Sharing a seriously fun love for food

Month: December 2017

Matthew’s Old Fashioned Cocktail and Kir Royale – Two Classic Drinks to Ring in the New Year!

Matthew’s Old Fashioned Cocktail and Kir Royale – Two Classic Drinks to Ring in the New Year!

New Year’s Eve celebrations are in the works so what better way to ring in the year than with two classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned and Kir Royale.

The Old Fashioned is said to be one of the first “cocktails” dating back to the 1880s. It’s a beautiful bourbon whiskey-based drink but one that all too often bites back. This is an updated version created by Matthew, my favorite son-in-law. He replaced the water in the cocktail with a splash of orange sparkling water and added a touch of grenadine, which is essentially a simple syrup with a pomegranate base. The classic old fashioned includes plain water, an orange slice and a maraschino cherry so the switch Matthew made on the ingredients provides a refreshing update.

Add an orange peel for a touch of fresh citrus plus I had to include the maraschino cherry as a nod to my Grandmother, Grace Pearl!

And for some, it’s just not New Year’s Eve without something bubbly! So why not toast in the New Year with your favorite sparkling wine and a bit of Cassis, that deep luscious blackcurrant liqueur! This cocktail is so easy to make and is perfect for any festive occasion!

Cheers!

Old Fashioned Cocktail

For two cocktails:

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

6-8 dashes of bitters

1 shot orange sparkling water, about 3 ounces – we use LaCroix

3 shots of good bourbon, about 4-5 ounces or to taste

Splash of grenadine, about 1 teaspoon

Ice for shaking and serving

Orange peel and maraschino cherries for garnish

Muddle the dark brown sugar along with the bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.

Add the sparkling water and muddle together with the brown sugar and bitters until mixed.

Add 1 cup of ice along with the bourbon. Finish with the grenadine and shake until the cocktail is well chilled. Strain into highball glasses preferably over one large ice cube. Garnish with orange peel and a maraschino cherry.

Kir Royale

Champagne or Prosecco

Cassis Liqueur

Pour 5-6 ounces of Prosecco, champagne or your favorite sparkling wine in a fluted glass.

Top the sparkling wine with 1-2 ounces of cassis.

No need to stir… the bubbling of the wine will mix it nicely! Serve well chilled!

A couple of notes about any sparkling wine. Though it’s fun to hear that loud pop, it’s best to gently release the cork preserving your bubbles in the wine. When pouring, slightly tilt the glass and pour down the inside of the glass to minimize the mound of bubbles billowing to the top.

 

Mini Quiches with Hash Brown Crust

Mini Quiches with Hash Brown Crust

Cooking brunch for a group can be a lot of work but I’m always looking for options to upgrade the basic scramble. One of my “go to” recipes has long been baked eggs. They’re simple to do and a great way to cook a large batch of eggs in a short period of time. Plus any number of additions can be added to accommodate multiple tastes in the family.

I’ve cooked eggs straight up with the eggs baked directly in muffin tins or lined the cups with a thin slice of ham. This is another fun and tasty way to make a batch of eggs for brunch, Hash Brown Baked Quiche Cups.

I use our basic quiche recipe, with shredded potatoes instead of pastry crust. The potatoes add heartiness to the quiche, and a crunch.

For this recipe I add grated Jarlsberg, a nutty Norwegian cheese, but Gruyere is another great option. You can use freshly grated potatoes or Simply Potatoes, which are precut potatoes found in the dairy section of most food markets, are a huge timesaver and the quality is excellent.

Perfect for breakfast or brunch, these mini quiches are also wonderful served with a side salad for a light dinner.

Mini Quiches with Hash Brown Crust

For the hash brown crust:

1 package hash brown potatoes, 20-ounces or about 4 cups freshly grated potatoes

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the quiche:

5 extra-large eggs

2 cups half and half

½ cup grated Jarlsberg cheese

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Optional ingredients:

Bacon, cooked until crisp, then chopped

Diced tomatoes

Chopped scallions

In a large mixing bowl add the hash brown potatoes, the melted butter, olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir together until seasonings are evenly mixed into the potatoes.

Thoroughly spray the inside of 6-8 large muffin cups or 12 standard size muffin cups. Evenly divide the hash brown potatoes between the cups.

Firmly press the hash browns into the muffin cups creating the crust. (The bottom of a small cup works well for this.)

Bake for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven until the hash browns are tender and the tops are starting to crisp.

While the hash browns are cooking whisk together the eggs, the half and half, shredded Jarslberg cheese, kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Add any optional ingredients into the hash brown crusts such as chopped tomatoes, bacons, scallions – or a combination.

Fill with the quiche mixture and return the pan to the oven.

Lower the temperature to 350-degrees and cook for 20 minutes or until the quiche filling is just set in the center. (If the tops of the hash browns start to brown too much, lay a sheet of foil loosely over the top of the pan.)

To remove, use a small spatula and work around and under the quiche.

Creamy quiche baked in a hash brown crust!

Spiced Hot Cider

Spiced Hot Cider

Greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through… In reality, at my house not all the cards were sent and not all the stockings were hung this year. It’s Christmas morning, so sit back with friends, loved ones or a quiet moment by yourself and sip on this beautiful Spiced Hot Cider.

Spice Hot Cider is a refreshing blend of spices simmered in apple juice and brightened with citrus and fresh ginger. Oh, and a splash of Cointreau – after all it is the holidays! The aroma will fill your home and the warmth and flavor will satisfy your soul!

This cider comes together quickly and will make enough for 4-5 servings or 3 -4 if you’re using large mugs. Still have a crowd at your home? Double the batch and simmer the cider in your slow cooker.

Christmas comes despite the last gift you didn’t have time to buy or the cookies left unbaked…and things that are truly important are always there whether in life or in our memories. Savor those… 

Spiced Hot Cider

1 quart apple juice

3 cinnamon sticks, plus extra for serving if desired

20 whole cloves

10 whole allspice berries

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup orange juice

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

Zest of one orange zest, about 1 teaspoon

4 tablespoons Cointreau or to taste

Pour the apple juice into a large pan along with the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, allspice, nutmeg and fresh ginger. Cook over medium heat and boil gently for about 15-20 minutes.

Add the orange juice, the orange zest, the lemon juice and the Cointreau. Stir to blend well.

Serve warm!

Coconut Cream Cake   

Coconut Cream Cake   

If you’re looking for a spectacular dessert for your holiday dinner, this could be your answer. There is something extraordinary about a coconut cake – the look is classic and elegant. This cake always makes a perfect showpiece for any occasion but it’s especially wonderful for the holidays.

I’ve tried many coconut cake recipes and this has become my favorite. The name says it all. This cake takes the experience to a level on par with a coconut cream pie, which for those of us who love coconut is the ultimate of desserts! Heavy cream is tucked into the cake both inside and out creating a flavor and texture that is nothing short of sublime. A touch of almond extract along with pure vanilla extract highlight the delicate nature of the cake.

Then there’s the frosting. I’ve always loved a fluffy whipped cream frosting but they are so fragile they tend to break down quickly. So I blend in mascarpone cheese – that wonderful creamy cheese frequently used in tiramisu and cheesecake. It added the right balance to stabilize the whipped cream frosting while subtly enhancing the flavor.

There are several steps in making this cake, none are complicated and the results are definitely worth it!

 Happy Holidays!

Coconut Cream Cake                  

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1-1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1-1/4 cups heavy cream

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and kosher salt. In a small bowl whisk the eggs, the vanilla and almond extracts until the eggs are frothy.

In a large mixing bowl using the whisk attachment beat the cream until stiff peaks form.

Add the egg mixture and blend together on medium-low speed just until the mixture is blended together.

Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture about a cup at a time taking care not to deflate the whipped cream mixture.

Divide the batter between two 9-inch cake pans that have been greased, dusted with flour and the bottoms have been lined with parchment or wax paper.

Bake the cake layers at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cake tests done. (Check at 20 minutes.)

Cool the cake layers in the pans for about ten minutes then turn them out on wire racks topside up to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling make the frosting.

Whipped Cream Frosting

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup sifted powdered sugar

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature

3 cups shredded coconut

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream on medium speed using the whisk attachment until soft peaks form.

Add the powdered sugar and the mascarpone cheese. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Place one layer of the cake topside down on a cake plate and spread about one-third of the whipped cream frosting over the top of the layer. Sprinkle one cup of the coconut over the frosting. Place the second cake layer on topside up.

Finish frosting the sides and the top of the cake with remaining whipped cream frosting.

Sprinkle the remainder of the coconut over the frosting, while gently pressing the coconut into the cream with your hands.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve well chilled.

 

White Lasagna

White Lasagna

The holidays keep our schedules packed. Attending candlelight services on Christmas Eve has been a tradition in our family for years. But the challenge was juggling Christmas Eve activities and meal preparation. I needed something I could prepare in advance, let it cook while we were out and have a fabulous meal ready to serve when we got home. White Lasagna has become the answer.

White Lasagna is a variation of the lasagna my dear friend Jane and I made when we were catering. Sheets of pasta are layered between a delicate meat sauce and a creamy, ricotta béchamel sauce. The combination creates an unbelievable dish.

The meat sauce is made with pork, veal, lamb and sirloin cooked with sweet onions and carrots then simmered in white wine and tomato sauce. Then it’s seasoned with parsley, basil, oregano and bay leaves, adding an earthy tone. The meat sauce provides a flavor far different than a thick, tomato-heavy version we’ve all been served.

The béchamel sauce is a wonderful twist to this lasagna and adds an elegant and decadent touch. Don’t be put off by the name. This classic sauce is very simple to make, starting with a roux made of butter and flour then finished with milk and cream before blending in the ricotta cheese.

You can make the meat sauce several days in advance – it gets more flavorful by the day. And the beauty of this recipe, you can assemble the lasagna the night before or early in the day you’re going to serve it – just refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. Using “ready-to-bake” lasagna pasta sheets takes out the step of having to pre-cook pasta noodles, one that is tedious at best. I admit I was a skeptic about using the “ready-to-bake” pasta sheets but they work really well!

Luscious and hearty – this dish is large enough to feed a crowd of even the pickiest eaters!

White Lasagna

For the lasagna you’ll need:

1 package “ready-to-bake” lasagna pasta sheets, 1) 9-ounce package

2 cups shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (I use shredded between layers then top with ½ cup grated.)

For the meat sauce:

¼ cup butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small onions, rough chopped, about 2 cups

3 small carrots, rough chopped, about 1 cup

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground lamb

1 pound ground sirloin

3-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

¾ cup dry white wine, such as a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio

2 cans tomato sauce, 15-ounces each

1 can tomato paste, 6-ounces

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried parsley

4 teaspoons dried oregano

3 bay leaves

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

Add the ground meat, breaking up and mixing with the vegetables. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and the black pepper. Continue cooking until the meat is mostly cooked through and no longer pink. Drain off any excess drippings.

Add the white wine, the tomato sauce and tomato paste along with the herbs, red pepper flakes and remaining kosher salt or to taste.

Mix well and cook partially covered over medium-low heat for 45 minutes.

While the meat sauce simmers, make the béchamel sauce:

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 quart milk, warmed

1 cup heavy cream

1 carton ricotta cheese, 16 ounces

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, the kosher salt and black pepper and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour.

Slowly pour in the warmed milk and continue cooking over low heat until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cream and the ricotta cheese blending until the sauce is smooth.

To assemble the lasagna:

Lightly spray a large, deep baking dish with a cooking spray. (The pan I use is 15” x 10” x 3” deep or you can split between two smaller baking dishes.) Remove the bay leaves from the meat sauce then spread a thin layer in the bottom of the dish.

Next, lay sheets of pasta on top. The pasta will expand as it cooks.

Cover the pasta with half of the remaining meat sauce then spread ½ cup of the shredded Parmesan cheese over the top.

Add another layer of pasta sheets and cover with half of the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with ½ cup of the shredded Parmesan cheese.

Repeat with a layer of pasta, top with the remaining meat sauce and another ½ cup of Parmesan, then finish with a final layer of pasta sheets and the remaining béchamel. Top with ½ grated or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and let the lasagna rest 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered, remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the lasagna is hot and bubbling.

Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes for cleaner cuts.

To make this ahead, cover the lasagna with plastic wrap and refrigerate. About an hour before you bake it, let it rest at room temperature, remove the plastic wrap and then bake as above. If you want to “slow bake”, let the lasagna rest for about 30 minutes and set the dish on a large baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours. The last 10-15 minutes remove the foil and finish baking until the lasagna is heated through.

Tiramisu Eggnog

Tiramisu Eggnog

We’re a week away from Christmas and the holiday craziness is in full swing. So, perhaps it’s time to pull back and enjoy a creamy, rich libation. And it’s hard to imagine the holidays without eggnog.

I love eggnog. When late October hits I start scanning the markets for the first cartons to appear. I’ve got numerous recipes for making eggnog from scratch and I’ve tried several versions, all quite good. But the thought of drinking raw eggs, “cooked” in liquor has always given me pause. I’m not squeamish – I love a real Caesar dressing made with fresh egg yolks, I like my steaks rare and I eat sushi whenever Emily is in town. (The Engineer, not so much!) But I also worry about friends and family with possible health issues consuming raw eggs. Plus, not everyone is open-minded about this notion.

I’ve scoured recipes looking for options using cooked egg yolks as a base for eggnog. In reading through volumes of recipes I noticed the similarity of the base used for eggnog and the one I use for tiramisu. So I wondered, could eggnog be made with a tiramisu base. If so, would it have the depth that comes from sweet Marsala wine, dark rum and bittersweet chocolate? The answer I found was yes! And what a luscious holiday beverage it is – a cross between eggnog, hot chocolate with the decadence of tiramisu.

Tiramisu Eggnog starts with most of the same basic ingredients found in the custard used for tiramisu, which is actually a sabayon or zabaglione sauce. Like a traditional eggnog whipped cream is added along with half and half. Then it’s transformed into a decadent beverage with the addition of espresso and dark chocolate before topping it off with a good dark rum. It’s dessert in a glass!

Light a fire, pour yourself and someone special a cup of Tiramisu Eggnog and take a little time to savor the holiday spirit!

Tiramisu Eggnog

7 extra large egg yolks

½ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup sweet Marsala wine

1 cup heavy cream, divided after whipping

¼ cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup half and half, plus extra if you want a bit lighter beverage

1/2 cup espresso or dark roast coffee

½ cup dark or bittersweet chocolate, (2 ounces by weight) finely chopped plus extra for garnish

1/2 cup dark rum or to taste

In the top of a double boiler combine the egg yolks with the granulated sugar, whisking together.

Add the Marsala wine, whisk into the eggs and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Continue cooking until the egg mixture doubles in volume and becomes thick. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow the egg mixture to cool completely.

Mix the whipping cream with the powdered sugar and beat until the cream has soft peaks. Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Measure out one cup of the whipped cream and reserve the remaining cream for garnish.

Combine the espresso and the bittersweet chocolate and warm over low heat just until the chocolate has melted. (You can also warm the mixture on low in the microwave for a minute or two.) Cool completely.

In a large bowl or measuring cup whisk together the cooled egg base with the half and half plus the cooled melted chocolate and espresso. Gently blend in one cup whipped cream (measured after the cream has been whipped.)

Add ½ cup dark rum or to taste. Chill thoroughly.

Serve with a dollop of the remaining whipped cream and a sprinkling of dark chocolate.

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate Crinkles

Holiday baking is in full swing at our house. And of all the cookies we make during the holidays this is our favorite – no holiday is complete without them. Chocolate Crinkles are a holiday classic. If you’ve never tried them, you’ve been missing out. Little pillows of chocolate bursting through a dusting of sweet powdered sugar, giving them the “crinkle” in their name!

Chocolate Crinkles are perfect for holiday baking. A cross between a brownie and a cookie, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like them. If your mixer is large enough to handle the volume of dough, you can easily double (or triple!) this recipe. Once it’s mixed simply store the cookie dough in your refrigerator until you’re ready to bake. Keep the dough chilled and your cookies will hold their shape and not spread too much while baking.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave then the cookie dough comes together quickly. Just be sure to use a low setting, stirring the chocolate along the way. I seldom use my microwave except for reheating a cup of coffee or occasionally defrosting, but it does come in handy for melting chocolate or butter. Don’t overheat the chocolate or it will scorch. As always, use quality chocolate and pure vanilla extract. They are key components in the cookies and you want their flavors to shine through.

Chocolate Crinkles have been a part of our holidays for almost three decades… And no reason to stop now! Make sure you save some for Santa!

Chocolate Crinkles

2 cups sugar

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

4 extra-large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, the vegetable oil, vanilla extract and the melted chocolate. Cream the mixture together on medium-low speed.

Add the eggs one at a time, blending into the sugar and chocolate mixture using low speed.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and the kosher salt.

Add about ½ cup at a time to the cookie dough, blending on low speed.

Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours so that the dough is thoroughly chilled.

When you’re ready to bake, place the 1 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl. Scoop out rounds of dough measuring about 1” in diameter and roll the dough in the powdered sugar, coating all sides. A mini ice cream scoop works great for measuring out cookie dough.

Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with either a Silpat liner or parchment paper, leaving about 2” between the cookies.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, just until the cookies no longer look “wet”. Cool slightly on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

A wonderful treat for your friends and family… Enjoy!

Jam Thumbprints

Jam Thumbprints

This is one of the most beautiful cookies! With the glistening jewel-toned jam nestled into a tender shortbread cookie coated with a flaky, golden crust of coconut. Jam Thumbprints are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

There are so many recipes for thumbprint cookies, some with a chocolate “kiss” in the center, some dusted with powdered sugar and others rolled in chopped nuts. But this is my favorite. I have dozens of recipes for Jam Thumbprint cookies but ran across this version years ago, in a cookbook by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style. Her books are among my favorites. This cookie has just enough sweet from the jam with added layers of fragrance and crunch from the coconut after it toasts in the oven.

One of the most popular cookies I make during the holidays, Jam Thumbprints start with a delicate shortbread dough. It’s relatively easy to pull together and can be made in advance then chilled until you’re ready to bake. Resting about 30 minutes at room temperature makes the dough easier to handle.

Some tips:

There are several steps in making this cookie so when you’re ready to bake, measure out your dough, get your egg wash and coconut set up, baking sheets lined and within arm’s reach – then the process moves smoothly and quickly.

I start by weighing cuts of dough about ¾ ounces, which makes a cookie about 3” in diameter. If you want a slightly smaller cookie, measure out dough rounds weighing about ½ ounce. At ¾ ounces, you’ll have about 40 cookies.

Though I frequently make my own jams and jellies, for this cookie I use Bonne Maman preserves. They are a soft preserve, perfect for this recipe. For the coconut, I use Baker’s Angel Flake, which is lightly sweetened. Both can be found in most food markets.

The perfect cookie for the holidays, or anytime you want something special!

Jam Thumbprints

¾ pound of unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 extra-large egg

1 tablespoon water

14 ounces of coconut Apricot and Raspberry preserves, or your favorite preserve

Cream the butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, then add the sugar and blend together. Pour in the vanilla extract blending well into the butter and sugar.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour and kosher salt. Add about 1 cup at a time into the butter and sugar, mixing on low speed until the dough comes together. Don’t over mix or the cookies will not be tender.

Pour the dough out onto parchment paper or a surface that is lightly dusted with flour. Split the dough into two pieces and shape each into a flattened round. Wrap each round of dough in a sheet of parchment then drop them into a storage bag and chill for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to bake measure out the pieces of dough, about ¾ ounces each (or for smaller cookies – ½ ounces each). Roll them into round balls.

Whisk the egg and the water together in a small bowl and pour the coconut in a separate bowl. Coat each dough ball first in the egg wash then in the coconut.

Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with either a Silpat or parchment paper, leaving about 2” between each. Gently press an indentation into each cookie – the back of a melon baller works well for this. If the edges of the cookies split open, gently press them back together so the preserves don’t spill out while baking.

Fill the indentations with a teaspoon of jam.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden, taking care to not let the coconut get too dark. Check at 20 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven if needed.

Cool the cookies on the pans for about five minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

 

 

Strawberry-Cranberry Jam

Strawberry-Cranberry Jam

Of all the jams and jellies I’ve made through the years, this is the most requested and no holiday gift basket from our home is complete without it. Also fondly known as Christmas Jam , it is a delightful combination of strawberries and cranberries, coming together to create a surprising dance of flavors – both sweet and tart!

The flavor profile of this unique jam makes it perfect to top a hot biscuit or croissant, or served as a condiment on a roasted turkey sandwich. And it’s wonderful on a cheese board, pairing beautifully with Saint-André, a divine French triple crème cow’s milk cheese.

If you’ve never made jams this one is surprisingly easy. You can keep the ingredients on hand, using frozen strawberries and frozen cranberries. I chop the slightly thawed cranberries and strawberries in a food processor. Take care with the frozen strawberries, they will break down quickly in your processor –  it only takes 5-6 pulses.

The jam is set using liquid pectin, which has a fairly long shelf life – I almost always have a box or two on hand for any jam emergency! A teaspoon of butter minimizes any foaming from cooking. (Skimming foam off of jam is tedious!) Before you start, have your canning jars and lids washed and prepped, ready to fill once your jam is cooked. This batch makes about 7 half-pint jars.

Strawberry-Cranberry Jam 

12 ounces (one bag) cranberries, rinsed, sorted and coarsely chopped

20 ounces frozen strawberries, coarsely chopped

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon butter

3 ounces (1 package) liquid pectin

In a large, heavy stockpot or kettle add the chopped cranberries, the chopped strawberries, sugar and butter.

Cook over low heat until the sugar has melted.

Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Boil the jam for 1 minute. Add the liquid pectin and stir thoroughly into the jam.

Continue cooking, bringing the jam back to a boil and boil 1 minute. Ladle into clean jars and either refrigerate or process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Perfect for holiday gifts and entertaining!

Sand Tarts

Sand Tarts

We have a Christmas Cookie list. The number of recipients varies from year to year, and yes – you can fall off the list! (Tell me you’re on a diet during the holidays and you’re as good as scratched!) This adventure started innocently enough. When Emily was in the second grade she came home from school with her list of friends for which a Christmas gift was required. There were 14 names on it. As a single Mom juggling two jobs to make ends meet, coming up with extra resources for an additional 14 gifts was daunting, actually it was impossible!

Not wanting to shatter the Christmas spirit I suggested we bake cookies for each of her friends. Who wouldn’t be happy to receive homemade cookies for Christmas! And so it began and still continues. For a long period of time our list was quite extensive. Emily had high school classmates. Then there were newly formed friends from Auburn in addition to the former classmates from high school that required baked goods. And then I had friends and work colleagues. We made hundreds. Every year!

We only make our favorites and some years these cookies are only made during the holidays or perhaps Valentine’s Day. This cookie was one of my Dad’s favorites. Buttery, sweet with toasted pecans and a tender crumb, baked then dusted with snowy powdered sugar.

The list of ingredients is short and basic. Sand Tarts get their flavor from real butter, powdered sugar (inside and out!), pure vanilla extract and toasted chopped pecans. The dough comes together quickly and no chilling is required.

They have the look of the holidays and taste a bit like heaven! Hard to decide if it’s a cookie or a confection… Either way, they’re quite wonderful!

Sand Tarts

1 cup butter, room temperature

10 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus 1 cup for finishing the cookies

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon water

1 cup chopped toasted pecans.

Cream the butter on medium speed of your mixer until it is light and fluffy.

Add the powdered sugar and blend it in on low speed.

In a small bowl whisk the kosher salt and the flour together.

Add the flour, a cup at a time and blend into the butter and sugar using low speed.

Add the vanilla extract and the water. Toss in the toasted pecans and blend together on low speed until the pecans and dough are mixed together.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a teaspoon, gathering up the dough and gently roll to create balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Bake the Sand Tarts at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly golden in color.

Let them cool slightly then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are completely cool roll them in the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container.

Makes about 40-42 cookies.