ketchup
1 T dry mustard
2 t Worcestershire sauce
2 T pickling spices (I used the one for dill pickles), tied in cheesecloth
1 T apple cider vinegar
Sesame seed topped hamburger buns for serving.
Bread and butter pickles for serving


Directions:
Brown beef on all sides in oil in batches so as not to crowd, over medium-high heat. Transfer to a 6 to 8 quart slow cooker.



Deglaze skillet with apple cider, vinegar or ale scraping up browned bits.

Add broth and reduce by half – about 15 minutes. Stir in ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

I put the ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in the same container and add all at once.

Add mixture to slow cooker and add pickling spice sachet.

Cover and cook on high 5 hours.

Remove beef from slow cooker and shred using two forks.

Discard pickling spice sachet and transfer braising liquid to a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half – about 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Add beef to sauce and heat through – about 5 minutes.



Lightly broil/toast hamburger buns. Place BBQ on bun, top with pickles, apple coleslaw and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Green Apple Coleslaw

Ingredients:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 T canola oil
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T minced shallots
1 t honey
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1-14 oz. bag coleslaw mix
2 granny smith apples, cored and julienned
1 cup very thinly sliced red onions
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley

Directions
Whisk together first six ingredients.

Combine coleslaw mix, apples and onions in a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette.

Thinly slice cored apples.
Line up cut slices in same direction.
Cut slices into matchstick sizes and then slice in half.

Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Note: As the size of apples can vary, tweak the ratio of coleslaw mix and apples to your liking. Also, I halved this recipe.





Chocolate Cream Pie

This pie take a little planning, but it’s totally worth the wait. Each layer, from the chocolate cookie crust to the smooth chocolatey filling and the whipped cream topping, is a bite of deliciousness.

Recipe

Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

Crust:
30 Nabisco Chocolate Wafers (or 1 1/2 cups finely crushed crumbs) – these are usually
found near the ice cream aisle in the grocery store.
1/3 cup sugar
4 T unsalted butter, softened

Filling:
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 t salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. good quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 T unsalted butter
1 t vanilla extract

Topping:
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 T sugar
1 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, grated or shaved

Directions:

For the Crust –
Preheat oven to 385 degrees F.
Combine the chocolate wafers, sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until the cookies are finely crushed. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan. (You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes.

For the Filling –
Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy, medium saucepan. Whisk until combined.

In a bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the milk and egg yolks. Add the milk mixture to the saucepan in a slow, steady stream, whisking until mixture is smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking frequently until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken.

Immediately turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly for one more minute until thickened. (I like to to use a small whisk as it’s easier to get into the corners and bottom of the pan with a smaller whisk.) Remove from heat and immediately stir in chopped chocolate, butter and vanilla extract and whisk until evenly combined.


Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the filling to prevent a film from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

For the Topping –
When pie has chilled 8+ hours, prepare the topping. Place heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip on medium speed until the whisk or beaters begin to leave tracks in the cream.

To reduce splattering of the cream, I tear off a square shape of waxed paper, tear it half way across and halfway towards to the middle and place it around the beater whisk. I keep it there until the cream starts to firm up.

Add sugar and whip until the cream holds peaks.

Spread the whipped cream over the filling. Sprinkle with the grated chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vegetable Dressing

This is a favorite salad dressing of mine. It tastes wonderful and as a bonus, there are so many veggies in it, there’s hardly any need to add any other ingredients to the lettuce. I like to serve this with Shepherd’s Pie because it’s a nice foil to the hearty “Pie”.

Recipe

Vegetable Dressing

Ingredients
1 clove garlic
1 1/4 t kosher salt
1/3 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot
1/2 small red bell pepper, minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
3 T white wine vinegar
2 T minced flat leaf parsley
2 T water
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a jar or cruet and shake.
Serve

Shepherd’s Pie

Easy, satisfying and presentable enough for a casual dinner party. Served with a green salad and warm bread, Shepherd’s Pie fits the bill for a scrumptious winter meal.

Recipe

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter, divided into 2T and 1T
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T kosher salt, divided
1 t dried oregano
3/4 t tomato paste
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 cup canned low sodium beef broth
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Mise en place

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil and 2 T of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, mushrooms garlic, half of the salt and oregano. Cook until vegetable are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until mushrooms are soft and tomato paste has turned brick red. Stir in the beef, broth, remaining salt, Worcestershire sauce and a few grinds of pepper. Break up any large clumps of meat and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the meat and vegetables to a 2-quart oval casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with remaining butter.

Bake until potatoes brown and the juiced bubble around the edge, about 40 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 t kosher salt, plus more for seasoning to taste
3/4 cup whole milk
6 T unsalted butter
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch and add salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered, and cook until potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Toss the potatoes over medium heat until dry. Add the heated milk mixture and mash the potatoes to desired consistency. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sausage Ragu with Spinach and Parmesan

As the weather is getting colder, slightly heartier dinners are in order and this one hits the spot. So flavorful and satisfying.

Recipe

Sausage Ragu with Spinach and Parmesan

Ingredients:
12 oz. penne rigate pasta
1 T olive oil
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 cup diced onions
1 T minced garlic
1 T tomato paste
1 T dried Italian herbs
1/2 t +/- red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1- 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 – 6oz. pkg. baby spinach
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:


Cook pasta in a pot of salted water according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and onions and sauté until sausage is cooked through and onions have softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, Italian herbs and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add pasta and spinach. Cook until spinach wilt. Stir in cream and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Ham Quiche

This the the recipe my mother used when I was growing up for Ham and Cheese Quiche. It’s a go-to recipe for me and always a hit. When one has leftover spiral ham, this is a great use for it. I halve the recipe but it easily serves four as written. Served with a green salad it’s a simple, satisfying meal. For this salad, I made a lemon vinaigrette (recipe below) and tossed it with chopped Romaine lettuce, diced dried apricots, sliced almonds and topped with seasoned croutons.

Recipe

Ham Quiche

Ingredients:
Pastry for a 9″ pie dish – I typically use a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 T flour
4 beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
Line a 9″ pie dish with pastry. (I tend to try to lap the pastry over the edge so it doesn’t shrink down the inside edges when baking.)

Bake for 3 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from oven and gently prick with a fork.

Bake 5 minutes longer. Let cook on rack.

Combine mayonnaise, flour, eggs and milk. Mix thoroughly with wire whisk. Stir in ham and cheeses.

Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees F 45 to 50 minutes, but check at 35 to see if it shakes and has risen. If it’s browned on top and doesn’t shake anymore, it’s done.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
3 lemons, zested and juiced
2 t Dijon mustard
2 t honey
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Place lemon zest, juice, mustard and honey in a bowl and whisk together. Pour in oil in a slow stream while whisking until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: Depending on how large the lemons are, extra honey/white sugar can be added to cut the tartness.

Chicken breasts stuffed with feta cheese

This is a constant favorite and go-to recipe for me. It’s easy, light and many sides compliment it. In the summer, I like to serve a cold orzo salad and “cheese toasts” (pita bread sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and broiled till brown and bubbly). In cooler weather, warm pasta sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a green salad work as sides.

Recipe

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Feta Cheese

Ingredients
2 small boneless chicken breasts, pounded to about 1/2″ thickness
3 T crumbled feta cheese (more if you like) – I sometimes use the pre-crumbled
Mediterranean Herb feta cheese
2 t fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper to taste
3 T flour for dredging – I sometimes omit this
olive oil cooking spray

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the chicken on a work surface with the wide side toward you. Sprinkle with half of the feta cheese and half of the lemon juice. Season with pepper.

Starting at the bottom wide edge, roll the chicken breast into a tight cylinder. Pin it closed with toothpicks. Repeat with second breast.


Dredge each rolled chicken breast in the flour, shaking off the excess. Lightly coat at nonstick skillet that has an oven proof handle with cooking spray. Place over medium-high heat and add the chicken breasts. Sauté until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. (Be sure to use a nonstick utensil when turning the chicken so as. It to mar the surface of the pan.)

Place the skillet with the chicken breasts in the oven and bake until cooked through, 15-20 minutes.


Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and remove the toothpicks.

Slice each breast crosswise into 1/2″ slices. Serve at once.



Green Beans and Bacon

I was asked by a friend to bring “something green” to our Thanksgiving meal. Peas are my typical go-to green side vegetable, apart from a green salad, but I wanted to take it up a notch for my dear friends’ small gathering and make a more flavorful dish. I think French Green beans are a little more special and this recipe is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Green Beans and Bacon

Ingredients
2 1/2 lbs. French Green beans
salt
1/2 lb. bacon, roughly chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly ground pepper

Directions
Blanch the green beans in a large pot of salted boiling water until bright green and crisp tender – about 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and then pour them into a large bowl with ice water to “shock” them (stop the cooking). Drain.

Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off the excess bacon grease, leaving 2 T in the pan. Add the onion to the pan and sauté over medium-high heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the reserved green beans and the pecans and stir until heated through. Return the bacon to the pan and pour in lemon juice and toss. Season as you like with salt and pepper.

Mushroom Pork Chops

I was tiring of my recent dinner routine, grill this…grill that. So, I took a look through recipes I had wanted to try and found this little gem. It’s easy, fast and delicious!

I served this with fettuccine topped with shredded Parmesan cheese and sliced tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze.

Ingredients
1 T olive oil
4 boneless, center cut pork chops
salt and pepper to taste
2 T butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 t garlic, minced
1 1/2 T flour
1 cup beef broth (unsalted/low sodium)
2 T heavy cream
1 T chopped parsley

Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the pork chops in the pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F.

Remove the pork chops from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Melt the butter in the pan. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the mushrooms for 5 minutes or until tender and browned. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the flour to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the beef broth and stir until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in heavy cream.

Add the pork chops back to the pan and spoon the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Note: When seasoning pork and mushrooms with salt and pepper, go lightly so as not to over season. One can always add more when served.

2020 Christmas Cookies

Every year I make 12 different type of cookies (Twelve Days of Christmas) to share with neighbors and friends to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

A few constants regarding my baking are as follows.

I always use what my mother called “air bake pans”. The bottoms of cookies are less likely to burn when using these.

I always line the pans with parchment paper for easier clean-up.

When a recipe instructs to combine dry ingredients separately, I usually use a 4 cup Pyrex measuring pitcher for ease of pouring ingredients into wet mixture in mixing bowl.

To make evenly rounded cookies, I use an “ice cream” scoop.

First batch:

Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3 cups uncooked oatmeal
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped into small pieces (use food processor)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the large bowl of a mixer, add butter and sugars an beat until creamy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Beat until well combined.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in oatmeal then gently stir in cranberries, pecans and white chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoons (or use 2″ ice cream scoop) onto ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies start to brown around the edges.
Remove from oven and place cookies on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 36


Second batch:

Striped Icebox Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup (1-6oz. jar) chopped maraschino cherries, drained
2 drops red food coloring
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
4 t nonpareils

Instructions
Cream butter and sugar in stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add into wet mixture.

Divide dough into thirds. Add the cherries and food coloring to one portion, chocolate to another portion and nonpareils to the remaining portion.

Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with waxed paper. Spread cherry dough over bottom. Cover with chocolate dough, then remaining nonpareil dough. Refrigerate, covered with aluminum foil until firm. About 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove dough from pan and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each portion into 1/4″ slices. Bake 1″ apart on parchment lines baking sheets until edges begin to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Yield – 50 cookies

Third batch:

Butterscotch Chip Spice Cookies

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t ground ginger
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
12 oz. butterscotch chips
powdered sugar

Instructions
Combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then add flour mixture. When mixing in the flour mixture, combine until just blended. Do not overmix as cookies can become tough.

Fold in the butterscotch chips, then cover and chill dough until firm. About 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into 2″ balls using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon.

Pour powdered sugar in a medium size bowl about 1/2″ deep. Roll balls of dough in powdered sugar and arrange on prepared baking sheet, spaced about 3″ apart. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until golden and just set. Let cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack.

Yield – 50 cookies

Fourth batch

Cherry Streusel Bars

Ingredients
For the base and streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup almond paste NOT marzipan
1/4 t almond extract

For the filling:
16 oz. frozen sweet cherries
1/4 cup sugar
3 T water
2 T cornstarch
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Topping:
1/2 cup almonds

Icing:
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 T heavy cream
1/4 t almond extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 9″ square baking pan with nonstick baking spray.

Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl for the base and streusel. Add one stick cubed butter, almond paste and extract and cut in with a pastry blender. Remove and reserve one cup for the streusel. Sprinkle remaining mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly and evenly over the bottom to tamp down the base. Bake 15-18 minutes or until just beginning to brown at the edges. Remove from oven and leave oven on.

Simmer all ingredients for the filling in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. (Use a long handled spoon as the mixture gets very hot.) Cook until mixture thickens and turns transparent, about 8 minutes. Spread filling over baked base.

Sprinkle with reserved streusel mixture and sliced almonds. Bake until filling is bubbly and streusel is lightly browned, 30-40 minutes. Cool completely and cut into desired size bars and place on a cooling rack.

Whisk powdered sugar, heavy cream and almond extract together in a small bowl. Add more sugar or cream as needed to achieve desired consistency for drizzling. Place a sheet of waxed or parchment paper underneath rack (for easy clean-up) and wave the whisk over bars to coat lightly with icing. Allow the icing to set before packaging the bars for storage.

Yield: 50 small bars

Fifth Batch

Christmas Mouse Cookies

Ingredients
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (about 46), divided
1/3 cup sour cream
36 nonpareils
1/4 cup sliced almonds
18 pieces chocolate Twizzlers cut into tail size lengths and halved or quartered

Directions
In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Stir in 1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs and sour cream. Cover and refrigerate for one hour or until firming up.

For each mouse, roll about 1 tablespoon chocolate mixture into a ball (I use and small scoop for even sized mice), tapering one end to resemble a mouse. Roll in remaining chocolate crumbs to coat evenly. Use a toothpick or the sharp end of a wooden skewer to slightly poke holes in each “mouse” where the eyes will be and poke a little further in their “rears” where the tail will be. (This helps keep the nonpareils and tails in place.) Place matching color nonpareils in holes, almond slices for ears and chocolate Twizzlers pieces for the tails.

Yield: 18

Sixth Batch

Chocolate Orange Checkerboard Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t salt
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 t grated orange peel
1/2 t orange extract

Directions
In a large bowl, cream together, confectioners’ sugar and salt until blended. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in pecans.

Divide dough in half. Mix baking cocoa into one half (adding a tiny bit of water if too dry and not coming together) and mix orange peel and orange extract into remaining half.

Shape each dough portion into a 5 1/2 x 2 x 2 inch block. Wrap each block in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Unwrap dough, cut each block lengthwise into quarters (or halves if you want bigger cookies). Switch two of the chocolate sticks with two of the orange sticks, forming two checkerboard blocks. Gently press sticks together to adhere. (You can pound each side gently on a hard surface to mash blocks together well.) Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap and cut dough crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. Place 1 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes (11-14 if baking larger size cookies) or until set. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 35 large cookies

Seventh batch

Mint Chocolate Bark

Ingredients
1 t plus 3 T shortening
10 ounces Andes Creme de Menthe thins
2 cups white baking chips
1/2 cup crushes peppermint candies

Directions
Line a 13X9 inch pan with foil. Grease foil with 1 t shortening.

In a microwave, melt together Andes thins and 1 T shortening and stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes.

In top of a double boiler or a metal bowl over slightly simmering water, melt baking chips with remaining shortening and stir until smooth. Spread over chocolate layer and sprinkle with crushed candies. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Break into small pieces and store in an airtight containner.

Yield – 1 1/2 pounds

Eighth batch

Turtle Cookies

Ingredients
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 – 12oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/4 cups caramel bits

icing
1 cup (6oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
2 t shortening

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Microwave butter on high until melted. Add chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Microwave until chips are melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Stir in nuts and caramel bits.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls (or use a small scoop) 2″ apart onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake until edges are set, 10-12 minutes. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For icing, microwave chocolate chips and shortening on high until melted. Drizzle over completely cooled cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 52 cookies

Ninth batch

Dictionary Cookies

Ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, (1 cup), softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 T red currant jelly
4 T apricot jam
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts
3 T unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 T heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
red and green sugars

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Lightly butter and flour the back of a 15×10″ jelly roll pan.
Cake:
Cream the butter until light in color. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the flour just until blended – do not over beat.
Spread 1/3 of the batter (1 generous cup) onto the prepared pan using an offset spatula. Spread it to within 1″ of the edge, the layer will be thin.

Offset spatula


Bake 10 minutes or until golden on the edges: do not overbake.
Cut cake layer evenly in half crosswise (cut from long edge to opposite long edge) and transfer halves to a cooling rack. Repeat the process 2 more times with remaining batter, buttering and flouring the pan each time. When finished, there will be 6 thin cake layers.

Filling:
Stir jelly and jam in two separate bowls until spreadable. Set aside.
Combine sour cream and walnuts in another bowl and set aside.


Place 1 cake layer half, top side up, on an inverted jelly roll pan (or plastic cutting sheet I mentioned in my “helpful tips” post as at the end, it is easier to have the “cake” already on what you will be cutting on – cutting on pans is not good for knives nor the pans). Spread with 2 T currant jelly followed by 3 T of the sour cream mixture. (There is no way to avoid mixing the fillings when spreading.) Do not add any more filling than prescribed as it will squish out later.


Top with second cake layer half and spread with 2 T apricot jam followed by the sour cream mixture. Repeat layering with remaining cake, alternating jam and jelly between each layer. Leave the top bare and cover with parchment or wax paper. (I also envelope the whole cake and pan with aluminum foil.)
Weigh cake down with a dictionary or other large, heavy book. Chill weighted cake overnight.



Frosting and decorating:
Beat the butter with a mixer until smooth. Add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cream and vanilla. Mix until just combined. Gradually stir in the remaining powdered sugar using a spoon until the frosting is thick but still spreadable.
Remove the book and paper (and foil if using) then trim the edges (which make a tasty snack).
Spread the frosting over the top of the cake.
Sprinkle with the red and green sugars.
Cut cake crosswise (down the long side) into 8 strips, then cut each strip into 4 or 5 pieces.

Yield – 50 small squares

Tenth batch

Hot Cocoa Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
12 large marshmallows cut in half (more if you make smaller cookies)

for the chocolate icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 t vanilla extract
Christmas sprinkles

Directions
I a double boiler or microwave, melt butter and chocolate together, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside to cool.
In a standing mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on low speed until combined.
Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix until combined.
Gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Scoop the dough into a bowl and cover with foil and place in refrigerator for 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop some batter into your hands and roll into a ball.
Place cookies 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes.
Once cookies are baked, place a marshmallow (dry side up) into the center of the cookies and lightly press down.
Place cookies back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes.
Place a wire rack over a sheet of waxed paper to allow of icing to drip off for easy clean-up.
Once cookies have finished baking, let cool for a few minutes on pan before transferring to the wire rack to fully cool.

For the icing:
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until combined.
If the icing is too thick, add up to 3 T of hot water to thin it out.
Using a spoon, spoon some icing onto the marshmallow on each cookie.
Sprinkle icing immediately with Christmas sprinkles as the icing dries fast. (Only ice a few cookies at a time.)

Yield – 50 cookies

Eleventh batch

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Minced zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
2 T heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract

Directions
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
Cream butter, both sugars and zest in a bowl with a mixer, blending until smooth and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
Blend egg cream and vanilla into butter mixture. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until nearly incorporated. Then, blend in the remaining dry ingredients.
Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut chilled dough in half and return one portion to the refrigerator. Roll the other half out on a very well floured work surface to about 1/8″ thick. This is a very sticky dough, so to prevent it from sticking as you roll it, flip it over often, reflour the surface and dough as needed and work quickly to prevent the dough from warming and softening too much. You can also rub some flour onto the rolling pin. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1/2″ apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set and lightly golden around the edges. Let cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack.

Royal Icing for decorating cookies
Ingredients
1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup water
2 T powdered egg whites or meringue powder

Directions
Beat all ingredients together in a bowl with a mixer until stiff and peaks hold their shape when beaters are lifted out. Transfer to a resealable container

From here, decorate as you wish. You can color the Royal Icing with food coloring, create a “glue” with light corn syrup microwaved briefly to thin out then brush onto a cookie for sprinkles to adhere to or paint with a paintbrush directly from food coloring bottles onto the iced cookies. The options are endless using one’s imagination.

Batch twelve

Double-Mint Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
24 small (1 1/2 to 2 inch) chocolate covered cream-filled mint patties, unwrapped and chilled
4 oz. semi-sweeet chocolate, melted for icing
Directions
In a large bowl beat butter with a mixer on medium high for 30 seconds. Add both sugars, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium 2 minutes, scraping bowl as needed. Beat in egg until combines. Beat in the cocoa powder and flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. scoop out about 1 1/2 T dough, divide in half and flatten each piece on either side of the mint patty. Press the dough around the patty to seal, making sure there are no openings. Repeat with the remaining dough and patties.
Place on baking sheets about 2″ apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or just until set. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.
If desired, after completely cooled, spread melted chocolate lightly with a spoon.

Yield – 24 cookies