Almond Crescents – A Simple Holiday Cookie Recipe for The Great Blogger Cookie Swap

A few weeks ago I found out that Julie, The Little Kitchen, and Lindsay, Love and Olive Oil, were starting The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I knew right away that I wanted to participate.

What should I bake?  I knew that it couldn’t be a delicate cookie because they had to be shipped to ??? depending on who I was matched with and I didn’t want to make something too complicated so that other folks could easily reproduce my cookie, so I decided to make the first cookie that I ever baked.

When I was young many of my friend’s mothers had the privilege of staying at home to raise the family.  My mother was one of the few that worked.  My mom didn’t have much time or inclination to bake on the weekends because she did other chores that didn’t get accomplished during the week.  She loved to iron (I didn’t inherit that trait) so I had perfectly ironed clothes, but I didn’t have batches of warm cookies along side a cold glass of milk waiting for me after school like my friends did.  I have to admit, I was very jealous of those cookies!

Thankfully, my friend’s moms were very gracious and would share their cookies…some even sent me home with little packets of sweet treats to share with my family.  Many of these recipes were handed down for generations…this is one of those heirloom recipes that I have adapted,  from one of my oldest and dearest friend’s mother, Mrs. L.

I like it because you can make these even if you don’t have a food processor or any other special pieces of kitchen equipment.  You just need a bowl, a knife, a spoon and a cookie sheet.  You don’t need a high level of baking skill either…these are tasty little treats that are simple to make and delicious to eat.

I love the idea of getting together with family and friends to swap cookies…what a variety you will have…wouldn’t that be great to do at your next Sunday Supper.

I sent one dozen Almond Crescents to Lindsay, The Little Foodie, Catherine, Munchie Musings and Stacey, Boston Sweetie…I really hope that they enjoy them.

I received one dozen Compost Cookies from Meagan,  Scarletta Bakes, Cardamom Butter Cookies with Espresso and Chocolate Drizzles from Maggie, Kitchie Coo, and Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies from Melissa, Numnoms. I can’t wait to get the recipes for their cookies.  Thanks ladies…your cookies were awesome!  Please note that I said were…yep, that’s right they are all gone!

Thank you Julie and Lindsay for arranging The Great Blogger Cookie Swap!  I’m definitely looking forward to swapping cookies again next year!  If you’re a food blogger and would like to join the fun next year, feel free to sign up by going to http://eepurl.com/hsS-Y

Make it special, make it Sunday.

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Almond Crescent Cookies

Yield: 36 cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

A delicious cookie that's easy to make!

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar (1 cup of this is to roll cookies in)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 tablespoon water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and 1/4 cup of sugar together then add vanilla extract and salt.
To that mixture, slowly add flour and water, stir well, add chopped almonds.
Form dough into 36 crescents and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes till slightly golden around the edges.
Remove from oven and roll and/or sprinkle the cookies as soon as you can handle them in the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar.
Store in a tightly lidded container.

Enjoy!

 

 

Irish History on my Table

I’ve laid out my family’s history…it’s all right there on the dining room table waiting for Kevin Grace,  the author/archivist/historian, of Irish Cincinnati to arrive.   Will he be as amazed at these people that forged their future in this country as I am?  I’m humbled that they came so far with so little.

I feel lucky that I’m so sentimental…I’ve kept all of the pictures and papers, bibles and deeds…I’ve kept it all.  But, I had to put it in order…we were not a family of album keepers.  It was in boxes that have endured the ravages of time and some things look a bit worse for wear.  But all that was given to me for safe keeping is there, telling their story…maybe it is your story too.  Immigrants coming to this country to escape hardship in their native land.  The story of America, right?

 

Becoming a Better Baker – Part II – Sourdough Bread Making for Doughvember

Again,  I fed my starter, and in two days I had enough to forge ahead and try to make more sourdough bread using this recipe from Nicole, Pinch My Salt….with modifications.   I also wanted to make just one loaf (I was running out of flour)!  Yes, I know, baking can’t/shouldn’t be approached the same way as cooking…if you add an extra carrot to your stew, you haven’t ruined it, you just have more carrots in it, but, if you add ingredients on a whim in baking, you can be in real trouble.

That said, I decided that one of my problems in Part I was too much flour…I figured, if the dough wasn’t sticky it probably meant too much flour was added…so, this time around I added 1 cup of starter, but only 1 1/2 cups of flour and 3/4 cups of water to make the sponge.  Then, after the sponge was active, I only added enough flour till it “felt right”.  How did I know this when I don’t bake bread?  I didn’t…but I had watched my aunt make bread many times and I just went by how it looked….I know, not good science for bread making, but she never really measured everything precisely either.

After I added the additional flour to the sponge (about 1 cup and I only used 1/2 teaspoon salt)  I started to knead it…really knead it this time, and I watched a U-Tube video and tried my best to match what they did.  Once again, I nestled it onto an oiled bowl and covered it with a damp towel, but sadly, again the dough didn’t rise very much, but after 2 hours I decided to knead it again and form it into a loaf to rise one last time.

I knead, I shape, and I place it in it’s cozy warm spot…but,  it’s getting late and I need to bake this before I go to bed.  So, after an hour of rest and not very much of a rise,  into the oven it goes.

Result:  It came out more brown and bigger….hooray!  We eat it the next day and it’s a bit dense and the holes are uneven, but the flavor is good, not too sour, and it’s crusty and brown.  I’m now thinking that it’s a kneading issue and that next time (oh no, Doughvember is almost over) I should use the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook. So, I’m not giving up…I fed the starter again today…maybe I’ll get this right by next Doughvember!

Becoming a Better Baker – Part I – Sourdough Bread Baking for Doughvember

Early this month I was inspired by Nicole, Pinch My Salt, to participate in Doughvember, which she started with Linda, Salty Seattle, to encourage us to bake all things sourdough.  Please check out Nicole’s great post on how to make sourdough bread, here.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you probably guessed/know that I cook more than I bake, but I’m striving to become better at baking….so when found out I could get some dehydrated sourdough starter from Nicole at the International Food Bloggers Conference earlier this month,  I jumped at the chance.  I did have some old starter that languished in the freezer for 2 years (but didn’t come around when defrosted).

So, I met Nicole (who was extremely nice, by the way),  tucked my little packet of starter in my bag and soon I was back home  beginning my Doughvember adventure.

It started out well, I kept feeding, the starter kept growing.  This went on for days…feeding…growing, until it was pushing out of the top of the Mason jar.  I figured now was the time….except it was Thanksgiving morning and I didn’t have that extra oven I was going to need.  But, I made the sponge and it grew just like it was supposed to.  Then I popped it into the fridge for the day so that I could concentrate on making Thanksgiving dinner for my family.

I took it out the next day and set about making the bread.  I let the sponge warm up and then added the flour, salt and water and started kneading (wish I had watched a video…am I doing this right?).  It had been a very long time since I had seen my aunt do this.  Funny, the directions say it’s going to be very sticky, but it’s really not…is this a problem?

I put it in the lightly greased bowl, cover it, and wait for it to rise…and nothing happens. I leave it in there an extra 2 hours…maybe it’s just a tad bit bigger.  OK, time to divide and conquer…right?  Not really, the 2 little (boules) that I make don’t rise either…uh oh!

The oven is on and I pop them in…what do I have to lose at this point?  Maybe they’ll just be a bit small.  Hubs calls out for me to check the oven, it smells like something is burning!  Burning…they’re not even brown!  The flour on the sheet is brown, but not those little loaves…they are very pale…and very small.

What happened?  Did the sponge lose it’s life when I put it in the fridge?  Did the salt kill the yeast because I didn’t whisk it with the flour well enough?  Didn’t I knead it properly?  I certainly gave it enough time to react…and it was kept in the same warm place I kept the starter.

I’m trying not to be discouraged…I have feed the starter again, and it is doing  well.  To be continued…

 

Miso Caper Glazed Salmon Recipe from Party Like a Culinista Cookbook

Many say that the way to achieve success is to find a need and fill it.  That’s just what Jill Donenfeld did several years ago when she started her company, The Culinistas, and coined the term as the name for the personal home chefs that cook with her.  Even though Jill went to New York with fashion on her mind, she ended up with a very successful culinary business located in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and her clients include many A-list celebrities.

Her premise was that extremely busy people want to eat healthy meals at home with their families, but sometimes their schedules did not permit them to shop, prep and prepare home cooked meals.   Her idea of healthy, freshly prepared meals, made in your own  kitchen from carefully selected ingredients and then packaged so that you could mix, match and easily serve them was the answer to many parent’s dream…or single person’s dream, as well.  Nutritious, home cooked meals to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home…great idea, right?  And, they leave your kitchen spotless…what could be better?

As her business expanded,  Jill needed to hire other Culinistas and that’s when Josie walked into her life and they have been a great team ever since…preparing dishes high in nutrients with eco-friendly ingredients and a nod to a bit of indulgence now and then.

Josie (left), Jill (right)

Enter another great idea…what if you create a cookbook using your popular recipes and structured it so that people will learn how to prepare for a party…even down to knowing at what point in the preparation they should get dressed!  In their new cookbook, Party Like a Culinista, they give planning tips, checklists, menu ideas and of course, great recipes.

I met with Jill and Josie at their book signing in my hometown at the fashionable boutique, Alligator Purse.  By the time I arrived, they already had quite a fan club gathered,  including one gal who was buying Party Like a Culinista for everyone on her holiday shopping list!

From left to right - Linda, Susie, Beryl, Josie and Jill

Jill said that her mother Beryl, a noted personal fitness instructor, taught her the importance of good nutrition balanced with great taste and an eye for calorie content.  She also said that cooking together is a tradition at their  house…at Thanksgiving everyone gathers in the kitchen and prepares a special dish to serve.  I’m sure that’s a very healthy, tasty meal.

Beryl and Jill

Josie also loves to get together with her family, cooking, eating and sharing… she said that sometimes when you are enjoying each others company, you find out something about those close to you that you never knew…recently she found out her mother can do the splits!

I love the fact that Jill and Josie are both believers in the importance of having dinner with your family and friends whenever possible.  In fact, the dedication for their book says, “This cookbook is dedicated to our families who taught us to cook with love, share the table, and celebrate”.

I know that many of us can’t afford to have The Culinistas cook for our family, but we can share their recipes and respect for family dinners. If you are looking for inspiration and fun advice for your upcoming holiday parties, this is the book for you…or if you are looking for a great gift idea for those who love fun and healthy meals, this might be your answer.

I thought that you might like to prepare one of the recipes from the book, so I received permission from Jill, Josie and their publisher, Lake Isle Press, Inc.  to share this one with you to serve at your next party or Sunday supper with your family and friends.

Make it special, make it Sunday!

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Miso Caper Glazed Salmon

Yield: 6-8

Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Tasty, easy salmon recipe for a party or a weeknight meal.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup capers in brine
1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1/2 cup mirin
2 pounds salmon fillet

Directions:

When I prepared this dish, I asked to have the salmon sliced and the skin removed, to make the dish even easier.

Crush the capers with a fork. Whisk together the capers, miso, olive oil, agave and mirin.

Slice the salmon fillet into 6 or 8 pieces and marinate the salmon in the miso-caper mixture either in a covered dish, or sealed plastic bag for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet and bake until salmon is opaque and flakes easily, about 20 minutes.

I garnished the dish with additional capers.

Enjoy!