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Posts Tagged ‘Easy’

This cookie is relatively new to my holiday repertoire, and quickly has become a favorite. It is packed full of great winter flavors: cranberry, citrus, toasted pecans and maple syrup. It is super easy to put together and have in the refrigerator or freezer for those times when you suddenly need fresh-baked cookies on short notice (something that seems to happen often this time of year). And finally, I love that the dough is not overly sweet.

With all that fruit and nut goodness, and some whole wheat flour thrown in, I can almost convince myself that these are good for me.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Shortbread

Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Makes 32 cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced

1 cup pecan pieces, toasted and chopped

Directions:

In an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add flour and salt, one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Stir in the cranberries, orange peel, and pecans.

Shape dough into two logs and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1/2-inch slices and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cookies will keep several weeks in an airtight container.

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Almond Crescents

I’m often tempted at the holidays to bake elaborately decorated or fancy cookies. And they undoubtedly have their charms.  But, sometimes, simpler is better.

Nothing could be more perfect in its unassuming splendor as these almond crescents. They look like nothing special, but then you bite in, and the cinnamon sugar yields to the tender butter crumb, and then that yields to the subtle flavor of ground almonds.  And then it’s gone, and you find yourself reaching for another, thinking, “well, that was so small, surely one more won’t hurt,” and before you know it you’ve polished off a dozen and wonder what happened.  A couple dozen of these, wrapped in red tissue paper makes a gorgeous gift for someone you really love.

Almond Crescents

Adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen crescents

Ingredients:

Cookie dough:

2 ounces (about 2/3 cup) blanched slivered almonds

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

1 2/3 cup all- purpose flour

Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, grind the almonds and sugar together until the almonds are very fine. Add the butter a couple tablespoons at a time, with the motor still running, and process until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour and salt, and scrape the sides of the bowl.  Pulse the processor a few times, just until the flour is incorporated.

Scrape the dough into a bowl, and cover with plastic.  Refrigerate for two hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Roll a piece of dough into a ball less than an inch in diameter.  Roll it between your palms, until it is in the shape of a cylinder, with slightly tapered ends on both sides, about 3 inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Form each cookie into a crescent shape and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, about an inch apart.

Bake 14-16 minutes, or until set but not brown. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them while warm into a bowl of cinnamon sugar (see topping, above), turning gently to coat thoroughly, one at a time.

Keep in an airtight container for up to one month.

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It’s hot.

The last thing I want to do is heat up the kitchen, or eat a big plate of steaming food.

At times like this, I know the perfect food — gazpacho! It’s cool and delicious and absolutely positively guilt-free.

Like anything, it’s best made with fresh-from-the-garden produce and herbs, but I often am in the mood for it before it’s harvest time for tomatoes and cucumbers here in Colorado. So, I will let you in on a little secret. You can make this any time of year, and it’s still really good. Not quite as amazing as it is when tomatoes are ripe and luscious, but how long does that last, anyway? You can enjoy gazpacho tonight!

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Janet’s Pretty Good Gazpacho

Ingredients:

46 oz. tomato juice

2 lbs. or one large can crushed tomatoes

3 stalks celery, diced fine

1 1/2 bell pepper, diced fine

2 cucumbers, seeded and diced fine

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Fresh basil and/or tarragon, chopped, to taste

1/4 cup minced red onion

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Dash of ground cumin

Dash of cayenne or tabasco, if you like a little heat

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in very large bowl. Combine thoroughly. Ladle some of the soup into a blender and puree. How much? You decide. You can puree it all, if you want a smooth soup, but I prefer chunks of vegetables suspended in a soup with some body, so I puree about a third to a half of the soup. You could leave it unblended, if you like the dark red color and lots of chunks.

Chill thoroughly and serve.


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I recently had really good food on an airplane.

Really.

Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top

Directions:

Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, I am sharing with you the recipe for my infamous margaritas.

The secret to a good margarita, first, lies in using fresh lime juice, a good quality tequila, and never ever using anything labeled “sweet sour mix,” or “margarita mix.”  Don’t even talk to me about frozen limeade concentrate.  No, the secret of an awesome margarita, like so many things in the kitchen, is in using good quality ingredients.  That, and not being afraid of alcohol.

My Uncle Steve knows how to have a good time, and he has shared with me the secret to more than one incredible cocktail (someday I will tell you about French 75’s, but you are not ready yet).  He introduced me to the basics of this fine drink.  Fresh limes.  Good tequila.  No sugar.  He taught me that limes can vary in their sourness, but never, ever use sugar to balance that out.  Just add more Triple Sec, which is sort of like sugar, but has that extra flavor and some extra alcohol, as a bonus.

Forgive me, Uncle Steve, but I tweaked your recipe a little bit.  I hope you’ll try it and decide the student has proven worthy…

Margaritas

Ingredients:

1 part Tequila (I like to use a 100% Agave tequila, reposado style, but use what you like)

1 part Triple Sec

1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice (nothing bottled or concentrated)

a generous splash of Grand Marnier

Directions:

Rub the rim of your prefered glass with a wedge of lime and dip into salt, if desired.

Fill a cocktail shaker, if you have one, half-way with ice cubes.  Pour all ingredients into shaker, cover, and shake until thoroughly mixed and chilled.

Strain into festive glass of your choice, over crushed ice.  The crushed ice is important, as it slowly dilutes this very strong drink, allowing you to sip it, savor it and not make a fool of yourself too quickly.

Enjoy responsibly.  This means, for most of us, giving our car keys to the host, just to be sure we don’t do something we regret.

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Double Butterscotch Cookies

Long before the whole dulce de leche craze swept the country, I was a big fan of caramel and butterscotch.  I swoon for homemade toffee. Now, I love chocolate as much as the next girl, or maybe a little bit more. But I adore when sugar and butter come together and create such sublime magic.

So, imagine my delight when I ran across this recipe at Cookie Madness, a prolific baking blog.  She rated these very highly, so I dutifully filed them away, thinking I should give them a try.  A recent kids’ party gave me the excuse  I needed, and let me tell you, these are the real deal!  A welcome break from your traditional chocolate chip, oatmeal, or peanut butter, these are chewy and buttery and nutty — just like you’d imagine a marriage of toffee and cookies should be.  I particularly love how the flavor develops when the dough is left to rest in the refrigerator for a day or two before slicing and baking.  This is a serious yum…

Double Butterscotch Cookies

Adapted from the Taste of Home Cookbook

makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening or margarine

2 cups dark brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1/2 Tablespoon vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup English Toffee bits (like Heath bar bits)

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

Directions:

In a large bowl cream the butter, shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Stir to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix until combined. Gently fold in the toffee bits and nuts.

Shape dough into 2 12 inch rolls. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours or until firm.

When ready to bake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Unwrap and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lighlty browned. Cool for 1-2 minutes on sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

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“Enough with the sweets already!,” you’re saying.  I understand. It’s time for dinner, and you’re wondering what I’ve got in the light, nutritious and flavorful category. Well, fear not.  I’ve got just the thing — baked tilapia over nutty brown rice, black beans, pineapple and salsa.  How’s that?  You’re welcome.

Adapted from Ingrid Hoffmann

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain brown rice

2 cups chicken broth

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Zest of one lime

Juice of one lime

Cilantro, chopped

Salt & Pepper

4 (~6 oz.) tilapia filets

2 cups of your favorite chunky tomato salsa (jarred or homemade), drained

15 oz. can Black Beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups diced pineapple (fresh is best, but canned works in a pinch)

Fresh limes for garnish

Directions:

Combine rice and chicken broth in a pot.  Bring to boil.  Lower heat to “low” and cover.  Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until rice is tender and broth is completely absorbed.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir together the cooked rice, salsa, beans, and pineapple. Spread in a 9×13 pan or other shallow 2-3 quart casserole dish.

Brush tilapia with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Squeeze lime over the fish and lay the filets over the top of the rice mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Bake until the fish flakes easily, is opaque and cooked through, 25-30 minutes.

Serve with lime slices.

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