Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas time is the best time!

Christmas is a very special time of year in our house.  First and foremost is the celebration of the birth of  the baby Jesus.   The music and the readings at Mass at this time of year are beautiful.   I love Christmas Day  when the trumpet joins in with the choir.  Such a blessed and joyous time of the year!
 
 

It also the time to gather with friends and family. We have plans for dinners with our peeps, cocktails with friend's, post Christmas party with family to keep the spirit of the holiday the whole season through.   Our first gathering of the season was my niece's  2nd annual cookie exchange last night. While it was a small gathering with two of my niece's,  my daughter, my two sisters,  one of my sister in laws, my neighbor "Giada from across the street", my great niece, great nephew and a friend of my niece (the host), all cookie types were well represented.

I remembered that last year there were an over abundance of butter balls so I dug back deep in the recipe file for some classic  pecan tassies.  This was a recipe I received when I had a Pampered Chef party and purchased the mini muffin tin.  I learned a very important lesson preparing for this exchange -  don't try to save time and double the batches.  If you need more than the recipe calls for take the time and make separate batches.
 
We found these great boxes at a local kitchen store and packed each one with 8 cookies.  My recipe only makes 24 cookies so the 3 batches gave me 9 sets, 6 for exchanges and the rest for eating! 
 
It was a great party and the cookies are going fast.  The boys got into them as soon as they got home. 

 
 

Pecan Tassies

Ingredients

 
 
Tart Shells
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
Filling
2 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1   egg
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pecan halves, finely chopped
 Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

 
Preheat oven to 350°F. For tart shells, beat butter and cream cheese in bowl until well blended. Add flour; mix until a soft dough forms.

Using Small Scoop, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls of dough into ungreased cups of Mini-Muffin Pan. Dip Mini-Tart Shaper in flour; press into dough with even pressure until dough rises slightly above rim of pan.

For filling, place butter in Small Batter Bowl; microwave on HIGH 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Finely chop pecans using Food Chopper; add to batter bowl and mix well.

Using Small Scoop, fill each tart shell with level scoop of filling (do not overfill). Bake 17-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven; cool in pan 3 minutes. Remove from pan to Stackable Cooling Rack; cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Yield: 24 servings of 1 tart

Friday, December 5, 2014

Saturday Dinner Decisions

 

Bow Tie Pasta with Red Pepper Cream Sauce

 
 
Running some errands on a recent Saturday morning after my Pilates class I realized that we had not decided on our dinner plans that morning.  We went out the night before to our favorite Italian restaurant for pizza and salad and knew that we wanted to stay home that Saturday Night.  Hubby was off picking up our son from a sleep over and running his pre Thanksgiving errands as well.  I called his cell and said " We will go with my plan for dinner".  This is a running joke in the house,  when one of us comes home and dinner wasn't decided that morning, you will hear  - "I think we will go with your plans for dinner!"
 
I stopped at the local Italian grocery store Vince's for two things that morning.  The first was the ingredients for some cookies I was making and the second was to browse their prepared food case to see what would taste good.  I had already pulled out the recipe for the pasta and had all the ingredients to make this,  but needed something to go along with it.  I always remember when our little Giada from across the street made Braciole for one of our first dinner clubs.  We still talk about it to this day.  Well, Vince's had some and the perfect size for the three of us.  Just needed the sauce to cover it and with this recipe I had plenty!
 
The Braciole was delicious, but the pasta dish was the biggest hit!  Especially with our son, the pasta eating machine!

Ingredients 

1 pound uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil  
1/2 cup finely chopped onion 
1 (12-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 
1 cup half-and-half  
1 tablespoon tomato paste    
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
Thinly sliced fresh basil (optional)

Preparation

Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers; cook 2 minutes or until heated through. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
Place bell pepper mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Return bell pepper mixture to pan; cook over low heat until warm. Combine half-and-half and tomato paste in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir tomato mixture into bell pepper mixture, stirring with a whisk until well combined. Stir in ground red pepper.
Combine pasta and bell pepper mixture in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup cheese, tossing to coat. Spoon 1 1/3 cups pasta into each of 6 bowls; top each with about 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese. Garnish with basil, if desired

German Christmas Traditions revisited

German Lepkuchen

 
 
 






 



My mom grew up in the depression, the youngest of 5 children.  She tells stories of working around the house helping my Grandmother, of sleeping on cots on the porch at their camp, ice skating down the Street at the pond and going off flying with her older brother nights after dinner.  She tells of playing a game of Monopoly that would go on for days, of war ration coupons and hand me down clothes.  The family had deep German roots and a hard work ethic.  My grandfather ran a local furniture store with his sisters which was not the most prosperous with a family of five children at home to feed and cloth and you split the earnings with your siblings.  I never got to meet my grandfather because he passed away two years before I was born, but I do have a few memories of my grandmother. 

I loved going to her house and playing with the milk box outside her side door, or playing underneath the evergreen in the front yard.   A few years ago my mom gave me her recipe box with my grandmothers recipes.  With our interest in cooking she thought we would enjoy looking at some of the old basic recipes and some of the great German cookies and Christmas treats from her past.  I have found that there is little detail and measures like "a pinch" or "dash".  Grandma passed away soon after my 6th birthday, but her memories live on.

The one recipe my mom has talked about for years is her mother's Lepkuchen.  She remembers sitting on the floor with a big wooden bowl between her legs, stirring, and stirring the heavy batter.  When I decided to make these cookies for my mom's 87th birthday, I enlisted my son for the stirring.  This is a very heavy batter and makes a ton of cookies.  When you do make them you hold off on the frosting until you are almost ready to serve them.  Of the two recipes I found one said "will hold for 2 to 3 months un-frosted" and the other said "indefinitely".

Lepkuchen


1/2 pint of molasses
1/2 pint of white corn syrup
1lb. Dark brown sugar
1 lb almonds in shell}     3 cups chopped meats (nuts)
1/2 lb Brazil nuts }
1/4 lb citron, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup brandy
1tablespoon of baking soda, mix in flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 to 7 cups of flour - bake sample cookie to see if more flour is needed.  Should not be too porous.

Let dough chill.  Take out in small amounts, roll and cut into rectangles or squares.

Dough is very sticky if it warms up.  Bake at 350°, about 9 minutes.  Very hard when cool, store in large container.  Frost with confectionary frosting when needed.  The frosting will soften the cookies overnight.  The unfrosted cookies will keep up to 3 months.

Ok, so you read this and said what goes where?  That is what I thought, but figured wet ingredients together and then dry ingredients , mix together. 

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