Tuesday, November 17

Pumpkin Petit Fours

Why not?

This is a Pumpkin Spice cookie recipe, made into a sheet pan and cut into pumpkin shapes. They've been frosted with a basic powdered-sugar icing (some were given a spice glaze as well).

Wednesday, November 11

Seasonal Gifts?

I have been trying to come up with some new ideas for gifts this year. Things that are consumable or reusable and not just "stuff".

A few years ago, gifts in a jar were all the rage, but it's not incredibly special to just layer the ingredients, right? Why not take this a step further and do some sand art? It isn't difficult if you have a little patience, some small measuring spoons, a bamboo skewer, and a sense of humor.

First, an online video showing how an artist in Petra, Jordan, creates images in sand.

Simple, right?!

My first attempt, making a pine tree from the Mexican Spice mix. I highly recommend you make a lot of practice attempts, perhaps while mixing up enough spices for your own consumption, because it isn't incredibly easy, and you'll need to play around with it. Also, I suggest you don't forget an ingredient (like I did with the corn starch - you can see it piled up on the top). Pick out a design that is simple, and hide the unneeded colors in the middle of the jar for 'filler' - the chili powder and red pepper are stuffed in the middle of this jar since the design didn't have any red in it.

Simple holiday designs could include:
Snowman, Tree, Christmas Tree Ornament, Star, Candle, Candy Cane - if you're ambitious try a scene or a decorated tree? Please let me know how yours turn out if you make these.

Mexican Spice Mix
3/4 cup dried minced onion OR 1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup chili powder
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons dried red pepper, crushed
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 Tablespoons dried minced garlic
2 Tablespoons ground cumin

add 2 Tablespoons mix and 1/2 cup water to 1 lb browned, drained, ground beef, heat through until water mostly boils off.

Spaghetti Spice Mix
1/2 Tablespoon celery seed
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried minced garlic
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons dried minced onions OR 2 teaspoons onion powder

Add 1 Tablespoon mix per 1 cup spaghetti sauce.

Monday, November 9

Maple-Pecan cookies

A favorite fall cookie here, these are best when made with real maple syrup.

1 1/2 cups butter, soft
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed firm
2 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 cups flour
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

semi-sweet or dark melting chocolate (optional)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and syrup until combined. Beat in flour and pecans (you may need to finish by hand, some mixers will bind with the stiff dough).

Chill dough 1-2 hours to ease handling.

Roll into 1/4 inch thick slab and cut out cookies. Bake at 375° F for 10-14 minutes, or until browned on edges. Cool on wire racks.

Dip cooled cookies into melted chocolate, if desired.

I prefer using a small oak leaf cutter and an acorn cutter (dipping the acorn tops in chocolate for a cap). The smaller cookies are addictive, though, since it's so tiny, it must have only a couple calories. Be sure to let them bake until you see bits of brown on the edges. The additional browning adds a wonderful toasty flavor, although they have a good shortbread-like flavor when just barely baked.