Peppermint-Chocolate Layered Dessert

This uses three ingredients.  Now that’s a quick dessert.  However, it does need to spend some time in the freezer.
So, please, begin this the night before your event, in order to let this freeze solid.

Ingredients
One 14 oz. package chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreo type)
1/2 cube (4 ounces) melted butter
One 1-1/2 quart container of peppermint ice cream

Preparation

Prepare the pan by lightly greasing the bottom only of a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Fold a length of parchment paper in half, creasing well.  Use that crease to center the parchment paper, then smooth out, letting the paper overhang the long edges by about 2-3.”  Set aside.

I’m crushing them more!

Put all the cookies into a zipper plastic bag, OR into a bowl OR into your food processor (easiest).  Crush them thoroughly, or if you have a food processor, pulse until the texture of fine gravel, or chunky sand.  The crumbs should be small, with no obvious big chunks of cookie.

Reserve one cup of the this pulverized mixture for the crumble topping, and if it’s not really fine, do some more crushing.  Set aside.

Place the remainder of the crushed cookies into a mixing bowl, and add 1/4 cup melted butter.  (I like the real thing.)  Mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan, and press firmly with the back of a spoon to even out the crushed cookies.  Place in freezer until solid, about 2 hours.

Set out one carton of ice cream on the counter for about 15 minutes, or until the carton yields slightly when squeezed.  Dump (squirt, sort of ) into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle beater, let sit for about another 10 minutes.  Turn on mixer slowly, then up to medium, while you beat the ice cream into a creamy mixture.  If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment, use a bowl and a sturdy spoon.  You don’t want the mixture to melt; it should be creamy, not runny.  Work fast if you are doing it by hand.

Spoon it out onto the frozen layer of crushed cookie in glops; spread evenly.

Sprinkle with the reserved cookie crumbs, and refreeze.  It will take at least four to six hours for the ice cream to freeze properly.

Why the overhanging parchment paper?  When you are ready to serve, lift it out onto a board, cut with a knife, then replace remainder back into the pan. Store dessert in the freezer, either with the lid to your 9 x 13, or with foil.  (This is shown just before it received its crumb topping.)

Cranberry Curd Pie

I first saw this on the New York Times website, then saw it again on the Bon Appetit website, then about a bajillion other bot-driven websites (all looking the same, all “authored” by a single-named woman, who promised hearth and home and happiness while inundating the viewer with ads-ads-ads).  What is it with these robot websites??

I read about 90% of the comments on the NYTimes recipe site pertaining to this recipe, and have incorporated my changes below.  This pie is gluten-free because I wanted to make it for a woman at my church who can’t eat gluten, and has not had a dessert at a church dinner in a millenia.  This is my holiday gift to her, and to you.  First, the recipe, then the photos (reverse of the usual).

Cranberry Curd Pie

Almond Crust
2 cups almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
Place in medium bowl, stir to mix (or use food processor).

Cut in 6 Tablespoons of softened butter, until crumbs are fine, and you can gather the dough together in your hands.  If too dry, add 1-2 Tablespoons water, a bit at a time.  Press dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with removeable bottom; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom.  Prick all over with a fork.  Tear off a piece of aluminum foil the size of the tart pan, and butter the dull side.  Press onto your tart butter-side down; freeze for at least 30 minutes.  This can be made a couple of days ahead.  Just make sure the aluminum foil seals the tart well. (photos below)

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chilled tart shell with the foil into the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully take off the foil.  Finish baking for another 5 minutes.  Cool.

Cranberry Curd Filling
12 ounces cranberries, washed and picked over (almost 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
Peel of one orange, removed with a vegetable peeler, in strips (then rip into about 2″ pieces)
Juice of one orange, or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1-1/2 Teaspoons cornstarch
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened

Put cranberries, sugar, orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, and liquid has diminished, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove orange peels.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until berries are not noticeable in the pan.

Set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl, and spoon the cranberry mixture into the sieve, pressing it into the bowl. (See note below about what remains in the sieve.)

Wash the pan (or get another).  Break in the two eggs, then add in the two egg yolks.  Stir to break up yolks.  Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons (1/2 Tablespoon) cornstarch until blended.  You may see some white bumps; ignore.

Spoon cranberry puree into the yolk mixture.  Set over low heat, and constantly whisking/stirring, bring mixture to a temperature of between 140 and 160.  The commenters noted that when properly cooked, the curd should coat a spoon.  This took me about 15 minutes.  I did keep it constantly stirring, but I wasn’t beating it.  I didn’t want to incorporate any air into the mixture and disrupt the anticipated color.

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter a bit at a time, whisking well in between each addition.  Again, don’t incorporate air in your mixing.  Let cool to room temperature (mine was a little warmer), and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, in order to set the curd.  Cool on a rack.  Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sugared Cranberries for topping

Boil together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water until mixture is at a full boil and looks clear.  If you have time, let the syrup cool.
Wash and pick out your best handful of berries (3/4 to 1 cup), and stir into the syrup, making sure they are well coated.  Remove to a fine rack (or into a strainer).

Sprinkle some sugar onto a square of waxed paper, and sprinkle some more over the top.  Then roll the berries in the sugar.  If they are well-drained, you won’t get clumps of sugar, but a nice, even coating.  Let cool and dry, then decorate the top.  I meant to clip some mint sprigs to place at the center berries; you might want to consider this.

Cooks Notes:

After all was said and done, I had about 1/2 cup left of the cranberry mash in my sieve from making the curd.  This went nicely with a slice of Cranberry-Orange Bread that I had in the freezer, as it’s like a jam. Store in the refrigerator.

If using the almond crust, best eaten on the day you make it.
Day One: it was perfection.
Day Two: crust was really soft, but curd was still good.

Alternate crust: Sweet Tart Dough (more like a shortbread cookie)

Curd can made be ahead.  Cover curd with plastic wrap (pressing it against the surface of the curd) and refrigerate up to one week.

Now the photos!

Roasted Root Vegetables (for Christmas Dinner)

vegetables before roasting

Roasted Root Vegetables

12 – 13 cups red potatoes chunks (4 lbs.)
6 cups sliced carrots (2 lbs.)
8 cups chopped onions (4 medium – about 2 lbs.)
2 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Cut up the vegetables (and photo, above):

  • Scrub potatoes.  Leave skins on but cut off any bad spots. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again and slice once crossways.  (If a potato is unusually large or small, adjust cuts accordingly.) In other words, you’ll end up with 8 chunks per average size potato.
  • Peel carrots.  Trim small end on the diagonal.  Cut each carrot on the diagonal about 1 1/2” long and about ¾” wide. (Do not include the top end.)
  • Peel onions.  Cut each in half lengthwise.  Cut each half lengthwise two or three times so that the cuts are about 1” apart.  Cut these pieces across into about 1” pieces.  Don’t worry.  These will all cook down.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and toss together along with melted butter,  olive oil and seasonings.

Meanwhile, place two large rimmed baking sheets in oven and preheat to 450F.  When oven is ready, remove baking sheets and spread half of vegetable mixture onto each one. (NOTE: If the vegetables are too crowded, they will steam, not roast.  Please give them room.)

Use a pancake turner or wide spatula to turn vegetables over and mix around about every 15 minutes for about an hour until nicely browned.  Switch the top pan to the lower rack and the bottom pan to the lower rack about midway to promote even browning.  Some of the onion pieces may get quite dark.  Don’t worry about.  It adds flavor and an earthy look.

Cover the pans with foil or combine the batches into one container to deliver to the church kitchen by 5:45 p.m..  From there we will combine all of the contributions into roaster ovens to keep warm. Please take your own pans to your car to take home to wash.

Thank you!

Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

1 ½ – 2 pounds brussels sprouts
¼ cup olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon (or 10 grinds) black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To prepare the brussels sprouts, remove any yellow or brown outer leaves, cut off the stems and cut in half.
In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Once all of the brussels sprouts are coated in oil, spread them into a 9-by-13-inch (or larger) baking dish or sheet tray to roast. Note: You may want to line your sheet tray with foil for easy cleanup because the caramelizing process leaves a sticky residue.
After 15 minutes, stir the brussels sprouts with a spatula or large spoon to even out the browning. After 30 minutes, stir in the maple syrup. Continue to roast the brussels sprouts for about 15 more minutes, or until they are fork tender (about 45 minutes total roasting time).  Toss the roasted brussels sprouts with the hazelnuts and devour!

NOTE: If your sprouts are on the smallish side, they may need less time overall.  Cook only until fork tender.

To toast hazelnuts, place in pan over low heat, tossing or stirring frequently so they don’t burn.  They should let off a fragrance when they are toasted, in probably no more than 5 minutes total time.

Quince with Cipollini Onions and Bacon

quince recipe

Another New York Times recipe, this is also interesting and delicious.  It all started when I had a quince and apple pie at our quilter’s night (thank you, Simone) and then the New York Times did a fabulous feature on all these recipes from all over the United States, where I found this one.  I think it’s a stellar side dish for Thanksgiving.  Because there are two of us, I halved it, so that’s what you see in the photos.

quince quince recipe1 quince recipe2

Ingredients
1 pound cipollini onions
***Note: If you can’t find the cipollini onions, substitute golden pearl onions.***
2 ½ to 3 pounds quinces (about 5), peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
6 tablespoons pure syrup [Grade A, medium amber]
½ pound thick-cut bacon
4 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh thyme

Preparation

cipolini  Bring 2 quarts water to a boil, add the onions, turn off the heat and let sit 5   minutes. Drain and allow to cool.  {NOTE: The packaging from the onions said to cut off one end, and then kind of “squirt” out the inner onion out of its skin.  I did this.}

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss quinces with half the maple syrup and spread in a single layer in a large baking pan. Bake 25 minutes, until tender.

Peel and trim the onions. Quarter large ones; cut small ones in half. Fry bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat until browned. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add onions to the pan and sauté on medium until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

Cut bacon strips in 3/4-inch pieces. Add to pan with onions. Reduce heat to low. Add remaining maple syrup and the vinegar. Fold in quince. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and thyme. Gently fold ingredients together. Cook a few minutes, then serve warm.

Cranberry Sauce with Grape Juice, Vanilla and Spices

cranberry sauceI wanted to try a new version of cranberry sauce this year, and found this one on the New York Times website.  Since I don’t drink alcohol, I tried it with grape juice and it was still really delicious.  See Cook’s Notes at end regarding the amount of sweeteners.

Time needed: 20 minutes, plus cooling  Yield: 2 1/2 cups

10 whole allspice berries (I took that to mean “whole allspice”; see note below)
10 whole cloves
10 whole black peppercorns
Combine allspice, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground.

———-Or, just use powdered spices, substituting 1/2 tsp. of each for the whole spices——

3 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 cup Welch’s purple grape juice
3/4 to  1 cup light brown sugar**
3/4 to 1 cup clover or wildflower honey**
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
4 strips orange zest, about 1 inch by 3 inches, removed with a vegetable peeler
1 (6-inch) sprigs rosemary
1 small cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod

Preparation
In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, grape juice, brown sugar, honey, orange juice, orange zest, rosemary, cinnamon stick and ground spices.  With the tip of a paring knife, split vanilla pod lengthwise. Use the back of the knife to scrape seeds from pod. Add seeds and pod to pot.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring often, until cranberries have burst and liquid thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and discard zest, rosemary sprig, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool.

**Important: TASTE the sauce.  Start with the lesser amount of sugar and honey and add as needed.  Early in the season my oranges are more tart so I need to use the full complement of sweeteners.  Later, when the oranges are more sweet, I can use the lesser amount of honey and/or brown sugar.  This sauce should be tart, balanced by sweet.

Updated November 2016

Change-Your-Life Turkey

Turkey all doneOr at least that’s what Bon Appetit Magazine calls it: “The Turkey That Will Change Your Life.”  I’m never having it another way.  Yep, I’ve found THE recipe, and here it is:

Spatchcocked Turkey with Anise and Orange, from Bon Appetit, November 2014

To start, watch this video:
http://video.bonappetit.com/watch/thanksgiving-manual-how-to-spatchcock-a-turkey

Most butchers will remove the backbone for you. Lots of guests? Roast two 12–14-pounders; spatchcocking anything larger will be harder and takes longer.

Ingredients

Servings: 8–10

5 teaspoons aniseed
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup finely grated orange zest, plus 4 wide strips orange zest
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, sprig reserved
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, sprigs reserved
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 12–14-lb. turkey (neck, giblets, and backbone removed and reserved)
2 medium onions, quartered
4 large carrots, peeled, halved
4 celery stalks
3 heads garlic, halved
½ cup olive oil

Preparation
Toast aniseed in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool; finely grind in a spice mill or a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, chop with a knife, or do what I do: put it in a small resealable bag and pound it with a food mallet.)

Finely chop salt, grated zest, sugar, chopped rosemary, thyme leaves, pepper, and 4 tsp. aniseed in a food processor.

Place turkey, skin side down, on a cutting board. Use a knife to score down long oblong bone in the center of breast. Turn skin side up and press down on breastbone to flatten. You should hear a crack and feel the bones give way. Rub all over with salt mixture; place turkey, skin side up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and chill, uncovered, 6–18 hours. (Note: Of course, I forgot to do this, so I put it in the refrigerator that morning, then roasted it about 4 hours later, and it was still amazing.)

Turkey into ovenPreheat oven to 450°. Arrange onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme and rosemary sprigs in a roasting pan. Rinse turkey, pat dry, and place, skin side up, on top of vegetables; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil, orange zest strips, and remaining aniseed in a small saucepan until oil is sizzling, about 2 minutes; let cool slightly.

Turkey on boardBrush turkey with oil, add ½ cup water to pan, and roast turkey 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to roast, brushing with oil every 20 minutes, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°, about 1 hour longer. Transfer to a platter; tent with foil and let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

Here’s their version of how to cut it up:

spatchcocked-turkey

from here

Reindeer Christmas Cookies

My daughter informed me that these are all over Pinterest, but I found them by following a series of links to *this* page, where I swear this cook has photoshopped her cookies to look that good.  Or maybe she’s just a better baker than I am, or maybe it’s because I substituted a cube of butter for some of that shortening — thinking it would taste better — but forgot how soft it makes cookies.  So note to self: don’t swap out the shortening.  Now, prep your stuff.

I couldn’t find baby chocolate-dipped pretzels, so if you think I was going to dip them all, you don’t know me very well.  Spend your time where it counts, and improvise the rest.  So I cut all my sort-of-mini pretzels in half.  Antlers are kind of hoary looking, aren’t they?

I purchased minty white chocolate M&Ms for the nose.  They come in a package with red and white.  We ate all the white ones, while saving the red ones for this project.  I had also purchased mini M&Ms for the eyes.  We decided we liked brown and blue, and that the reindeer with the green eyes looked like Zombie Reindeer (so that would be for a different holiday).

Make up a double batch of the dough in the Christmas Kiss cookies. Roll them into 1-inch balls, but I have to admit that I used my cookie scooper, which I think is 1 and 1/2 inches. Place a couple of scoops of sugar in a large plastic baggie, drop in the balls of cookie dough, and shake lightly to coat them with sugar (so much easier than rolling them around in a dish).

Flatten them slightly with the bottom of a glass, then pinch their “nose” slightly, to get that elongated shape.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.  QUICKLY set in a matching pair of antlers, then do the nose, then the eyes last.  Or get someone to help you: my husband did all the antlers while I was throwing on noses and eyeballs.

Let cool on the cookie sheet.  When mostly cool, transfer to a rack.

NOTE: you can see I used parchment paper on this batch.  You can buy it in rolls from the grocery store or (now) from Costco.  If you don’t use parchment paper, the world won’t end.  However, you may want to transfer your cookies to the cooling rack when they are still sort of warm, instead waiting until they are really cool.

Christmas Kiss Cookies

Cream together:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar.

Add:

1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not flavoring, use extract!).

Mix together then add to creamed mixture:

1 3/4 cup flour  (I use 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, and 1 cup white flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter, roll in granulated (white) sugar.  Bake in 350 oven for about 8-10 minutes or until set.  Take out of oven and immediately press a chocolate kiss into center.  Remove to wire rack  to cool.  Kisses will get soft as they take on the heat of the cookies, but will firm up again as the cookies cool.

Cranberry-Cherry Pinwheels

A few years ago I bought this sliver of a book, Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies, and thumbed through it to find a cookie or two to try.  I placed little pieces of torn paper as bookmarks–which the book still has.  But I don’t need one for this page, as I’ve made it so much, it opens by itself exactly here.  I like these cookies because you can make them ahead of time and store them in the freezer.  Some slicing and a quick bake and they’re ready to go.  They are also one of the few things on the holiday table that is lower in fat, but they still have a delicious flavor with the sweet-tangy cherry-cranberry filling and the dough with its grated orange zest. There are a few steps to this recipe, but it’s not difficult.

Filling
Combine in a medium saucepan:
1 and 1/2 cups dried cranberries ( 6 ounces)
1 jar (10 ounces) cherry preserves
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Simmer, stirring frequently, for 5-8 minutes, or until the mixture is soft and most liquid is absorbed.  Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until cool.  Filling may be stored up to 48 hours.  Let return to room temperature and stire well before using.

Dough
Using a wire whisk, thoroughly stir together and set aside:
3 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (16.75 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Using an electric mixer, beat together until very well blended:
1/4 cup butter, softened (2 oz.)
3 tablespoons corn or canola oil
1 and 1/4 cups sugar (8.75 oz.)
3 large egg whites
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel (about 1 small orange)

Beat in half of the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then stir in the remainder until well blended.

Divide the dough in half.  Form each half into a rough oblong shape about 6 inches long.  Center each log on a 12-inch-long sheet of wax paper.  Cover with a second 12-inch-long sheet of wax paper.  Press, then roll each log into an even 11-inch square, occasionally checking the underside of the dough and smooth out any creases.  Patch the dough as necessary to make the sides relatively straight.

Working with one square of dough at a time, peel away and discard the top sheet of wax paper.  Spread half of the filling evening over the entire surface of the dough; the filling layer will be thin.

Using the second sheet of wax paper, roll up the pinwheel, by easing the dough onto itself; use the paper to assist you.

Wrap the roll in wax paper (I use the existing sheet), and twist the ends to prevent unrolling.  Place on a tray or cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Freeze for at least 2 and 1/2 hours or until the rolls are firm enough to be cut neatly.  (If you wish to bake them much later, place the rolls in a plastic bag for up to a month.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.  Cut the rolls crosswise into scant 1/4″ slices.  Place them on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Try as I might, my cookies are always misshapen, so I kind of squeeze them into shape at this point.   Bake in the upper third of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the tops are VERY lightly colored.  One of the attractions for this cookie is that they are pale with that brilliantly colored red filling.

Drag the entire sheet of parchment paper from your baking sheet to a cooling rack, and let them cool.  Store, airtight, for 10 days, or freeze for up to one month.  I promise you no one will complain that yours are as lopsided as mine.

I made them up into favors for my lesson to the church ladies at Christmastime.  Here’s the front, and then the back.

Some time ago I had purchased 8 1/2 by 11- inch sheets of “sticker” paper.  I print out what I want to say, cut them into shape then peel and stick them on the treat bags.  The filling is kind of sticky sometimes, so I sandwiched a piece of fancy wax paper between the two cookies.