Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We have fanily coming into town, so I will be taking a few days off from blogging. I am hosting Christmas Day and have LOTS of cooking and cleaning to do! I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rainbow Cookies

This will be my last Christmas cookie. This is my favorite and my sister's favorite too! I will forewarn you, they are a bit time consuming, but not difficult! And, the more often you make them the easier and quicker it gets.

Here is the recipe, and then I will give ya some photo highlights. :)

Rainbow Cookie Recipe (aka Venetians)

8 ounces almond paste
1 ½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
Raspberry (seedless) preserves
12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

1. Spray 3 disposable 13 X 9 pans with non-stick spray. Line with wax paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine almond paste, sugar, butter, egg yolks and almond extract. Beat 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in flour and salt.
3. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg white mixture into almond mixture. Divide into 3, 1 ½ cup portions. Add red food coloring to one and green to another. (enough drops to get deep color). Spread each color into a pan.
4. Bake 15 min or until edges are golden brown. Removes cakes from pans by grabbing wax paper and set on cooling racks.
5. Once cool, stack layers in 13X9 pan lined with wax paper, with preserves in between each layer. Use just a very thin layer of preserves. Place a second 9X13 on top and weigh down with 2
5 pound bags of sugar. Refrigerate overnight.
6. The next day, remove stacked layers from pan and place on cutting board. Place chocolate in microwave safe bowl and melt chocolate. Spread melted chocolate over top of stacked cakes. Allow to set for 15 minutes. Cut into bars. Allow chocolate to fully set before storing.

First, here is a pic of the prepared pan. You spray the disposable pan with non-stick spray and then line with a piece of wax paper.
Here are the egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks. Stiff peaks means that if you lift your beater out, it should leave a peak at the top and the peak should stay standing up straight. I know it is hard to see in the pic. If the peak falls over, it is only soft peaks.

Here is one of the pans with the batter spread in is a very thin layer, as the cookie will end up with 3 layers total.

Here is the pan after I took it out of the oven...see the golden brown edges??

This is after I have the stacked the 3 layers with a think layer of jam between.

Here is the pan weighted down. I only had one 5 pound bag of sugar, so I also used a bag of brown.

Here is how I melt the chocolate. I do have an official double boiler, but much prefer a glass bowl sitting on top of a pot of simmering water. Just be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.

Here are the bars with the chocolate spread on top. I also threw on some sprinkles. Other pic is the bars cut. You can cut off the edges to neaten them up before cutting into squares.

Last pic is them all pretty on a plate. They look very impressive when served!


Friday, December 18, 2009

Really Easy Bar Cookies

If you are looking for a really simple, but delicious, bar it is! These are Paula Dean's 5-Layer Bars. They only take minutes to put together, but are sooo yummy!

The picture below is them on a platter at my Tupperware party...they are on the right.

Here are the ones I made and froze for Christmas. Please excuse the upper right corner...I had to try them!

Here is the recipe!

Five-Layer Bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick salted butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a 13X9 pan. Sprinkle pecans, chips and coconut on top. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the mixture and bake for 30 minutes.
3. Cool completely and cut into bars.

See? Super Simple!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered!

I did it! I mailed in my registration for my first half marathon! I will be running the Long Island half marathon on May 2 and I am so excited! I have had the application on my desk for a week and finally worked up the courage to mail it in!

Unfortunately, I had to skip my long run yesterday...I caught an awful cold and knew there was no way my body was up for a run. Then it started raining, which confirmed that I would have to skip it. I will try a short run/walk on the treadmill tonight and see how it goes. My nose is completely stuffed up, but at least the cough seems to be gone!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cute Christmas Sign!

I have a bit of an obsession with hand painted wooden signs. I LOVE them and almost every room in my house has at least one. I recently found this blog called Farmhouse Mercantile. She makes the most wonderful wooden signs. When I saw the first one, I knew I HAD to have it! So...I ordered it right away and it is now proudly displayed in my kitchen.

Here it is, right next to my kitchen tree!

It is hard to see in my picture, but it is actually covered in glitter and has a beautiful shimmer to it! The artist, Dee, is wonderful to work with...such a sweet person!! She makes different signs each season and I cannot wait to order another!

Her blog is beautiful...I love her sense of style and design!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Linzer Cookies!!

Tonight's recipe is my Dad's favorite....LINZER COOKIES!!!

When researching a recipe I found that true linzer cookies have ground almonds in the dough. There is a bakery by me that calls their sugar cookies with jam in the middle "linzer cookies", but there are no ground almonds in the dough, so technically they are just sugar cookies with jam in the middle. :)

A few notes about the recipe:
- I grind the almonds in a mini food processor. You need 1 3/4 cups ground almonds. I usually start with a big bag of sliced almonds (4 cups), to be sure I will have enough once I grind them.
- The flour is "2 cups sifted flour" sift the flour first and then measure it. is the recipe:

Linzer Cookies

1 ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cup ground almonds
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Raspberry or strawberry jam
Confectioners sugar for dusting

1. Cream butter and sugar together until mixture light and fluffy.
2. Beat in flour, ½ cup at a time. Beat in almonds and cinnamon until mixture becomes a stiff dough.
3. Shape dough into a ball and refrigerate 1 hour.
4. Heat oven to 325.
5. Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut an even number of tops (with hole cut out) and bottoms. Re-roll as needed.
6. Bake 10-15 minutes until light golden brown. Remove to cooling rack, dust tops with confectioners sugar. Spread jam on bottoms and assemble.

Now...for some photo highlights!

First...this picture below is my new rolling pin I used! I got it from QVC. Here is the link for it. It is neat in that there are different disks that can be placed on the side of the rolling pin to allow the rolling pin to roll the dough to the EXACT measurement you want. See how I have the red disk on the side? That made it so my dough was rolled to exactly 1/4 inch and it worked!

This pic below shows my dough. (My pics are awful...I am so not a good photographer!) You can see the chunks of ground almonds in the dough.

Here are the cookie cutters I used. One 2 1/2 inch circle and then a smaller circle. I got them at the craft store. You can do shapes a star with a smaller star in the middle...but that gets more tricky!

Here are the bottoms ready to be baked!

See that tiny spatula below?? It is PERFECT for lifting the cookies up off the mat I use to roll them out on. It is from Pampered Chef.

Here are the tops...just out of the oven and dusted with confectioners sugar.

And...the finished cookie...even prettier in person!


Monday, December 7, 2009

What Motivates You??

When you are doing something that is tough and challenging...what helps you keep at it??

Today I plan to register for the Long Island half marathon in May. Here is my story:

I ran in junior high and high school and was pretty good at it. Along came college...I studied like crazy, did well in my classes, gained 25 pounds (yikes) and stopped running.

6 years ago I had MissyMiss and when she turned one knew I had to get back into shape. I started running again and slowly got there. I was running 3 times a week, 3 miles each time.
Then came another pregnancy, miscarriage and surgery....gained back the weight I lost. Then came another pregnancy and I had Bubby. When he was a few months old I got back to running...again.

When Bubby was 6 months old I was carrying laundry down the stairs and fell and broke my ankle. I had to take care of a baby and 3 year old with an ankle fracture...if I can do that I can anything!

Once cleared to get back to running I really got into it. I was getting faster and running for longer. I started to have this crazy idea that maybe I could run a half marathon. I stepped up my training and started to think that it was a real possibility. Then I re-injured the ankle I had broken not even a year earlier.

(Here comes the part that I think of every time it gets tough. I thought about it a LOT yesterday when an icy path made me run 6 miles in the snow.)

I went back to the ortho office where I had gone for my original fracture because the ankle injury was still bothering me. The PA looked and it and gave me some treatment ideas. I told him that I needed to get back to running ASAP because I wanted to train for a half marathon. He looked at me and said "I don't know if that will ever happen." Oh no you didn't! I should have told him then and there that he was messing with the wrong girl. After I let the injury heal I resumed my training.

Since then I have had to take time off from running for a cardiac issue (have since been cleared by the cardiologist) and some "girl" issues this summer. My long run was up to 10 miles this summer. long run is back to 6 miles and I WILL run a half marathon in May! Every time the going gets tough I think of that PA and his snide comment. I don't think his comment was directed at my ankle issue as much as it was directed at the fact that I was overweight. I intend to run that half marathon and let him know I did.

I want to be an example to my kids of working hard for what you want, even when it gets tough.

So...what keeps you going when the going gets tough??

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Cookie Tips...and a recipe!

I meant to include this with the original baking tips post, but completely forgot.

My brother is a Marine and has done one tour in Iraq. I sent him packages regularly and when I asked him what he would like the most he said homemade cookies...which I can definitely do! My mom actually was the first to send him homemade cookies. She put them in ziploc bags and then inside a cardboard box. By the time they got to him, it was clear mice had gotten into the cookies at some point. His didn't eat them, but his friends did...they must have been really desperate for a homemade cookie. :(

I figured out a great way to send cookies in the mail. I figure if they can make it halfway around the world with how I pack them, they can probably go anywhere.

First...I freeze the cookies the way I previously mentioned. Then, I vacuum seal the frozen cookies. I don't have a fancy vacuum sealer. I was using a Reynolds Handi-vac, which I just learned was discontinued. If he deploys again, I plan to buy a fancy one. Now..if you can't vacuum seal, then just pack the frozen cookies into ziploc bags and get out as much air as possible.

Then, put the ziploc bags into disposable plastic containers. This will make it mice-proof. :)

Be careful to not mix different cookie types within the ziploc bags. I find that the flavors get a bit wacky if you do that.

Then, just pack your plastic containers into a box with some packing material, such as bubble wrap, so things don't move around too much.

Also...if the package will be going through a hot climate, don't pack messy cookies. Sturdy ones like chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, etc seem to do the best.

Once your cookies are packed get them to the post office ASAP..that way the first day in transit they are just thawing out and I figure at least one day fresher when they get to the recipient.

Now..for the recipe! It is a family favorite here that I posted last Christmas. But..I have a lot of new readers and figured I would post it again...enjoy!!!

Also...if anyone makes any of my cookies, I would LOVE to hear how they turn out!!

Next up...Linzer cookies!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ricotta Cheese Cookies

Here is the first cookie recipe...and it is (drum roll please.....) Ricotta cheese cookies!!

My husband's family is 100% Italian and a few years ago I wanted to make an Italian cookie and found this recipes on It was a hit!!! It is now one of my most requested recipes and my mom's favorite!

The recipe makes a LOT of cookies...5-6 dozen!!

I am not good at taking a picture at every step in the process...that's not how I roll. :) (I usually just completely forget) is the recipe:

Ricotta Cheese Cookies
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
15 ounces ricotta cheese (I use the whole milk kind)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
6 tablespoons milk
Colored sugar and/or sprinkles
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. On low speed, beat butter and sugar until blended. Increase to high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. At medium speed, beat in ricotta, vanilla and eggs until well combined. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined and dough forms.
4. Drop by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes, or until just lightly browned. Remove to cooling rack.
5. When completely cool, prepare glaze. Whisk confectioners sugar and milk until smooth. Holding cookie, dip the top into glaze and allow excess to drip off. Sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles. Allow to set on wax paper.

Now...for some pictures.

This one is of the ingredients...nothing fancy or expensive here!

Here is the dough....nice and light and fluffy. See my little scooper?? It is PERFECT for this recipe. It is just the right amount and I can crank out the cookies in no time!

This one is the cookies just out of the oven...they should be just beginning to look golden brown.

Here is the finished product! After I dip the tops in the glaze, I put them on cooling racks so the excess can drip off. This way you don't get a soggy bottom. I put wax paper under the cooling rack to catch the glaze, so my counter tops stay clean.

These cookies are buttery and moist and light and just delicious! I have never met someone who has not liked them and the kids love them too! You can change up the sprinkles for the season. I just did them for a fall party and used orange, yellow and green colored sugar.