Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Spirit

This is our first Christmas in the condo in Florida and I feel so blessed.  We have had a wonderful year,in spite of medical setbacks, we are two lucky people.  The only thing missing is our family.  We didn't realize being so far away was going to be so difficult. There were so many times I wish I could have jumped in a car to hold my sister or sit and laugh with my brother.  That's the reason we have put the condo up for sale.  The market here is so very slow, we probably won't get any bites until the Spring-and then we will be on the road. Such is life.
I've been trying to get in the Christmas mode, but it's been challenging.  I don't want to buy a tree because it's just another thing to haul back across the country when we do make the move.  So I have 2 little Santas and a couple of other little Christmas decorations.
Today, I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself and I needed to get in the Christmas spirit. So I do what I always do -bake.

This was my preliminary list of recipes:
Coconut macaroons
Baileys Thumbprint Cookies
My go to spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Decorated sugar cookies
Raspberry pie shortbread cookies
World Peace Cookies

I'm proud (or crazy) to say I baked most of them !  Ha, I skipped the World Peace Cookies (so if something goes awry in the world it's not my fault ) and I didn't get around to the raspberry shortbread either.  Baking does bring back so many wonderful memories.  I had the Steeler game on and the TV screened turned towards the kitchen so I could watch and cheer my team while mixing-and I didn't get any ingredients wrong !

My wish is that my family would show up on my doorstep to share these cookies-but that's a wish that needs a genie in a bottle. So instead, I'll share the cookies with our adopted family of neighbors, the police and fire department.  These are friends who stepped in when I was rushed to the hospital with a concussion and took Hailey under their wing.  They didn't have to-they hadn't even met us yet.  But they co-ordinated among themselves, and it relieved so much stress for Jim and myself not having to worry about Hailey.  And of course Hailey was spoiled to death.  These are good folks here and we will definitely miss them when we do move.

Now I'm into my second day of baking-remember that Christmas on the Oregon coast when I took cookies with me to decorate while the winter storms kept us inside.

These were some of the ones I created on the Oregon Coast that year !

 I look back at those cookies and think I must have had a temporary lapse of sanity.  Even though I did a lot this year, honestly I kept it kind of simple. Those of you who know me, know I'm an all or nothing kind of gal. Tried to change that about me,but decided I liked it -I like to throw myself into anything and everything I do with all the passion and love I can muster. And when it's time for the nothing at all side of me-well I can relax with the best of them !

Clockwise from about 9 o'clock-Coconut Macaroons-Baileys Thumbprints-Russian Tea Cookies aka Mexican Wedding Cookies.

Coconut Macaroons
Thank you David Lebovitz for this fabulous recipe

4 large egg whites
1¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2½ cups unsweetened coconut (see note)
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

In a large skillet, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour.Heat over low-to-moderate heat on the stove top, stirring constantly, scraping the bottom as you stir.
When the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
(At this point, the mixture can be chilled for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months.)
When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch mounds with your fingers evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes,(watch your oven carefully-my electric baked these quickly-12 minutes) until deep golden brown. Cool completely.
To dip the macaroons in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave.) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Dip the bottoms of each cookie in the chocolate and set the cookies on the baking sheet. Refrigerate 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate is set.Note: Unsweetened coconut is available in most natural-food shops or you can purchase it online.It goes under various names, such as coconut powder, medium shredded coconut, and coconut flakes. All will work well in this recipe.

Baileys Irish Cream Thumbprints
Recipe from Tutti-Dolce
2 2/3 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup heavy cream
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream
Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla, then reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls; place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and press a well into the center of each with the handle of a wooden spoon. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes. Bake for 7 minutes, then remove from oven and press centers again. Bake until firm, 5 minutes more. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the ganache, pour cream into a saucepan and bring just to a boil over high heat. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl; pour cream over chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool 5 minutes; whisk in Baileys. Working quickly, use a spoon to fill each thumbprint with warm ganache. Let set before serving.
Yield – 54 cookies (more or less depending on what size you start with )

Russian Tea Cookies (aka Mexican Wedding Cookies)
Thanks to Crazy for Crust for this delicious recipe
Mom’s Russian Teacakes
Yield: 48 cookies(I doubled this recipe and it performed beautifully)

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
Powdered sugar for rolling
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Mix butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and
salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the nuts. If dough is too soft, chill it until you
can work it easily with your hands.
3. Scoop 1 tablespoon balls of dough and place on prepared cookie sheet.
4. Bake cookies for 7to 8 minutes until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool
for just a minute, until you can handle them. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each
cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack to cool. (Once cookies are cooled, you may
want to re roll them in more powdered sugar to give them a beautiful powdery dusting.)

Love the edible gold glitter stars

You can find my sugar cookie recipe here:

And my gingerbread recipe here:

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah.