Christmas Cookie Round-up 2012

Haul out the holly! It’s time for a holly, jolly holiday!

(10 points to anyone who can guess which Broadway musical I am referencing)

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Yesterday, I invited a few friends over for a Christmas party. Being the over-achiever that I am, and not wanting to put anyone out with my dietary restrictions, I decided to make all the cookies myself. I heated up my little apartment with the stove going all day as I rolled and mixed and sprinkled powdered sugar & cinnamon. It was like Christmas exploded in my kitchen!32401_10101635107712882_1324212968_n

Confession: I have an almost compulsive need to completely clean the kitchen between baking each kind of cookie. I put all of the ingredients away, wash and dry the bowls and spoons and return them to their respective cupboards, and wipe down the counters. Then, I recenter myself, pull out the needed ingredients, and start on the next cookie. Some might call it obsessive. I prefer to think of it as organized.

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Anywho… I went through my cookie recipe archives and pulled out a few of my favorites. The star of the evening? Definitely the Vegan Mexican Wedding Cookies, which we discovered have about 5 other names, depending on which country you hail from. (ie Russian Tea Cookies, German Pfeffernussen…. the list goes on) Whatever you chose to call them, they are delicious!

I also found a recipe for homemade Cinnamon Ornaments. With only three ingredients, cinnamon, applesauce, and cloves, they are incredibly easy and make fun gifts for party attendees!

Now, strap on that apron, put on your Santa hat, and get baking!

(Hint: Click on the cookie name to see the recipe.)

Vegan Mexican Wedding Cookies

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

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Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

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Mint Chocolate Fudgie Babies

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Cinnamon Ornaments

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Cacao Nib Meringues

Colorado is a notoriously difficult state for bakers.

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Recipes must be tweaked to include more liquid (or less flour, whichever you prefer), extra leavening agents, and increased oven temperatures. Baking in the high altitude and dry climate is enough to intimidate even the most seasoned of bakers, not to mention a gluten-free one, at that!

Before moving here from Florida, I did quite a bit of research on the changes that would need to be made to my recipes, and, thankfully, the transition hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I had imagined. In fact, Colorado has allowed me to bake something Florida would never have allowed, Meringues!!!!

Meringues are fluffy, pillows of whipped egg whites and sugar that require a rather dry climate in order to be baked. The inherent Florida humidity that wreaked havoc on my naturally curly hair would have also wreaked havoc on the meringues’ texture. Too much moisture in the air ruins any possibility of accomplishing the hollow, crumbly interior of a true meringue. Colorado, however, is practically Saharan in comparison, and the perfect climate for baking meringues.

My first attempt turned out to be a winner! I used the below recipe, courtesy of the incomparable Joy the Baker, substituting an ingredient or two here and there. Since I do not keep white sugar in the house, I used turbinado sugar, which gave my cookies a darker color than traditional meringues. The taste? Perfection!

Now separate those egg whites and “whip it! Whip it good!”

Cacao Nib Meringues

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

adapted from Joy the Baker – Vanilla Bean and Cacao Nib Meringues

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Ingredients:

  • 3 large Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 tsp Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 3 Tblsp Cacao Nibs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites on medium speed until frothy.
  5. Add salt and cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until egg whites are at the soft peak stage. Egg whites will be very frothy with small bubbles.
  6. Slowly add the sugar/vanilla mixture to the egg whites, increase the mixer speed to high, and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form. Egg whites will be “spoonable”.
  7. Remove bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in the cacao nibs.
  8. Spoon 2 heaping Tblsp of egg white mixture per cookie onto parchment lined baking sheet. Should equal about 12 cookies.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes until lightly browned and hollow sending when lightly flicked with a finger.
  10. Cool completely before removing from the parchment paper.

Smoked Pumpkin Risotto

This afternoon, it was 50 degrees and sunny. Tonight, it is 21 degrees and snowing.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME COLORADO?!!!

Not that I mind. In fact, it worked out beautifully. I was able to run all of my errands which included:

  1. Having 2 tires patched due to slow leaks caused by running over nails. (I don’t know how that happened….)
  2. Shipping a Christmas gift to my Aunt & Uncle.
  3. Grocery shopping.
  4. Picking up packages that were delivered while I was out of town.
  5. Stopping by the office to tie up some loose ends from the week.
  6. ………

You get the idea. I accomplished everything on my list, practiced my Spanish for 2 hours (I’m trying to teach myself), and still had time to experiment with a new recipe. By the time the snow started, I was curled up on my couch with a piping hot bowl of risotto and a glass of red wine. A lovely reward for a productive day.

I started by roasting rustic Shiitake mushrooms with fresh rosemary and thyme and finished with a sprinkling of Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Cheese. Perfection!

Smoked Pumpkin Risotto

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

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Ingredients:

  • 2.5 oz sliced Shiitake Musthrooms
  • 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh Thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Smoked Sundried Tomatoes, julienned
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 3 sprigs fresh Thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh Sage, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry White Wine
  • 3 cups Chicken Stock, warmed
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 large handfuls Baby Kale
  • Black Pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tblsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • 2 Tblsp Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Shreds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Gently toss until evenly coated. Place in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Drizzle 1 tsp EVOO in a large saucepan and heat over medium low heat.
  4. Saute onion until translucent. Add garlic and sundried tomatoes and saute until fragrant.
  5. Pour the rice into the saucepan and toast for 1 minutes.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook until absorbed.
  7. Add the fresh herbs.
  8. Add 1/3 cup warm chicken stock and stir until absorbed. Continue adding stock 1/3 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding another 1/3 cup stock. Repeat until rice is cooked and broth is absorbed.
  9. Stir in the pumpkin puree and stir until smooth.
  10. Stir in the baby kale and cook until wilted.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and Daiya. Stir until evenly combined.
  12. Serve immediately.

Indian-Spiced Halibut Curry

Well, hello!…

It’s been 3 weeks since we last shared a kitchen together. If your life has been anything like mine, it has been a bustle of holiday activity. I visited GF Guy for a week in Oklahoma. (And, yes, he LOVED the Banana Bread.) Then, I booked a last minute flight to Florida to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. After having to say goodbye to GF Guy, and not having seen them in months, a trip home was necessary, for both my soul and my sanity!

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My sisters are now gluten-free, as well, so our Thanksgiving meal was a GF smorgasbord of deliciousness. We used the new Glutino Stuffing Mix to make our stuffing this year, and, according to the gluten-eaters in the house, it tasted better than regular, “gluten-full” stuffing!

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Score one for Glutino!

Beyond the main meal, my mom stocked up on every flavor of Udi’s Muffins she could find at her local grocery store. We had Blueberry Muffins and Double Chocolate Muffins and Cinnamon Rolls that were devoured by everyone from my dad to my 16 month old nephew as we played board games and decorated the family Christmas Tree. I was only there for 30 hours, but it was 30 hours of bliss.

Last week was spent driving around Idaho. This week, I will be in California. Next week, Portland is on the calendar. But, for now, I am home.

I took in a Christmas parade…

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…decorated my tree…

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… and spent some time with dear friends. I love being home. Especially since it gives me the opportunity to cook!

I started cooking without much forethought as to the end result. This caused a near panic attack during which I poured broth into the pan, threw on the lid, and just walked away, praying that the end result would be delicious. Guess what? IT WAS!

Indian-Spiced Halibut Curry

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

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Ingredients:

  • 3/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/3 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Curry Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Mustard Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • pinch of Cloves
  • pinch of Ginger
  • 1 tsp Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Roma Tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tblsp Water
  • 1/4 tsp Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped Green Kale & Carrots
  • 1 Halibut Filet, about 1/3 lb
  • 8 oz Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Tblsp Tofutti Non-Hydrogenated Better Than Sour Cream

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, curry, mustard, cinnamon, cloves, & ginger. Set aside.
  2. Heat coconut spread in a large skillet over medium heat until melted.
  3. Add spice mixture and stir to combine. Cook 10-15 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Add the sliced onions and cook 2-3 minutes.
  5. Next, the mushrooms go into the pan with the onions. Allow to cook until mushrooms begin to sweat.
  6. Add minced garlic and cook about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  7. Add the chopped tomato, water, and brown sugar and cook another minute.
  8. Add the chopped kale and cook 2 minutes until kale begins to wilt.
  9. Move ingredients to the sides of the pan, creating a center space in which to place the fish, skin side down.
  10. Pour the broth around the fish.
  11. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook 6-8 minutes, until fish is opaque.
  12. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream.
  13. Serve over rice.