Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Resolution Cookies

Do you make New Years Resolutions?  I usually do not because they are really hard to keep.  And while everyone thinks that it would be great to do this, or do that, I realize that we all simply do what we can do.   I eat as healthy as I can (could be healthier).  I go to the gym as often as I can (could be more often).  And I’m sure you do as well.

I made these cookies because I thought they were a creative way to express the top resolutions each year.  I also got to use my new food colour printer. I’m going to tell you all about it next year – which is really soon;)

Last year I did say that I wanted to have a blog entry at least four times a month.  I’m very proud to say I ALMOST did it!  This is my 46 entry for 2011 which means I am two short, but feeling very good about it.  I hope you learned as much as I did from this little blog – got some ideas, recipes and maybe even a little inspiration.

I hope 2012 is a wonderful year full of hope and promise, health and peace.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cookies and Milk for Santa

Christmas is a holiday full of tradition.  And tonight I’m sure lots of people are taking off their Christmas sweaters, putting on PJs, reading “The Night Before Christmas” and putting out cookies and milk for Santa.  I love the tradition of putting milk and cookies.  Not sure if it because it involves cookies or because it involves believing in something.  Everyone needs to have faith in something and a jolly guy in a red suite who brings presents to all who believe is still a good thing.   

I made these cookies in September and kept thinking they would be great as a letter to Santa in case the letter sent to the North Pole got lost.  I supersized this letter to Santa and made it out of a gingerbread cookie.  I used the side of the house of the Wilton Gingerbread House Cutter Set – it is about 5”x 7”.  I flooded the cookie with white royal icing (as always I use Ateco meringue powder) and blue and red for the lines on the paper.  The cookie dried overnight.  I used black AmeriColor Food Colour Markers to actually write the note.  Pete wanted a white Christmas, which I’m not sure will be happening in Toronto this year, so I included a snowflake sugar cookie too.  This letter can be personalized as you wish or your kids can actually write or sign their own letter. 

What kind of cookies are you leaving for Santa? 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Mom's “Secret Ingredient” Latkes

It is Hanukkah this week.  The first candle was on Tuesday and this festival of lights lasts for eight nights.  It is traditional to cook foods in oil on this holiday and not because just about anything fried is yummy.  The oil used in the cooking is symbolic of the drop of oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle.  We eat latkes, in Israel every bakery if full of jelly donuts.  In the days of low fat, low carb, low everything, it is a miracle that we can even discuss latkes in such an open fashion.

When my Mom is cooking the yummiest latkes in the world, you can smell them frying three blocks away.  Now that being said, I think when anyone is making latkes you can smell them miles away because they have got to be one of the smelliest things to cook.  Here are a few tricks to minimize the smell: boil cinnamon sticks, burn a pure beeswax candle and throw EVERYTHING you are wearing into the laundry right after cooking. 

Latkes are a labour of love.  If you are opening your heart and your kitchen to frying latkes, it means you must really love the people you are cooking for.  My Mom has made hundreds of pounds of potatoes over the many years of cooking latkes – she really loves us, not to mention sharing her recipe and method.  I really think my Mom’s latkes are extra special.  They are solid and fluffy at the same time.

Now I know this blog is really about baking but it is Hanukkah so I thought I would throw in this recipe to see if anyone would notice.

2 cups grated raw potatoes – she likes red potatoes best for latkes
2 – 4 tbsp grated onion
2 eggs
2 tbsp pancake mix – THE secret ingredient
salt & pepper to taste
This recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled depending on the number of latkes you need.

Peel potatoes -- if you are not using right away put in ice water so they potatoes don't turn grey.

Grate potatoes – my Mom likes them quite mushy but if you prefer a bit more stringy, go for it a lot of people like the stringy edges which end up being quite crispy.

In a clean tea towel or cheese cloth, press excess moisture until potatoes are quite dry.

Potatoes before being pressed
Pressed or "dry" potatoes

Combine potatoes, eggs, pancake mix, salt and pepper.

Drop by tablespoons onto a hot, well greased skillet – if you are making lots use two fry pans.  Please remember to never leave the hot oil unattended.

Cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Drain on paper towel.

I think they are best served straight out of the fry pan but I also know that this is not always realistic.  If you are serving them the same day, put on a parchment lined cookie sheet and heat up when you need them.  If you are making them in advance, freeze them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and once frozen put in a freezer bag or container.  To re-heat frozen latkes place on parchment lined cookie sheet and put in 400-425 hot oven for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with sour cream or apple sauce or whatever you can think of.

My Dad ate his latkes with vinegar.  I have an uncle who uses sugar and another who uses ketchup. 

Let me know if you have a favorite topping.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reindeer Noses - Last Minute Idea

I have always had a soft spot for Rudolph.  Not sure if it was because all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names (those other reindeer were really like mean girls) or because he was just so darn adorable – red nose and all!  I think these cookies provide a nice tribute to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and are pretty cute too.  And the best part is that they are super simple.

I know everyone is scrambling for last minute holiday “stuff”, so this easy peasy idea is sure to bring a smile to many -- including you because, did I mention, simple, easy and relatively effortless?

Using whatever size circle cookie cutter, bake 9 round cookies.  Just so you don’t waste precious baking time trying to figure out all of the other reindeer names they are: 1. Dasher 2. Dancer 3. Prancer 4. Vixen 5. Comet 6. Cupid 7. Donner and 7. Blitzen.  I made the Rudolph noses out of sugar cookies with red icing and red decorative sugar and all of the other reindeer (you know the mean ones;) out of my chocolate sugar cookie recipe.  I actually also made these all out of sugar cookies of which 8 were decorated with brown icing and brown sugar and because it was so popular I also did them in plain gingerbread.  So your choice – the gingerbread and chocolate sugar cookies do not need to be decorated at all.

This is a fun, kid friendly baking idea even on a foggy Christmas day (which is what the weather outside in Toronto looks like right now).

Let me know if you make these -- send me a note or better a picture –- I love seeing how your creations work out.  Happy baking!  And, in this case if you sing along, that is perfectly acceptable.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread Heaven

The "BOYS"

The "MEN"

Why is it that when we think of Christmas we think of gingerbread cookies?  I mean gingerbread has to be some of the yummiest cookies and why most people make them only at the festive holiday season really does not make any sense at all. 

For those of you who have been following my baking you may have noticed that I will never succumb to this December gingerbread fetish – I make ginger cookies throughout the year.  In March, I made gingerbread Purim masks  and in July I shared a Ginger Doodle recipe.  Maybe, subconsciously, I want that holiday feeling all year long.  The feeling of peace on earth and goodwill towards our neighbors – not to mention the sweet smell of gingerbread baking.

Here are some sweet gingerbread cookies I made recently.  These cute gingerbread boys, girls and men, were inspired by Bakerella, and a lot of sprinkles.  Sitting down to the great smell and a ton of sprinkles allowed my mind to go and my creativity to fly.  They were as fun to make as they were to eat.

Wishing you a holiday season full of joy, Santa and gingerbread.